In what has become an annual tradition, FSSD Director of Schools Dr. David Snowden surprised two teachers in their classrooms, carrying a bouquet of balloons and an important announcement. The unannounced visits were to inform the teachers that they had been selected to represent the district as the FSSD Elementary and Middle School Teachers of the Year. Andre White of Johnson Elementary is the Elementary Teacher of the Year and Cheryl Warden of Freedom Middle School is the Middle Grades Teacher of the Year. Their impressive work history, leadership activities and community involvement all combined to place these two teachers at the top of a list of very respected FSSD educators.
Fourth-grade teacher Andre White is a 20-year teaching veteran who has worked at Johnson Elementary for only the past two years. “I am very proud for Mr. White to be chosen as FSSD’s Elementary Teacher of the Year,” said his principal, Tosha Robinson Baugh. “He is the definition of a ‘highly qualified’ educator. He is extremely dedicated and goes above and beyond for not only his students but also all of the students at Johnson Elementary. This honor is very well deserved.”
Teaching math and science with the oldest students in the school, Mr. White strives to reach every child. During math, he incorporates three rotating centers, each designed to reinforce skills using varied approaches, such as direct teacher instruction, independent work, and video-based instruction depicting him teaching skills as a character named Mr. Smooth. “The video enables me to utilize my love for technology in the classroom. It also allows my students to be both mentally and physically engaged in a non-traditional teacher setting,” White said. He also holds high expectations of his students and asks them to maintain data notebooks to keep track of their progress. The students meet with him to discuss individual learning plans and then they execute those plans. In the past two years, all of his students have progressed out of intervention and into proficient or advanced categories.
Outside of school, White is passionate about his role as a mentor in the lives of his students. He tutors after school every day through Gentry’s Educational Foundation, a non-profit enrichment center based in the school. “I started thinking there is more I needed to do for the ‘whole student.’ I grew up being an ‘at risk’ student with no male role model to help work through many issues,” he said. He began a school club for boys called Gentry’s Gentlemen. “Its main purpose is to teach these boys how to act as gentlemen both inside and outside of school,” he said. The club meets every Friday after school where they play sports, share a meal and discuss issues of the week. White said he hopes to expand the program to other schools in the future.
Although relatively new to the FSSD, White has not hesitated to take on a leadership role. He serves on his School Leadership Team, is a cooperative teacher for student teachers in local universities, participates in Team LEAD, is a member of the Behavior Team, and serves as an after-school tutor
Cheryl Warden, an eighth-grade American history teacher, has been teaching for 25 years, and has spent the past 19 of those years at Freedom Middle School. “We were thrilled to hear this wonderful news! Her passion for teaching students about American history is unsurpassed,” said Freedom Middle Principal Dr. Kristi Jefferson. “Ms. Warden thrives on sharing information about the United States of America through stories that are accurate and at the same time enlighten and enrich her students’ understanding of historical events. I would state, with confidence, that there have been many students taught by Mrs. Warden who decided their future vocation based on the love of history they learned from her.”
Warden is a demonstrated leader in her school and the district, serving as her team leader, a member of the FSSD Design Team, and the school’s social studies department chair. She is active in her church and her community, helping disadvantaged families through programs such as the Last Minute Toy Store and Room at the Inn. She was a founding member of the Freedom Middle chapter of the National Junior Honor Society, saying it is wonderful now to see “students realize that giving to the community is not always about money – sometimes it’s about spending time to show someone else that you care for them.” She added, “I never dreamed that it would initiate a growing school culture of service to others.”
Warden is goal-oriented and develops every lesson with three goals in mind – to develop cultural literacy, to pass along a love of history, and to develop critical thinking skills that students need as informed citizens. “I want my students to see the arc of history and recognize that we are living in a continuous flow of interconnected events that began hundreds of years ago,” she said.
FSSD Building-Level Teachers of the Year
The FSSD Teachers of the Year were selected from a talented and well-respected group of educators who were selected as their school representatives. They are:
Franklin Elementary – Gina Kocher, ELL K-4 teacher
Johnson Elementary – Andre White, 4th grade teacher
Liberty Elementary – Kay Kay Garrett, pre-first grade teacher
Moore Elementary – Danette Cravens, special education/PreK teacher
Poplar Grove Elementary – Whitney Chambers-Woods, School Counselor *
FSSD Elementary Teacher of the Year: Andre White
Poplar Grove Middle – Chandra Webb, 7th grade teacher English language arts teacher
Freedom Intermediate – Marie White, 5th grade special education teacher
Freedom Middle – Cheryl Warden, 8th grade history teacher
FSSD Middle Teacher of the Year: Cheryl Warden
All will be recognized at the March 13 Board of Education meeting, to be held at Franklin Elementary School at 6:30 PM. FSSD Classified Employees of the Month will be recognized in May.