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Gilmore is Teacher of the Year, 6 others finalists in district nominations

Bridgette Gilmore’s been passing around her crown.

It’s not just hers to wear, she said. It belongs to her fourth-graders at Brookhaven Elementary School, where the 38-year-old teacher has filled students’ heads with knowledge and confidence for 11 years.

Gilmore, of Brookhaven, was recently named Teacher of the Year for the Brookhaven School District.

She’ll now represent the district at the state level and if chosen as a finalist, will be acknowledged at a luncheon at the Mississippi Department of Education April 7.

The state winner earns a $5,000 prize and serves as an ambassador for the profession as well as a spokesperson for teachers throughout the state for a year.

She was first chosen Brookhaven Elementary’s Teacher of the Year two weeks ago.

That win was announced on the intercom and her students cheered. “They were excited. One little boy said, ‘I told you Miss Gilmore you were going to get it,’” she said.

Then this week, she was told the PTA was having a fundraiser kick-off and classes were to meet in the auditorium to discuss the details, “to get the kids all pepped up for the fundraiser,” she said.

But administrators had another motive.

Brookhaven School Superintendent Ray Carlock attended the “meeting” but Gilmore wrote that off as just him making a routine visit. “I thought he was going by each school,” she said.

Then they called her up to the front and announced that a committee had selected her as the best teacher in the district this year.

“They made a big deal about it,” she said. “I was very surprised.”

Gilmore is humbled by the honor. “I don’t deserve (district) Teacher of the Year,” she said. “It should go to the students in my class. They’re the ones who make me look good. I’ve been letting all the girls in my classroom wear the crown because they’re the students of the year.”

The mother of two — Bridish, 18, is a senior at Brookhaven High and Darius is 2 — calls herself an out-of-the-box teacher.

Gilmore, a graduate of Jackson State University, brings life to her classroom. She sings, she dances, she raps songs with G-rated lyrics changed to reflect language arts.

She sometimes even lets her students teach her class. “Sometimes peers can reach their other peers,” she said.

She’s always trying to teach the students in fun and innovative ways, which starts by boosting their confidence so they want to learn. She tells them people may think they’re chickens pecking on the ground, but she convinces them they’re eagles, soaring to new heights. Her students’ continued growth on state tests and district benchmark tests proves she’s on the right path.

“I make them think that they can move mountains,” she said. “They do the best they can.”

Deputy Superintendent Rod Henderson announced the finalists in the district’s Teachers of the Year competition.

Jennifer Hutson,

Mamie Martin Elementary

Jennifer Hutson, a first-grade teacher, has been in the district for 23 years. Her philosophy of education is that given the time, the love, the structure and the discipline, every child can learn. Her hope is to always convince a child to love learning because she loves it also, and that her mission is not to teach from a book, but from the heart. To simply put things into perspective: Teach the children, love the children, change the world. Hutson is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and William Carey University.

Shunta Davis,

Lipsey Middle School

Shunta Davis has been teaching in the district for four years. She is a sixth-grade math teacher and has experience teaching fifth-grade Language Arts. Davis believes that teaching is a gift that allows her to help others achieve success. She also believes in the quote that says, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Davis attended Jackson State University and William Carey.

Kimberly Kolpek,

Alexander Junior High

Kimberly Kolpek has been teaching in the district for two years. She is currently teaching eighth-grade language arts. She believes that quality English teachers prepare students for life beyond the classroom. Kolpek establishes meaningful student learning experiences by implementing activities that encourage both student problem-solving and collaboration. Her belief is that teaching English is not about having students read every classic novel or demanding them to memorize dozens of Shakespearean sonnets, but it’s about establishing a constructive learning environment. Kolpek attended Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee.

1st Sgt. David Williams, Brookhaven High School

1st Sgt. David Williams has been teaching in the district for eight years. He teaches Army Junior Reserved Officer Training on the ninth- through 12th-grade levels. Williams believes that education opens various doors to endless opportunities and allows one to compete in today’s society.  He also believes that the armed services can provide on-the-job-training, financial compensation, career advancement, and college tuition assistant for those might not be ready for college upon graduation from high school. Williams attended Belhaven University.

Leah Ann Peavey,

Brookhaven Technical Center

Leah Ann Peavey has been teaching in the district for 12 years and currently teaches polymer science. Peavey believes in the philosophy of Charles F. Kettering which states that “High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectations.” “As classroom instructors, we must give our best to our students and it is our charge as facilitators of learning to consistently evaluate the effectiveness of our teaching methods and strategies and consistently improve them,” she said. Peavey attended the University of Southern Mississippi and Jackson State University.

Dorothy Quinn,

Mullins Alternative School

Dorothy Quinn has been teaching in the district for 34 years. She is currently teaching GED prep. Quinn believes that all students can learn and that as a teacher, her goal is to combine expectations with a supportive and loving classroom environment. She also believes in addressing each student’s strengths and weaknesses in a deliberate and purposeful manner in order to assist the student in reaching his or her highest possible achievement. Quinn attended Jackson State University.