Farragut Middle School science teacher Mary Sue Pruitt is one of three teachers recently named Teacher of the Year, highlighting Knox County Schools’ 2017-2018 Teacher of the Year celebration in Holiday Inn Downtown Knoxville Tuesday, Feb. 21.
“I appreciate my co-workers nominating me,” Pruitt said. “There are many excellent teachers in our building.”
A teacher for almost 30 years, “Personally, l enjoy serving as many young people as I can, not just the ones in my classroom,” she said.
“Mary Sue Pruitt is an exceptional educator for numerous reasons; however, her most impactful quality is a deep and passionate love for young people,” FMS principal Weston Edmonds said. “... When a club needs a sponsor, Mary Sue will do it.
“If a group of students need a coach for an academic team, Mary Sue steps up. If there is an opportunity to do something great for kids, Mary Sue suggests it, gets approval for it, organizes it and then implements it, no matter the amount of extra time it requires,” he added.
“If you walk into Mary Sue's classroom, you will get an immediate sense of her love for her kids. She gives them tough love when they need it and follows that up with a consistent feeling of care and support.”
The Teacher of the Year celebration is held each year to recognize outstanding educators from Knox County Schools, Abbey Harris, Knox County Schools public affairs specialist, said.
“To be considered, a candidate must be a full-time, certified pre-K-12 teacher who has taught five or more years and spends the majority of the day instructing students,” Harris said. “Candidates also must show dedication to teaching and possess a variety of positive personal attributes.
“School-level recipients are nominated by their colleagues for this annual award and the number of recipients per school is determined by the number of faculty at the school,” she said.
“To win teacher of the year, you are first nominated by your school,” Pruitt said. “Then you can choose to pursue the district-level Teacher of the Year by submitting a resume and writing some essays about your teaching style, how you feel about current educational issues, and similar topics.
“I believe my community involvement helped me to win the district title,” she said. Pruitt has worked with youths in Emerald Youth Foundation JustLead program for 16 years and with young people at Cokesbury Church.
“Personally, l enjoy serving as many young people as I can, not just the ones in my classroom,” she said.
Her teaching history began at Sam E. Hill Early Childhood Center in Lonsdale in 1988. Later, she taught high school vocational courses in Arkansas from 1992 through 1999.
“That was an interesting position because I started a daycare for high school girls who had children,” Pruitt said. “ I staffed the daycare in the morning, and taught food service in the afternoon.
“The food service included some biology and chemistry, so that was the period in which I was attending college to add a biology certification to my degree,” she said.
In 2000, she began teaching middle school science, and she has taught science in sixth, seventh and eight grades.
“ My favorite subject to teach is science, and I don't have a favorite age group,” Pruitt said. “I feel strongly that many of our students don't fit into our typical educational setting.
“In starting a daycare at a high school, I saw young people overcome barriers and succeed,” she said. “I'm concerned that we are not meeting the needs of all of our students. Evidence of this is in the Disparities in Education task force and research that Knox County has done.
“Also the "School to Prison Pipeline" is a topic I have been learning about,” Pruitt said. “My present focus is helping to provide options for atypical students. I am interested in working with students in alternative settings,” she said. “‘One size fits all’ does not work in education. Although this is a monumental challenge, Knox County is working toward finding options and solutions. I'm willing to help in any way I can.”