Bham Family Magazine Shelby County Chamber announces student and teacher award winners

Shelby County’s leading students and educators for the 2019-2020 school year were welcomed to The Shelby County Chamber to receive their cash award and congratulations from program presenters America’s First Federal Credit Union, Vulcan Materials Company and The University of Montevallo. Schools throughout Shelby County were invited to submit both an “academic leader standout” and “career pathway standout” Student of the Year to represent their school. All of the nominees were evaluated on the following criteria: GPA, extra-curricular activities and awards, a written response (essay) on their proposed career track/course of study and letters of recommendation.

Additionally, each student was asked to participate in a 20-minute Zoom interview with a panel of three judges. The Educator of the Year candidates were nominated in three categories – elementary, middle and high school — by their school principals. Three judges evaluated them on their philosophy of teaching, community involvement and recommendations from colleagues and school administrators, including a brief video where many showcased their exceptional classrooms.

All of the nominees were visited by representatives from the Chamber, and presented with a yard- sign identifying them as a 2019-2020 nominee. “We believe that recognizing the excellence that is demonstrated by students and educators throughout Shelby County each and every day is a worthy pursuit.” Chamber President & CEO Kirk Mancer commented. “Coupled with the challenges presented to all of our students and educators during the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s program is extra special”, Mancer concluded.

This year’s Student & Educator of the Year program concluded with eight recipients – two “Career Pathway Standout” students, two “Academic Leader Standout” students, and one “Future Leader” student, as well as one Elementary School Educator of the Year, one Middle School Educator of the Year and one High School Educator of the Year. The five student recipients each received a $1,000 cash award, and the three educator recipients received a $750 cash award. “The five student recipients are receiving these funds to continue their education and career development, and the three teachers are receiving their awards for use in their classrooms at their discretion,” Pari Barzegari, the Chamber’s Director of Community & Career Development shared.

The 2019-2020 recipients recognized on June 10 were:

Career Pathway Standout Students of the Year:
Caleb Reed Horton, Shelby County High School

Kelsey Mooney, Helena High School

“Career Pathway Standout” Student of the Year, Caleb Reed Horton, Shelby County High School

Academic Pathway Standout Students of the Year:
Matthew Bray, Oak Mountain High School
Yesenia “Yesi” Villanueva, Chelsea High School

“Academic Pathway Standout” Student of the Year, Yesenia “Yesi” Villanueva, Chelsea High School
“Academic Pathway Standout” Student of the Year, Matthew Bray, Oak Mountain High School

Future Leader Student of the Year:
Abby Grace Walker, Thompson High School

“Future Leader” Student of the Year, Abby Grace Walker, Thompson High School

Elementary School Educator of the Year:
Martha Bentley, Elvin Hill Elementary School

“Elementary School Educator of the Year,” Martha Bentley, Elvin Hill Elementary School

Middle School Educator of the Year:
Janet Griffith, Thompson Middle School

“Middle School Educator of the Year,” Janet Griffith, Thompson Middle School

High School Educator of the Year:
Geoffrey Wymer, New Direction

“High School Educator of the Year,” Geoffrey Wymer, New Direction

Current Chamber Chair, Kathy Copeland with White Rock Quarries – Vincent Hills shared the following comments: “Career Readiness continues to be one of the four main areas in which our Shelby County Chamber is actively engaged through our current ShelbyOne – Next Level Up! programming. Recognizing excellence in our Shelby County classrooms — is one component of the Chamber’s expanded efforts in collaborating with our partners in education. Another is the “Keeping It Real” program which your Chamber just concluded its seventh year with 9th Grade students throughout our County. Between August 2019 and February 2020, Chamber staff and volunteers visited with 1,451 freshmen to share information on financial responsibility, the impact training can have on their future, as well as their ability to have the resources they’ll need and want”, Copeland continued.

The chamber held its inaugural “Connect 2 Careers” for 2,759 10th grade students in September 2019. This program allowed Shelby County businesses the opportunity to share interactive information on the types of careers available in their communities and assist students as they’re making decisions on their career path beyond high school. The goal is to make sure students have a better understanding about the options available to them in Shelby County with this new “hands on” approach, with more than 50+ businesses and 150+ volunteers.

Additionally, the chamber completed the fifth year of its “Communication Matters” program on soft skills for 11th Grade Students, visiting 11 schools with more than 1,780 students in 2019-2020. Finally, for the 2019-2020 school year, the chamber launched a new pilot program in several high schools with The Onin Group and 58, Inc. called “Ready To Work.” This new program was taught in the senior classroom, sharing important entry level skills required for employment with most businesses and industries in Alabama. The training curriculum is set to standards cited by business and industry employers throughout the state.

Matthew Allen

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