JCSS names finalists for Teacher of the Year

Jessie Wood holds a celebratory cupcake after being surprised in her classroom with the announcement that she is one of three finalists for the Jackson County School System Teacher of the Year award. She is flanked by, from left, Chanda Palmer, her principal at East Jackson Comprehensive High School​; Dr. Selena Blankenship, JCSS HR director; and Dr. April Howard, JCSS superintendent.

Jessie Wood holds a celebratory cupcake after being surprised in her classroom with the announcement that she is one of three finalists for the Jackson County School System Teacher of the Year award. She is flanked by, from left, Chanda Palmer, her principal at East Jackson Comprehensive High School​; Dr. Selena Blankenship, JCSS HR director; and Dr. April Howard, JCSS superintendent.

The Jackson County School System has named its three finalists for Teacher of the Year honors, and they represent instructors of some of the oldest and youngest students, as well as the arts.

Chosen by a panel from among the honorees at each of the district’s 10 schools, they are Jessie Wood, a social studies teacher at East Jackson Comprehensive High School; Aja Ledford, a third-grade teacher at Maysville Elementary School; and Stephanie Cleveland, West Jackson Elementary School’s music teacher.

Classroom observations will be scheduled during the month of October, and Dr. Selena Blankenship, JCSS human resources director said she expects the district-level winner will be announced shortly thereafter.

Each was surprised at their building by their principal and visitors from the district office with a big cupcake and helium balloons to the applause and delight of their students and colleagues.

Aja Ledford, a third-grade teacher at Maysville Elementary School, center, is congratulated by Dr. Selena Blankenship, left, JCSS director of human resources, and Dr. Michelle Archibald, MES principal.

Aja Ledford, a third-grade teacher at Maysville Elementary School, center, is congratulated by Dr. Selena Blankenship, left, JCSS director of human resources, and Dr. Michelle Archibald, MES principal.

Other elementary school building-level winners, named in September, were Ellie Baldwin, East Jackson; April Duffey, Gum Springs; Hannah Doster, North Jackson; and Amanda Carmichael, South Jackson. Derek Davis and Amy Myers were the winners for East Jackson and West Jackson middle schools, respectively; and Craig Ellis was the winner at Jackson County Comprehensive High School.

Last year’s honoree was Dr. Shannon Lawrence, a long-time career, technical and agricultural education teacher, who is now serving as work-based learning and youth-apprenticeship program coordinator for the school system.

JCSS employs more than 681 certified staff, 459 of whom have advanced degrees and/or certifications. More than 70 percent of the certified staff members have more than 10 years of experience.

The Jackson County School System serves 8,300 Pre-K through 12th-grade students in 10 schools across the county.

West Jackson Elementary School music teacher Stephanie Cleveland holds a "You rock!" balloon as she celebrates being named on of three finalists for JCSS Teacher of the Year with, from left, Dr. Selena Blankenship, JCSS HR director; Dr. April Howard, JCSS superintendent; and Dr. Amity Hardegree, WJES principal.

West Jackson Elementary School music teacher Stephanie Cleveland holds a “You rock!” balloon as she celebrates being named on of three finalists for JCSS Teacher of the Year with, from left, Dr. Selena Blankenship, JCSS HR director; Dr. April Howard, JCSS superintendent; and Dr. Amity Hardegree, WJES principal.