Birmingham math educator named 2013 Ala. Teacher of the Year, gets car for a year

Dr. Alison Grizzle, a math teacher at P.D. Jackson Olin High School in Birmingham, is the 2013-2014 Alabama Teacher of the Year. 

State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice announced Grizzle was chosen to serve as the official spokesperson and representative for teachers in Alabama for the next year near the end of a celebration honoring the 12 semi-finalists and four finalists who were nominated for the coveted title. The awards ceremony is held annually in recognition of these teachers' dedication to education in Alabama public schools.

Grizzle also received a year's use of a 2013 Chevrolet Impala courtesy of Alfa Insurance Co. and the Alabama Farmers Federation during a ceremony at the Alfa home office in Montgomery on Thursday.

"We are excited about Dr. Alison Grizzle being named Alabama Teacher of the Year. She embodies all of the qualities I think of when I use the term teacher," Bice said. "She has chosen a career path of service to those most in need and continues to make a difference in the lives of her students each and every day. We who share the title of teacher are honored to have her represent our profession throughout the coming year."

After graduating from Denison University with degrees in mathematics and English, Grizzle decided not to pursue a career as a financial analyst and followed her heart by entering the world of education. She has taught math in Birmingham City Schools since 1999 and chose to teach in high-needs schools because she believes urban districts often have more difficulty attaining and retaining good teachers.

She is a National Board Certified teacher who earned her doctorate degree at Walden University. Her greatest rewards come at the end of the school year when students receive their graduation exam results.

"My students come running and screaming with hugs and tears and are ecstatic to see the word 'pass' by mathematics. It is that day I see the fruits of my labor," she said.

Grizzle said she is always looking for ways to help her students conquer their fear of mathematics and achieve success in her class. Over the last several years, Grizzle's students have averaged an 85 percent pass rate on the mathematics portion of the high school exit exam, including her special-needs pupils.

"I have yet to leave school saying, 'Today all of my students' lives were enriched because they had me as a teacher.' Every day that I leave school, I know that I can always change something to engage more students and impact their learning more effectively," she said.

Tracy Pruitt is the 2013-2014 Alternate Teacher of the Year. Pruitt, who comes from a family of educators, earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Troy University. She has taught in Dothan for the past 23 years in various positions, the last five of which have been spent at Montana Street Academic Magnet School.

She is a member of several professional teaching organizations, has served on many education committees and is an active volunteer in her community. Two of her greatest accomplishments are receiving National Board Certification and knowing that her daughter wants to carry on the family tradition and become an educator. Pruitt is passionate about getting parents involved in their child's education and teaching literacy and math.

"My most basic belief drives me every single day: All students can learn," she said. "The truth is that they all do learn, but how do you teach students on so many levels with so many diverse backgrounds in one classroom? You work hard and never give up on any child."

The selection process for Alabama's Teacher of the Year begins at the school system level. Each school system can nominate an elementary and secondary teacher at the district level. One elementary teacher and one secondary teacher are selected from each of the eight state Board of Education districts. A state selection committee selects four teachers from the 16 district finalists to be interviewed for the titles Alabama Teacher of the Year and Alternate Teacher of the Year.

Grizzle and Pruitt will spend much of the 2013-2014 school year serving as ambassadors for public education and the teaching profession. Grizzle automatically becomes Alabama's nominee for National Teacher of the Year.

INFORMATION SOURCE: Alabama Dept. of Education