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Meet the Five Winning Teachers From Our Teacher Appreciation Week Contest

Meet the Five Winning Teachers From Our Teacher Appreciation Week Contest Meet the Five Winning Teachers From Our Teacher Appreciation Week Contest

Teacher Appreciation Week is a wonderful time to reflect on the impact that educators have on our lives! Each May, we come together to celebrate and acknowledge the dedication, creativity & passion that teachers bring to their classrooms. But this year, we wanted to do something extra special at LS!

From a pool of nearly 7,000 heartfelt nominations made by our VIP Facebook Community, we selected five extraordinary educators to spotlight (and gift PJs to their classrooms!) These Q&As aim to delve into the personal journeys of these teachers, exploring the challenges, insights and joys that define the teaching experience.

Join us as we share these inspiring narratives, each highlighting the unique ways these educators touch the lives of their students and the communities around them!

Ms. Destiny Webster

Kindergarten, J.E. Woodard Elementary (Columbia, TN)

How long have you been teaching?

3 years

Can you share a fun fact about yourself?

I am on my Worship Team at my church! Singing has always been a secret passion of mine, and I am so thankful to have opportunities to share it with my peers in this way!

Teachers do so much for others; what’s the best way for the community to show appreciation?

Give us grace. We are teaching in a world that is facing new challenges, and are people just like everyone else. We have families, personal lives and daily stressors that we face on top of being teachers during the day. We are having to adapt and learn just like you are, while also educating the future generation. Words of encouragement truly make a difference, so if you love your child’s teacher, tell them!

Can you share a memorable project or lesson that stands out?

Earlier this year, I applied for, and was blessed with, a grant from the Youth Education Foundation to add a Calming Corner to my classroom. I was able to create a safe space with sensory items, soft-seating and posters about breathing techniques to help my students become more aware of their emotions and mental health needs.

My students have flourished with this space, and are given the freedom to use it whenever they need a break. Just like adults, children need opportunities to step away from the stress of daily life. I have loved watching them learn their physical and emotional “signs” that they need a moment.

How do you engage with parents and the wider community?

Our school does a wonderful job of bringing the community into the walls of our school! We have special visitors throughout the year that present information about their careers, and we invite community helpers into our classrooms to teach us about how they keep us safe! We hold events throughout the year for our students, and their families, to give parents an opportunity to learn about the fun we are having at Woodard!


Ms. Hunter Quinones

K-12, Levine Children’s Hospital (Charlotte, NC)

What is your teaching specialty?

I am certified in K-12 Multi-Categorical Special Education.

How long have you been teaching?

This is my 6th year of teaching!

Can you share a fun fact about yourself?

I am a huge hockey fan. It started while I was in labor with my son and the Stanley Cup Finals were the only thing on, but it’s grown into something that my husband and I enjoy watching together and our son really enjoys watching it too! If LS were to drop a hockey print, I’d be broke! (Go Canes!!)

What has been your most memorable moment of student success?

In 2021, we had just returned from COVID and schools were open on a hybrid schedule. It was the craziest time to be a teacher and even crazier if you were a student. I had a senior who was on the verge of graduating but required a lot of support and motivation to do so. He tried hard, but he just needed to have someone in his corner. On the day before graduation, myself and two other coworkers met with this student in our conference room and worked from 7:30 am to 1:58 pm before graduation practice.

At 1:59 pm we learned that he had passed his last class required for graduation and could participate in graduation ceremonies that afternoon and the next day. I called his mom and you could hear the tears down her face when she realized it was reality. We got his dress pants and shirt, cap and gown, and the next morning I got to stand and watch him graduate with his peers. I still think about that day often, the pure joy that we all had just watching him succeed. He was exceptional.

What strategies do you employ to help students develop a love for learning?

The number one strategy I have to develop a love for learning is that you have to meet them where they’re at, not where everyone thinks they should be. Not every student has had the same academic journey and to be honest, since COVID, most of our kids struggle. It’s about letting kids know that they have choices in their learning, they can make real-life connections to content, and that their future is at their fingertips.

The exceptional children’s population has always had a special place in my heart and those students just need someone in their corner to meet them where they are. When you meet them where they are at, you open up the possibilities for them to learn.

How do you incorporate students' interests and passions into your lessons?

I believe it’s important to know what your students are passionate about in order to get them to connect to the content. If something is relevant to them and they can see the value in what you’re teaching, then you’ve made learning interesting. At the high school level, our kids have to see the real-life connection for what they’re learning.

