08/18/06 — She's head of her class

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She's head of her class

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 18, 2006 1:52 PM

An eighth-grade language arts and social studies teacher at Greenwood Middle School was named Teacher of the Year for Wayne County Public Schools Thursday night.

Connie Whaley has been at the school for three years and in the profession for 28 years.

As her name was announced, she leaned over to hug her mother, Maggie Whaley, of Pikeville.

After receiving a bouquet of roses and congratulations from schools superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor, she said she would keep her remarks brief. It was something she learned from her students, she said.

"About 11 years ago, I decided that I would bring a video camera into my classroom," she recalled. "I told my students I wanted to make a videotape of my teaching so that I could become a better teacher."

Upon viewing the tape that evening, she said she returned to her classroom the following morning and told her students she owed them an apology, "which immediately got their attention."

"I told them, I went home and watched that video last night and I learned that I talk too much," she said, adding that one of the students promptly replied that he could have told her that long before.

Ms. Whaley said she was "speechless" over the honor, but readily gushed when asked about the profession she has invested nearly three decades. As an educator, she keeps changing and evolving as she learns from all those she gets to teach, she said.

"I learned so much from the children over the years, and the parents," she said.

Accepting the award, she told the audience, "I stand here on the shoulders of so many," crediting her own family, her school family, students and parents, and "most all the principals who have had patience with me all these years."

Her mother said the pool of educators up for the award was outstanding, but admitted she was proud that her daughter had won.

"I'm just very happy," she said. "She loves teaching and always has. We're just amazed ... and blissfully happy."

As Teacher of the Year for Wayne County, Ms. Whaley receives a $5,000 travel stipend and a $1,500 check. She will next go on to compete with candidates from other school systems in the regional competition.

The other two finalists, from the elementary and high school categories, each received a $4,000 travel stipend. Tracy McKeel, a third- grade teacher at Rosewood Elementary School, was the elementary school teacher of the year. Cynthia Sprouse, a ninth through 12th grade exceptional children's teacher at Edgewood Community Developmental School, was teacher of the year for the high school level.