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Teacher of the Month Willingham honored by Alfa

The students and faculty at Livingston Junior High School have always known Lora Curtis Willingham was a special person. Apparently, they weren’t the only ones.

Willingham, who teaches sixth grade reading, writing and social studies, was honored in April as the Alfa Teacher of the Month. With the award she will receive $1,000 from the Alfa Insurance Company and her school will receive a matching award from the Alabama Farmers Federation.

Willingham has been a member of the faculty at Livingston Junior High since 1994 and has earned a reputation as a teacher who gets parents involved in their children’s education. This has been a hands on operation for Willingham as she serves as president of her local Parent Teacher Association. She said she always tries to do whatever she can to get parents involved.

“I always try to encourage the parents to visit the classroom and get involved,” Willingham said. “A lot of parents in this area work so it is hard for them to get involved, but they help out in other ways.”

Willingham said she understands that parents can’t always make the meetings so she encourages them to help from home.

“I encourage them to verify that their children have been doing their homework,” Willingham said. “I also ask them to sign a form.”

Keeping an open line of communication with the parents has been a huge part of Willingham’s success. Willingham sends out a newsletter providing her phone number, cell phone number and e-mail address so parents can reach her at any time. She said she has gotten positive responses from this method.

“I have had parents call and ask about their kids and that is great,” Willingham said. “I had a parent use the e-mail address last year to tell me he was checking up on his child and see how things were going. That was great.”

Through they years, Willingham’s involvement with the parents has benefited the school itself in addition to the children. Recently, a fundraiser netted $3,000 with $2,500 going directly to the school and $500 being set aside for future needs.

With all her hard work and recognition, Willingham said one of the biggest rewards was seeing parents take an active role. She said she hoped to see the trend continue.

“We have a lot of parents getting involved now,” Willingham said. “We hope that will have a positive impact on the students.”

The award is not the first time Willingham’s efforts have been recognized. She was a recipient of a state grant to complete her national board certification and received several awards. She was honored as the Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year in 2000 and given a technology scholarship for elementary teachers in 1996.

The Alfa Teacher of the Year Award was begun in 1998 and since that time has awarded more than $175,000 to teachers and schools. This year, the program will honor one teacher from each state school board district and two principals along with two private school teachers.

For more information on how to nominate a teacher go to www.alfafarmers.org and click on “Alfa Teacher of the Month” in the Ag Links section.