Chasity Collier, a science teacher at Dawes Intermediate School in Mobile County, was named Alabama’s Teacher of the Year Wednesday evening after rising through the ranks of a statewide contest.
Collier will serve as the state’s ambassador for public education and the teaching profession throughout the upcoming school year, and automatically becomes Alabama’s nominee for National Teacher of the Year.“This job comes with many responsibilities and opportunities to influence others positively. Teachers are special people who have a calling in their lives to make all things possible for those with whom they have the opportunity to work,” Collier said. “Their significant impact on children defines how their students feel about themselves and what they think they are capable of achieving.”
After making into the semifinals and the “final four” of the statewide competition hosted by the Alabama State Department of Education, Collier was officially named Teacher of the Year by Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday, May 10.
At the event, State Superintendent of Education Michael Sentance said it was an honor to join in the recognition of exemplary educators who not only transform classrooms but also change the world one student at a time on a national and international scale.
Continuing, Sentance said all of those recognized Teachers of the Year represent “great teaching” and provide a model for inspiring educators who wish to continue to grow professionally in their practice.
“Teachers of the Year are, in fact, world changers, and we celebrate their commitment to students and to the colleagues who work alongside them each day,” he added. “These educators have shown our students their potential and given them a preview of the endless possibilities that will support them in college and career endeavors.”
In her 19 years of experience, Collier has worked at several Mobile County public schools including Dawes, Florence Howard Elementary School and Hankins Middle School.
She also spent years working directly with the ALSDE’s Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI), an experience that allowed her to work in multiple schools, which she says helped her as an educator.
“Every time I went into someone’s classroom it was a learning opportunity — whether I was seeing something that was great for kids or something that was maybe not so great for kids,” Collier said. “I’m one of those people who’s not afraid to try anything to help my students and who’s willing to learn from mistakes. I’m not afraid of failing because I’ve done it before.”
Currently, Collier is teaching fifth-grade science at Dawes, where she says her fellow teachers and Principal Michele McClung have contributed to her success by being supportive, collaborative and open to new ideas and ways to connect with students.
“If you don’t have anybody that’s behind you, it makes it hard to be successful, but they’ve made it easy,” she said. “Sometimes teachers go into their classrooms and shut the door, but at Dawes, everybody is open to one another. It’s not a competition. We encourage each other and everybody works together toward the same goal.”
Collier was named Mobile County’s elementary teacher of the year in January, which put her name into consideration for the statewide award. At the time, McClung described Collier as a “resourceful, creative, energetic, happy and passionate teacher.”
When asked, Collier said there’s no secret to getting and holding the attention of fifth graders, telling Lagniappe her main goal is to try to “make learning fun” every day. She said she often recalls a quote from author and educator Steve Spangler that reads: “If it makes it to the dinner table, you win.”
“I try to make sure that whatever we do in the class, the students want to bring it to the dinner table and tell their parents,” Collier added. “Sometimes I ask my own kids, ‘What did you do in school today?’ and they’ll say, ‘Oh, nothing.’ Well, I try my best to make sure my students have something to take to the dinner table every day.”
Updated at 12 p.m., May 11, to reflect Collier’s confirmation as Alabama’s 2017-2018 Teacher of the Year.