Teacher of the Year final four announced

Pamela Yau
Pamela Yau
Gay F. Barnes
Gay F. Barnes
Marla R. Hines
Marla R. Hines

The Alabama Department of Education Wednesday announced the final four candidates in the running for the 2011-2012 Alabama Teacher of the Year. The finalists are:

  • Pamela Yau, Edgewood Elementary School, Homewood City Schools
  • Gay F. Barnes, Horizon Elementary School, Madison County Schools
  • Katherine Pitts, Thomasville High School, Thomasville City Schools
  • Marla R. Hines, Vestavia Hills High School, Vestavia Hills City Schools

"The final four candidates for the Alabama Teacher of the Year are all outstanding public school teachers in our state. They are shining examples of educators who have devoted time, attention and love to the education of students in Alabama," said State Superintendent of Education Joe Morton."

The next step for the final four is an extensive interview with the state judging committee, followed by the live broadcast awards ceremony, The 2011 Alabama Stars in Education, on Wednesday, May 11. The 2011 Alabama Stars in Education event is hosted by the Alabama Department of Education and Alabama Public Television (APT).

Alabama's Teacher of the Year spends the majority of the school year serving as the spokesperson for education and the teaching profession as well as presenting workshops to various groups. Additionally, Alabama's representative is a candidate for the National Teacher of the Year Award.

Pamela Yau, NBCT
Edgewood Elementary School
Homewood City Schools

"I firmly believe that teachers have a responsibility to preserve the thrill of learning."

Pamela Yau is a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) at Edgewood Elementary School in the Homewood City School System. Yau, who has taught at Edgewood since 2007, is the K-5 Learning Enhancement and Academic Design Teacher (LEAD) - Math and Science Enhancement. She earned an MS in Educational Administration and a BS in Education Magna Cum Laude from Samford University. In 2010, she was selected for the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy, an intensive math and science professional development program, which was started by pro golfer Phil Mickelson and his wife Amy working with ExxonMobil to create a special learning environment for teachers. Not only is she the AMSTI (Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative) Math and Science Lead Teacher for her school, but she also helped develop the K-12 Wellness Education Plan for her school system. She also organized Ponds for Kids at Edgewood Elementary, where students, teachers, parents and other volunteers built an outdoor classroom in one day. In the community, Yau volunteers with the Salvation Army Angel Tree Project, Children's Hospital, Church of the Highlands Dream Team and Young Christian Professionals, and Pet-A-Palooza.

Gay F. Barnes, NBCT
Horizon Elementary School
Madison City Schools

"When a child who has been puzzling over a concept for days suddenly has the magical 'Ah Ha!' moment – and for that child in that instant, the learning is all her own – I am rewarded."

A 20-year veteran and a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) teacher, Gay F. Barnes has taught 1st graders for six years at Horizon Elementary School in the Madison City School System. She earned a Ph.D. in Reading/Literacy Education from Alabama A&M University, Education Specialist and MA in Elementary Education from The University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB), and a BA in Elementary Education from The University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH). Since earning her first degree, Barnes has taught reading, multi-age classes, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades, a college freshmen class for struggling readers, and a university class for pre-service teachers. Her passion for helping struggling readers hits close to home: three of her children are dyslexic and have specific learning disabilities. She appreciates their teachers and "pays it forward" by helping struggling readers and their families. She volunteers with Alabama Special Olympics, United Way, and the high school soccer program.

Katherine Pitts
Thomasville High School
Thomasville City Schools 

"I wanted to be a teacher, so that I could be that motivator for a child who needed someone to be in their corner."

Katherine Pitts is a mathematics teacher for grades nine through twelve at Thomasville High School, with over 20 years of experience in the classroom. She earned a Bachelor degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a Master's degree from the University of North Alabama. Pitts belongs to many education associations and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. She has been nominated or named a local Teacher of the Year in 1994, 2005 and 2010. As a young child, the odds were stacked against her to succeed, but with the help of important teachers, Pitts' confidence grew and she accomplished her goals. That experience motivated her to be a teacher and to inspire students to be educated and make a better life for themselves. Pitts works actively with her church as a youth minister, creating fun activities for her youth members and their families. The Thomasville High School Homecoming Parade is a big event in town each year and she creatively makes floats and décor to liven up the atmosphere and create an enjoyable event for everyone. Pitts sets high expectations for all students but also spends a lot of time on remediation with those that need it. She feels that "every child deserves the opportunity to learn" and her philosophy of teaching revolves around that main idea.

Marla R. Hines
Vestavia Hills High School
Vestavia Hills City Schools

"I believe my greatest contribution to the teaching profession is my advocacy of education reform, as I promote the use of student-centered, inquiry-based methods of teaching and learning instead of more traditional lecture-based, teacher-centered methods."

Marla Hines, 10th grade teacher of Physical Science at Vestavia Hills High School and has taught for over 10 years. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2003. Hines is a member of several education associations and takes on many leadership roles at the local and state level such as a mentor teacher and as a member of the Alabama Course of Study Committee for Science in 2009. Science became a passion for her after a college freshman entomology class and Hines has loved it ever since. Hines is a member of the Kiwanis and Key Clubs and works actively with them to "serve the children of the world" – which is the Kiwanis Club mission statement. Her philosophy of teaching centers on the idea that "excellent teaching has to be a collaborative effort." Hines feels that teacher should work together to improve their schools and communities. Aligning lessons and curriculum is an integral part of the Hines' "Professional Learning Community" and this offers an enhanced learning experience for every student. She feels that the rewards from teaching are fulfilling on a daily basis and make her life feel complete. Hines feels that teaching helps her to grow to be a better educator and a better human being.

INFORMATION SOURCE: Alabama Department of Education