PULASKI, Tenn. – Martin Methodist College (now the University of Tennessee Southern) congratulates education graduates Candace Garland ‘17, Leah Guerrero ‘14, Kameron Allred ‘13, Ashley Simmons ‘11, and Shannon Bratton ‘99, all named “Teacher of the Year” in their respective schools.
UTS (formerly MMC) alumna Garland graduated in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. She currently works at Southside Elementary School in Pulaski, Tenn., teaching fourth grade students as an English language arts (ELA) teacher. Now in her fourth year with Southside Elementary, she has been named as this year’s building level teacher of the year for the pre-kindergarten – fourth-grade level band and as the district teacher of the year for pre-kindergarten – fourth-grade level band.
“UTS (formerly MMC) provided me with the necessary tools to become a successful educator,” said Garland. “The knowledge I gained from the education professors was key to helping me develop my personal teaching methods and class room management techniques. I can’t thank UTS (formerly MMC) enough for giving me the tools and opportunities needed to succeed in my teaching career.”
Guerrero graduated from UTS (formerly MMC) in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in English with Licensure in English with the certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, an interest that evolved while playing soccer with many of UTS (formerly MMC)’s international students. In 2015, she began teaching English language learners at McDowell Elementary School in Columbia, Tenn., where she has worked for the last six years. With fifty English language learners currently studying at McDowell, Guerrero plans to accompany her students to their new school beginning next year.
“The UTS (formerly MMC) Education Program taught me the most important skills of teaching: solving problems, showing empathy, and celebrating differences,” said Guerrero. “I also learned the necessity and power of cultivating relationships. At UTS (formerly MMC), I developed a commitment to lifelong learning and service in my community.”
Allred, a 2013 UTS (formerly MMC) graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, currently works at J.E. Woodard Elementary School in Columbia, Tenn., where she has been teaching for seven years. Starting as a third-grade teacher for her first three years, Allred was presented with an opportunity to move to kindergarten, which she happily accepted. This year, Allred has become a member of J.E. Woodard’s leadership team and has been named as lead kindergarten teacher.
“Dr. Grace Meier and Dr. Tina Smith both were wonderful mentors during my time at UTS (formerly MMC),” said Allred. “I was certainly prepared to start my career. Now, whenever I am asked why I teach, the answer is simple: my students and my co-workers are my family! To see a child’s love for learning and knowing that I have played an important role in their lives is truly rewarding.”
Simmons earned her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from UTS (formerly MMC) in 2011. Along with currently teaching third grade at Buchanan Elementary School in Murfreesboro, Tenn., she’s also ELA curriculum lead for grades three-five, third grade ELA lead, and a hybrid teacher, serving as the only virtual teacher for the third grade.
“I first attended UTS (formerly MMC) on a basketball scholarship with no idea what I wanted to do with my life,” said Simmons. “After changing my major three times, I finally discovered my love for teaching. I was privileged to learn in a small, personal environment, where my professors taught me to not only know my content, but know my children and form relationships with them as well. From that, I’ve found a great deal of success in a career that I enjoy.”
Having graduated from UTS (formerly MMC) in 1999 with her Bachelor of Arts in Childhood Learning, Bratton has been teaching for Pulaski Elementary School in Pulaski, Tenn. since 1999, working in special education, kindergarten, and now first grade.
“Looking back, I feel that UTS (formerly MMC) really helped prepare me for my teaching career,” said Bratton. “My professors were willing to take time to ensure I knew how to use strategies and incorporate what I had learned from the college classroom into my own classroom. Over the years, I have been able to build trusting relationships with the faculty, all who allowed me to be more confident in asking questions and growing as a professional.”
“These students are great examples of the values stressed in the education program at UTS (formerly MMC),” said UTS (formerly MMC) Division Chair of Education Dr. Grace Meier. “The education department is very proud of UTS (formerly MMC) graduates; they are excellent representatives for the college and the teaching profession.”
Dr. Judy Cheatham, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, said, “Martin Methodist College has been providing teachers to this area of the state and beyond for 151 years. Right this minute in this part of Tennessee, counties are desperate to hire good teachers, and our graduates are in high demand. It gives me such pride that over the last several years, 100% of our graduates with Tennessee licensure are employed and that over 80 % of our teacher education graduates choose to stay and teach close to home, in more rural counties, helping fill critical spaces in elementary education, STEM fields, English and Social Studies, physical education and business. Five Teachers of the Year! What an embarrassment of riches!”
The University of Tennessee Southern, formerly Martin Methodist College, is the newest member of the University of Tennessee System. Founded in 1870 , UTS offers (number of degrees) associate, baccalaureate and graduate degrees. UTS is located on an historic campus in Pulaski, among the beautiful rolling hills of southern Middle Tennessee. The University of Tennessee Southern is convenient to both Nashville (70 miles north) and Huntsville, Alabama (40 miles south).