Mobile County Public Schools officials today named this year’s countywide teachers of the year.

The Elementary School Teacher of the Year is Laniese Howard, a gifted education teacher at Kate Shepard Elementary. And the Secondary School Teacher of the Year is Don Jones, who teaches aerospace technology at B.C. Rain High School.

Both of these teachers will be nominated for Alabama Teacher of the Year. They will be recognized Monday at a meeting of the Mobile County Board of School Commissioners and on April 16 at the second-annual It Starts With Us Awards Ceremony in downtown Mobile.

They were nominated by their schools and selected from applicants from across the county this week by a committee of principals, central office administrators and former Teachers of the Year.

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“Oh wow,” said Howard, as she was surprised in her classroom with the news by Principal Kay Smith and school board member Don Stringfellow.

Goggle-wearing students in her gifted class were working on a science project where they were trying to figure out which one of them was Patient Zero in a make-believe flu epidemic.

“I feel proud to represent all of the teachers at Kate Shepard as well as all of the teachers in the school system and my students,” she said.

At B.C. Rain, the Red Raider band and other students gathered in the library as Principal Marlon Firle summoned Jones to come see him there. Jones was surprised as Firle and board member Robert Battles told him of the honor.

Jones has been teaching in public schools for 27 years and taught at West Point for three years. He has been named Teacher of the Year at every school he has taught at, but this is his first time to be the system-wide representative.

“Mr. Jones is the best role model I ever had. He goes above and beyond for his students,” said 11th grader LaDora Ray.

“I try to do what I need to do for the students and to help them move along,” Jones added.

Howard has been teaching 21 years. She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of South Alabama. She serves on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Leadership Team at Kate Shepard as well as the PACE (gifted program) Leadership Team for Mobile County Public Schools.

She’s a co-director of the Engaging Youth through Engineering program and is a new teacher mentor. She attended the Mickelson Exxon Mobil Teacher Academy and the Sally Ride Science Academy.

“This is what teaching is all about,” Stringfellow said while visiting Howard’s classroom. “I am so appreciative of what she does.”

“I am overwhelmed by your awesomeness,” added student Sarah Gieger:

Jones graduated from the United States Military Academy and has a master’s degree from Georgia Tech. He teaches in B.C. Rain’s Signature Academy of Aerospace and Aviation. In 1997 he was one of eight finalists for Louisiana Teacher of the Year.

He teaches students at other schools via the state’s ACCESS Distance Learning Program as well as classes at the University of South Alabama. He helped develop the Signature Academy’s curriculum and has served on numerous committees.

“One of the most important things you can do as a teacher is be a role model,” Battles said, which is exactly what Jones is.