A Hamblen County teacher known for his leadership skills and high expectations for all students was named the 2016-17 Tennessee Teacher of the Year during the annual honorary banquet on Thursday night.
Derek Voiles, a seventh-grade English language arts teacher at Lincoln Heights Middle School in Morristown, was the recipient of this year’s honor. Voiles has been teaching for six years in Hamblen County and, in addition to serving in many leadership roles at his school, is currently a doctoral candidate at East Tennessee State University.
“The Teacher of the Year award is the highest honor an educator in our state can receive, and I am proud to recognize Derek as an excellent classroom teacher, as well as a leader among his peers and in his community,“ Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said.
Viewed as a leader in his school community, colleagues seek Voiles’ opinion to improve their own practices to individualize instruction for all students. Voiles is known for his ability to grow all of his students, especially those who are the furthest behind. In recent years, his classroom has become a “teaching classroom” where educators from within Hamblen County, as well as surrounding districts, can observe with the intention to replicate his practices and results.
“All students are capable of achieving great things, and all students deserve a teacher who believes this and will do whatever it takes to make it happen,” Voiles said. Voiles follows 2015-16 Tennessee Teacher of the Year Cathy Whitehead, a third-grade teacher at West Chester Elementary in Henderson, who was also honored during Thursday’s event. At the banquet, the department also recognized finalists who earned Teacher of the Year for each of Tennessee’s three Grand Divisions. Voiles was recognized as the Grand Division winner for East Tennessee.
Cord Martin, a music education and enrichment teacher at Whitthorne Middle School in Maury County, was recognized as the Grand Division winner for Middle Tennessee. Martin believes that it is his responsibility to be a continual learner and regularly seeks new teaching strategies to impact student growth and remain relevant to the contemporary culture in which his students live.
Christy McManus, a fifth-grade English language arts and social studies teacher at Chester County Middle School in Henderson, TN, was recognized as the Grand Division winner for West Tennessee. McManus begins each school year and each day with the end in mind: a college-ready twelfth grader who is equipped with the tools to be successful after graduation.
As Tennessee Teacher of the Year, Derek will become a main ambassador for teachers in our state, serving as Tennessee’s representative as part of the National Teacher of the Year Program. In addition, he may be asked to share his insight from the classroom as part of committees and working groups with the department. The nine Teacher of the Year state finalists, who represent all regions in the state, will serve on the Teacher Advisory Council during the 2016-17 school year. This council acts as a working group of expert teachers to provide feedback and inform the work of the department throughout the school year. Additionally, to provide continuity and leadership, the three Grand Division winners will continue their term during the 2017-18 school year.