March 2014 Winner - Leigh Ann Smith:(Clarkdale High School)


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Meridian Star Article

By Terri Ferguson Smith

They thought they were going to a pep rally to boost enthusiasm for state-mandated tests, but Clarkdale High School students on Thursday cheered for a different reason as they watched their teacher, Leigh Ann Smith, accept the Golden Apple Teacher of the Month award.

The pep rally deception was to help keep the award a secret until Golden Apple sponsors could surprise Smith with the announcement.

A 12-year teaching veteran, Smith teaches tenth grade English and one ninth grade English class.

During the presentation of the Golden Apple Award in the school's auditorium, Bailey received a Golden Apple trophy, a $300 check, a voucher for $1,000 in school supplies and she will automatically be in the running for teacher of the year, which will be announced in May.

A nomination letter for Smith included praise for her students' high test scores.

"Although her students are required to pass one of the most difficult tests in Mississippi, her composite scores consistently rank in the top ten of all public schools in the state," the letter states. "On the original English 10 Subject Area Test, her students’ scale scores ranked eighth in 2007, fifth in 2006, and fourth in 2005. In 2004, her scores ranked first in the state."

The letter goes on to point out that when the Mississippi Department of Education revamped its Subject Area Tests in 2008, many schools which traditionally scored well did not perform score as high as they once did.

"Mrs. Smith viewed this more rigorous test as an opportunity to make her students better. Her scores remained well above the state and district averages," the letter stated.

Cheryl Thomas, principal of Clarkdale, said she is proud of the work Smith has done with her students.