It’s been a different type of year for educators, but through all the challenges 2020 had on tap, teachers have persevered and found ways to thrive. In honor of all that hard work, Cullman City Schools has selected Teachers of the Year for 2020, honoring educators at Cullman City Primary School, East Elementary School, West Elementary School, Cullman Middle School and Cullman High School.
Kindergarten teacher Cortney Peed was named Teacher of the Year at Cullman Primary School; second grade teacher Blakeley Burns was named Teacher of the Year at East Elementary School; sixth grade teacher Kristy White was named Teacher of the Year at West Elementary School; band director Linda Bean was named Teacher of the Year at Cullman Middle School; and language arts teacher Danna Putman was named Teacher of the Year at Cullman High School.
“We are so proud of our Teachers of the Year. They’ve innovated, connected with students in unique ways, and found ways to excel in what has been a challenging year for everyone,” Superintendent Dr. Susan Patterson said. “We want to honor their accomplishments, along with the hard work of all our teachers in Cullman City Schools this year.”
Peed said she was honored to be named the primary school’s Teacher of the Year, but noted pulling off school in 2020 was a team effort that took everyone working together.
“I think every teacher is worthy of this award when trying to plan and teach during a pandemic. In my 14 years of teaching, I never thought I would have to consider social distancing, masks, virtual lessons, or students being quarantined,” she said. “I knew when we had to close the school doors in March that my summer would be full of researching new ideas for the 2020-2021 school year so that I could reach all of my students on various levels but still make kindergarten exciting and educational. While this year has definitely challenged every superintendent, school board member, administrator, teacher, assistant, substitute, janitor, parent, and student across the state, we still know our students deserve love and the very best educational experience we can offer even if we are wearing a mask.”
Burns noted it was “an esteemed honor” to be recognized by her peers and the East Elementary School administration, crediting the entire faculty for striving to make a positive impact in the success of their students.
“Leadership, teamwork, motivation, and determination make all the difference in being successful in your job,” Burns said. “I work with a wonderful group of teachers and administrators that are the epitome of these traits. I am proud to be a part of Cullman City Schools and East Elementary School.”
White, who has taught at West Elementary School for almost 30 years, said she has been honored to work with the amazing staff and faculty for the majority of her career. She also attended West Elementary as a child, and her own children attended the school, so the campus holds a special place in her heart.
“I am so thankful to be part of a staff that encourages one another daily and provides an amazing support system. Each staff member works so hard to help our students emotionally, academically, and physically,” she said. “We are blessed with amazing students that make me look forward to coming to school and spending time with them. I have taught sixth grade for the past 12 years, and I love getting to hear their thoughts and insights.I have loved all my students over the years, and it brings me so much joy to watch my students leave West and see what all they do academically, athletically, and in their future careers.”
She added that, despite the challenges of the year, social distancing and virtual learning has also been an opportunity for teachers to learn new and innovative ways to reach students.
“We are trying new lessons, technology, and materials,” White said. “I personally think all teachers should be Teacher of the Year.”
After being named the middle school’s teacher of the year, Bean said she was “thankful and humbled to be selected for this highlight in a teacher’s career.”
Putman, celebrating her 21st year at Cullman High School, said it was a privilege and an honor to represent the school as Teacher of the Year. Her reaction when she learned the news? “Best. Day. Ever.”
“I thank my maker every day for opening up this wonderful door for me 21 years ago. It’s a joy to work alongside such talented, hardworking, caring, and funny co-workers and staff every day,” she said. “Mrs. Hall and the administrative team also work tirelessly to ensure this is a positive and safe learning environment which is a blessing. My mantra is ‘Bloom where you are planted,’ and the students have done just that during this pandemic. They are the best.”
Cullman City Schools has more than 3,000 students and encompasses Cullman High School (Grades 9-12), Cullman Middle School (Grades 7-8), East Elementary School (Grades 2-6), West Elementary School (Grades 2-6), and Cullman City Primary School (Grades K-1). Cullman City Schools also hosts the Cullman City Head Start Program. Cullman City Schools consistently ranks as one of the top school systems in College ACT scores in the state of Alabama.