Demopolis City Schools holds annual awards night

Published 4:47 pm Wednesday, December 13, 2023

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On Dec. 7, Demopolis City Schools recognized teachers and staff who stood out the most during the school year. Fourteen teachers and staff were recognized for their hard work throughout the first semester.

Demopolis Superintendent Tony Willis said that last year, the school system decided it wanted to do more to honor its employees.

“We want to honor the people who go above and beyond to make it work,” said Willis.

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The first teacher to be recognized was Ashley Stephens from Westside Elementary School, who was named Westside Teacher of the Year. Westside Principal Tisha Lewis said that Stephens was one of her first hires at WES after she became principal.

“I knew there was something special about her. She has always had a smile that brightens the room. I have never seen her not smile,” said Lewis. “In her classroom, she just has a way with her students. I look for people who are going to love our students and figure out what they need to educate a child. She is that person.”

Lewis also said Stephens is a team player which is very important to the staff at WES. She also described Stephens as innovative and has brought many new ideas to the kindergarten team.

“If there is anything she is unsure about or she thinks it poses a problem, she brings a solution. That is beneficial to me,” said Lewis.

The Westside Employee of the Year was Terri Cameron.

“She is truly our problem solver. She is an asset to Westside, and we love and appreciate her. She goes above and beyond just taking care of the needs of our students,” said Lewis.

The Teacher of the Year for U.S. Jones Elementary School is Emily Windham. U.S. Jones Principal Alphus Shipman said Windham was “very deserving of the award” as she is a staple at U.S. Jones.

The Employee of the Year for U.S. Jones was Becky Gibson.

“She is vital to U.S. Jones. She is the heartbeat of our school,” said Shipman.

The Demopolis Middle School Teacher of the Year was Beth Wideman. DMS Principal Brandi Smith said that Wideman defines excellence and sets the standard for what the middle school aspires to achieve.

“Mrs. Wideman truly is the definition of what it means to be a servant leader. Every lesson taught, every student mentored, and every moment spent nurturing young minds is an act of selfless service,” said Smith. “She doesn’t just teach. She inspires, encourages, and she empowers all the young minds at Demopolis Middle School.”

The DMS Employee of the Year was Rebecca Hasty who serves as the middle school’s bookkeeper. Smith said she always goes the extra mile and described her as “a jack of all trades.”

“Her dedication and creativity shine through in the various tasks she takes on as her responsibilities. Wherever there is a need, she is the first to step in and bring a touch of joy to our school environment,” said Smith. “We are very fortunate to have a caring and talented person contributing to our school.

Rachel White was named as the Teacher of the Year for Demopolis High School. During the last school year, White had 100 percent of her AP English class pass their AP exams, something DHS Principal, Terina Gantt, said was “unheard of.” However, Gantt said that she is so much more than just her AP scores.

“She and I have long conversations about education, and what we should be doing to truly educate our children, and not just give them things to memorize. She not only has those discussions with me behind closed doors, but she has figured out ways to implement those things into her classroom,” said Gantt.

The DHS Employee of the Year was Tonya Goodwin. Goodwin was hired about a year ago, and Gantt said hiring her made her “look like the smartest person in the world.”

“When you talk about a transformation occurring, a transformation occurred at Demopolis High School with her hiring. Mrs. Goodwin greets upset parents with a smile and the sweetest Southern accent that you’ve ever heard. And when they leave the school, they are so much happier than when they came in,” said Gantt. “She is so kind to every person she encounters. I have rarely seen anyone leave without them being in a better place than they were when they came in.”

Curriculum Coordinator Derrick Hester was recognized next as the Central Office Employee of the Year.

“He is very task oriented. One of the most important things in any work position is being able to depend on the people around you,” said Willis. “If I say I need something done by Thursday, or there is something that needs to be handled, I don’t always have to make a note to follow up and make sure it gets done, because I know it will get done. To me, that’s the greatest compliment for an employee to be dependable and do what they are supposed to do.”

Logan Arnold was recognized as the Servant Leader of the Year.

“As a supervisor in the school district, your job is to support the schools. To help make their job easier, not to give them a long list of things to do, because goodness knows our principals have plenty to do. They need the leaders of the departments to look for ways to help with their job,” said Willis.

New to the awards night event were Volunteer Awards. The four recipients of these awards were Jeff McAfee, Nancy Seale, Donna McGhee, and Carl Williams

These four individuals were recognized for everything they do for the school system without being asked. They step up to the plate whenever they are needed and complete any task that is given to them. Willis said that the school system relies heavily on its volunteers to function, and that they play a vital role in keeping everything running smoothly on each campus in the district.