Not every kid is going to attend a four-year university, but if you invest in what they're passionate about and make learning interesting to them then you’ve made a difference. They see the value in their own learning and once they take responsibility for their own learning and success, it’s a beautiful thing to watch.


Ms. Ashley White

3rd Grade, Morrilton Elementary (Morrilton, AR)

What is your teaching specialty?


How long have you been teaching?

10 years

Can you share a fun fact about yourself?

I enjoy gardening and canning in the summertime.

How do you support students with diverse learning needs?

It is important to present the learning to students in multiple ways. These students may need extra support emotionally, academically, or socially. Building relationships with these students helps me truly know what each of my students in my classroom needs to best serve them. Everyone deserves a quality education, no matter what.

What’s your message for aspiring teachers?

If you want to be a teacher - go for it. Teaching is one of the most rewarding professions you will ever enter and it is all about the students. Surround yourself with people that will support you as you enter one of the greatest professions. Never lose sight of the important things you are doing each and every day and that is changing students’ lives. Always ask yourself, “Am I doing what is best for kids” If your answer is yes, you will always be successful.

What role do you believe technology should play in the classroom?

In an ever changing world, I believe technology is extremely important to learning. Technology can keep students engaged, challenged, yet enhance their learning by helping them visualize concepts and skills they are learning.


Ms. Trisha Handy

Kindergarten, Meadowcreek Elementary (Bedford, TX)

How long have you been teaching?

29 years

What inspired you to become a teacher?

I always liked to ‘play’ school and never wanted to miss a day when I was a student. One of my brothers had struggles in reading and I saw first hand the difference a teacher could make for students. I wanted to be a helpful and influential teacher like that.

What’s the most challenging part of teaching? What’s the most rewarding?

It is challenging to meet each student’s emotional and academic needs when they are often very different. We all learn patience and understanding and practice compassion for one another.

It is so rewarding to see the growth that the students make - every one rises up and improves during the year.

Was there a teacher in your childhood that made an impact on you?

I have fond memories of most of my teachers. What stands out to me were the teachers who forged relationships with us and seemed to really know who I was. I moved during high school and two teachers were very impactful: one encouraging me to continue working hard and succeeding as I left his campus, and one who made me feel welcome at my new school.


Ms. Amy Clifton

1st Grade, Sankofa School of Success (Indianapolis, IN)

How long have you been teaching?

32 years

Can you share a fun fact about yourself?

I knew I wanted to be a teacher at a young age. I would come home from nursery school and line up my stuffed animals so I could teach them everything I had learned in class that day.

How do you maintain your enthusiasm for teaching?

Our students and families are my “why” for teaching and caring for them is what keeps me motivated. I seek to teach the whole child – their hearts and minds so that they can have the opportunity to grow up into productive and honorable adults who are difference makers.


1) I start every day with a fresh start. A student who made poor choices yesterday deserves a clean slate today.

2) I look at each child for who he is, not as a product of his environment, disabilities or circumstances.

3) I do what I can to ensure that all of Maslow’s Basic Needs are met before I start tackling Bloom’s Taxonomy. A hungry child who needs a hug and a sweater isn’t going to even begin to learn what I’m teaching until those basic needs are met.

And 4) I truly care for my students and want only the best for them. If they have a need that I can meet, I go out of my way to help. That’s what we do for our loved ones.

How have you adapted to remote or hybrid learning environments?

Remote learning was indeed a learning experience for both teachers and students alike. It required everyone to become computer savvy, to think of education in a new way, and to deliver lessons using tools that many didn’t even knew existed.

I believe the experience, in some ways, has made me a better teacher. Because I am now more comfortable with the technology and its many uses in the world of education, I seek opportunities to incorporate it in lessons within the walls of the classroom. When used correctly, technology can be a powerful tool for bringing learning to life for students.

How do you encourage critical thinking in your students?

I encourage critical thinking in my students by allowing productive struggling in my lessons. “I don’t get it” is not a statement I allow in my classroom. I remind any student who says those words that they know something about what we are learning and guide them to articulate what it is that they CAN do.

Then, through careful questioning, they are guided into building onto that knowledge until they can finally explain to me the task at hand. This builds their capacity to think critically, show grit, and it fosters independence.


As we conclude our teacher spotlights in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we're reminded of the unique challenges & joys that come with the calling of teaching. From adapting to ever-changing educational environments to nurturing the potential in every student, these teachers exemplify dedication and passion.

Let's continue to appreciate our educators, not just this week, but throughout the year, remembering that their impact stretches far beyond the classroom and shapes the future — one child at a time!



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