Picking the Golden Apple Teacher of the Month from numerous nominations is never easy, but the task in November was made a little easier when 20 students nominated the same teacher.
As Michael Reed, owner of the Meridian Family of TV Stations, addressed an assembly of seventh and eighth grade students at Northeast Lauderdale County Middle School recently, he told them to guess who was being honored by listening to some of the nominations he read aloud.
Applause erupted as soon as Reed mentioned that this teacher uses songs in her classroom. Students of Kathy Moody, a pre-algebra teacher, knew she had been selected as teacher of the month.
One student wrote: "She makes the classwork and homework much easier for her students. When someone doesn't understand what she is doing ... she makes up stories and tells us, make songs, and she even tells real stories about her life as a child to help us understand what could happen if we didn't pay attention in class ... She is very nice patient and gentle."
Another student wrote: "She made learning fun. She would help us memorize things by making them into a song and she would dance to them. (She) would make us do a lot of work but it was simple things that made it easy, but we were learning a lot. That is how I got to be in the honors math."
That student has observed another very important thing about Moody: "She loves what she is doing too."
That's exactly what Moody said during an interview following the presentation of the Golden Apple Award, which comes with a trophy, a check for $300, and a voucher for $1,000 in school supplies.
"I was just shocked and overwhelmed and full of emotion," Moody said of the moment she realized she was getting the award. She knew it was her when they mentioned singing in the classroom.
"I felt like that had to be me when the singing was mentioned and I was really humbled by it and overwhelmed by it. I'm truly not one who likes attention, believe it or not. I like to go in my classroom and do my job," Moody said. "It was just very touching to think that that many students thought enough of me to nominate me. I truly can't put it into words. I never would have dreamed that."
As her former student noted, Moody enjoys what she's doing and she was shocked to realize that so many of her students and former students had nominated her.
"I teach because I love it. This is my 36th year and I still enjoy coming to school every day. It's my passion. It's my love," Moody said. "You can ask my family. They'll tell you that I don't do anything else very well, but I love teaching and I hope I do a good job because it is my passion. I feel like it's my calling and my God-given gift."
She said she chose the teaching profession because she loves being around children and because it's different every year.
"You get a new group of students to work with and it changes every year," she said. "Young people are so eager to learn. I love teaching math."
Moody started out as an elementary education teacher, but later learned that she loved teaching children in seventh and eighth grades.
"I like to make it interesting. I can't stand for it to be boring. That's why I like to put the songs into it and make it fun," Moody said. "They have told me that they like coming in there because it is fun. I like to throw the songs in and make it to where they like coming to class. I think if they like coming in there, they'll listen and learn better."
Moody said she has been told that her background as an elementary school teacher has contributed to her ability to explain math to her students. Singing, dancing, telling stories — anything to add a little life to pre-algebra — is what Moody aims for.
"They're middle-schoolers and I have a lot to compete with, video games, technology, so anything that can make it more interesting to them. It has evolved over the years," she said.
Moody said she remembers the best teachers she had and the worst teachers she had.
"Both the best and the worst have made me the teacher I am today."
Moody said her philosophy can be summed up very simply.
"An older teacher told me one thing one time that I have kept with me and it's true," Moody said. "Students don't care what you know unless they know that you care. Forget all the singing, dancing whatever. If they don't know that you care about them, they don't care what you know. That's true."
Although many things have changed over the last three decades of her teaching career, many things are the same.
"Basically, kids are still kids. Just like when I started teaching. I think that's true more than anything," Moody said. "We do have to compete with more things like video games and all, but we might as well deal with it and do what we can to be successful."
Billy Burnham, principal of Northeast Lauderdale Middle School, had high praise for his award-winning teacher.
"Mrs. Moody is successful because of what would make any person successful at their job," Burnham said. "She has a great skill set for teaching, she has a passion for it. She knows her outcome — in this case — student achievement. She will do absolutely anything to make it happen."
Test results bear that out, Burnham said.
"Mrs. Moody had the highest growth rate in our school this year on the state tests and the highest growth rate in the district in middle schools," he said.
To nominate a teacher, go to either meridianstar.com or wgbctv.com and click on the Golden Apple logo.
One teacher will be awarded each month and a teacher of the year will be selected in May.
Nominations can be submitted by parents, faculty, or community members as well as past and present students. Candidates must be a current, full-time, faculty member in a public or private school system working within the following counties: in Mississippi — Lauderdale, Neshoba, Kemper, Clarke, or Newton counties. In Alabama — Choctaw and Sumter counties.
The nomination process consists of an essay of no more than 500 words on why the person should be considered for the Golden Apple Award.
GOLDEN APPLE SPONSORS
Sponsors for the Golden Apple Award are:
Meridian Family of Stations
The Meridian Star
First Mississippi Federal Credit Union
Meridian Mutual Federal Credit Union
MUNA Federal Credit Union
East Mississippi Electric Power Association
Meridian Community College
Southern Pipe and Supply
Attorney Richard Schwartz
Mississippi State University Meridian