Morristown teacher named Educator of the Year

Morristown West teacher named an Educator of the Year
Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 6:47 PM EST
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MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WVLT) - Emory Starcher said he started high school with high hopes for earning himself a football scholarship. When he ended up in the hospital with a concussion, he soon decided to pursue other ways to getting into college. He watched speech and drama students demonstrate in front of his classroom one day, and he was hooked.

“I said, ‘how can I sign up for your class?’” Four years later, Starcher can boast of competing nationally, using his voice and his wits. He credits teacher Suzanne Terry for giving him this opportunity.

Esmeralda Cerritos said she used to be too shy to speak up for herself. Not anymore. After getting involved in Terry’s class and oratorical competitions, she makes effective arguments. “She helped me try to find my voice, and really try to advocate for myself, which is something that I’ve never been able to do before.”

“Knowing how to speak up and speak out is a skill that will serve you well for a lifetime,” said Terry. She was recently named a 2021 Educator of the Year by the National Speech & Debate Association. She is in her 35th year of teaching at Morristown West High School.

“Miss Terry made such an impact on me as a high school student that I decided to devote my life to helping young people find their voices through the same profession and activity. And I am only able to do this because I first had someone demonstrate it for me,” said Ryan Hubbard Levesque, who nominated Terry for the award. He currently teaches speech and debate at a school in Florida. He included in his nomination a letter from two other former students who also credit Terry for giving them a great educational start in life.

Morristown-Hamblen West has a trophy case bursting with awards students have won through the years under Terry’s guidance. She said it’s always a goal to help students earn scholarships whenever possible, and a couple of years ago they earned several. “Between the 14 of them they had over two million dollars in scholarship money,” said Terry. “I had three seniors last year and all three are on full rides getting their education. So that’s a big part of what we do in my room. We talk about what does the future hold, giving them confidence that they can plan a future and they can go after it and then showing them how to do it.”

“She also works really hard to create a safe and comfortable space,” said Emma Whittaker, who is in her junior year. Sophomore Lorna Baxley agreed, saying, “She actually like cares about you and about what you do and what you want.”

Students and teachers are making adjustments as in all schools during the pandemic, with virtual school options. Plus, Terry must use technology to teach even her in-school students from a different classroom. This is to protect her as she recovers from the challenges of fighting breast cancer. The diagnosis and announcement to her students came just a few years ago, but she has continued teaching.

Starcher said of the announcement, “That’s like our mama, and we all just burst into tears. I got to watch her go through that process of you know battling breast cancer and it was just one of the many experiences that I’ve learned from Ms. Terry.”

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