First Memphis City Schools Teacher To Win State Award In 30 Years Also Last

Nov 21, 2012

Tennessee Teacher of the Year Allyson Chick holds her award and stands next to Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman.

After school in Allyson Chick’s third-grade classroom at Richland Elementary School, a young girl wrote “I love you Ms. Chick!” four times on a whiteboard while a teacher sat at Chick’s feet and talked over instruction strategies.

Chick was named Teacher of the Year by Tennessee’s Department of Education. It’s a competition she says is a bit like Miss America, or Miss Tennessee, for teachers, “I’m completely honored and floored and blown away,” Chick said. 

Despite the fact that Memphis City Schools is the largest school district in the state, Chick is the first Memphis teacher to win this award since 1983.

“Thirty years,” Chick said and added that she’ll also be the last teacher from the Memphis district to get the award. In August of 2013, Memphis and Shelby County Schools will merge, “Memphis City Schools will no longer be,” Chick said.

Chick is involved with the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative, a partnership between  Memphis City Schools and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“We’re trying to mold strong teachers,” Chick said. As part of the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative, every Memphis City Schools teacher is evaluated using a rubric Chick helped design. “I thought, okay,” Chick said, “I’m not going to look at this as something that is going to be done to me, I’m going to look at it as something that is going to be done for me, and that is going to help me grow.”

Even though Chick thinks the initiative is helping her, she believes the intangibles set her class apart, and contributed to her winning the Teacher of the Year award, “So, all the effective practices and strategies that I develop, well they’re very, very important, but the bond that I have and the sense of community that I create with my classroom, that might be my number-one strategy,” Chick said.

Chick puts long hours into her job and lives less than a mile from the school building “Students in my class were my first trick-or-treaters,” Chick said.

Chick eats dinner at her students’ houses; she attends their sporting events and birthday parties; and she learns what their favorite songs and TV shows are, “because that’s who they are,” Chick said. “When you have that kind of connection with your students and their families, they want to perform for you.”

The National Teacher of the Year will be announced in April and teachers of the year from all 50 states will travel to Washington D.C. for a special reception at the White House, which means Chick will be busy meeting President Barack Obama while her students are taking an important state exam. Students’ scores on Tennessee’s TCAP exam are used to evaluate their teachers, their school, and the Memphis City Schools district. 

“I’m very torn about that, leaving my students to take the TCAP test without me. It’s kind of like going to the Super Bowl without your coach,” Chick said. “Meeting the president, giving the TCAP test, I might be one of the few that is on the fence about that one.”