For many of the students taught by Mary Ann Cooper over the past three years, her English class would be one of the last they ever had in high school. That pressure doesn’t stop Cooper from inspiring and engaging the 11th and 12th grade students that walk through her door every day. 

For going on 19 years, Jerrod Newell has been sharing his passion for music and encouraging the students of Tuscaloosa and Northport to achieve their best. He’s done this through teaching choral music and yearbook, directing his school’s choral music choir, and volunteering at his local church. 

While the early years of education involve picking out fun, patterned supplies and learning to read, each later year brings a new set of challenges, expectations, and stressors to students. That’s why teachers like Tuscaloosa County High School’s Shatisa Pierce do everything they can to help their students turn their trials into triumphs. 

Shortly before Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Justin Ray and his wife were living in New Orleans. While living in such an economically and culturally diverse city, he says he learned that access to a great education shouldn’t be limited to anyone, regardless of socioeconomic status. He brought that mindset with him and used it to become the teacher he feels Tuscaloosa students need to succeed. 

When Nikki Hill was a high school student studying at American Christian Academy, she fell in love with English literature. Inspired by her own experience, Hill now teaches a new generation of students at the very same school. 

Tiffany Turner feels inspired by her kindergarten students at Maxwell Elementary School to be the person they need – whether that is an educator, a comforter, an advocate, or a support system.  

With the weather warming, exams ending, and the possibilities of summer looming ahead, May fills area schools with electric excitement. Students’ stresses begin to fade away, as they are treated to end-of-the-year celebrations and movie days in class. They enthusiastically make plans with their friends about how to spend their newfound free time during a vacation that seems like it will last forever.  

Like all great teachers, Beth Duncan knows it takes hard work to make a difference in a child’s life. Her influence over her students isn’t something she takes lightly. The knowledge that she can have a positive impact her students’ education makes all her hard work worth it. 

Many people think of kindergarten as not much more than recess, nap time, and the occasional coloring session. However, teachers like Kathryn Maness know the job isn’t as easy as it seems. 

“Teaching kindergarten has been the most difficult, yet rewarding experience I have ever had. I leave work exhausted, but feeling accomplished most days,” Maness said.

Kayla Boone-Davis may not have been teaching as long as most of her co-workers, but there is no doubt she has already made her mark. This will be her third year teaching first grade at Flatwoods Elementary School.

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Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.



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