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Hamblen County Teachers of the Year
Posted On:
Monday, January 22, 2018

Congratulations to Hamblen County's 2018 Teachers of the Year 


Michelle Newman, Witt Elementary, PreK-4

Laura Fleenor, East Ridge Middle, 5-8

Amy Whaley, West High, 9-12


Michelle NewmanLaura FleenorAmy Whaley


Michelle Newman

Witt Elementary


Fourth grade math and science teacher Michelle Newman is Witt Elementary teacher of the year. A 25-year educator, she has served in her present position for the past nine years, before which she taught at Lincoln Elementary. 


Newman is this year’s Tennessee Science Teachers Association Teacher of the Year for grades K-4 and was selected to serve on the state’s Science Textbook Committee.  “I take great pride in the fact that the materials this committee reviewed will guide more than 65,000 Tennessee educators as they undertake the implementation of our new science standards,” she said. “This will affect almost 100,000 students across our state.”


A graduate of East Tennessee State University with a B.S. in Elementary Education, Newman holds a M.S. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Tennessee and an E.Ds. from Lincoln Memorial in Educational Administration and Instruction. She also studied abroad at the University of London. 


Newman, who serves Witt as a principal designee, a member of the data team, a new teacher mentor, and is grade level team leader, is a member of the Hamblen County science textbook adoption committee and a science content leader.


In the classroom, Newman, seeing herself as a student in the ever-changing world of science, concentrates on using a hands-on approach as much as possible, utilizing the Web to bring science concepts into the classroom. “Something we learn in class can spark a question from a student that is not covered by standards,” she said.


A lifelong learner, she said, “I have to be knowledgeable in the latest science trends so I can lead my student to see themselves as lifelong learners as well.”


Newman does a tremendous amount of research to find materials that are reflective of the Tennessee math standards. “I rarely use the math textbook because it does not take students deep enough to meet our high expectations,” she said. “My students have benefited from this rigor, which includes an emphasis on math skills in real-world situations.”


She also utilizes writing in her math classes. “If they can explain a concept, then they truly understand it.” 


Newman serves on the Tennessee Science Instructional Materials Panel, is a Tennessee Academic Bias Item Reviewer for reading, math and science, and is a member of the TN Ready Science Teacher Item Review Committee. 


At Lincoln Heights, she was a member of the School Advisory Leadership Team, the Data Team, and was fifth grade team leader. 



East Ridge

Laura Fleenor


Laura Fleenor, eighth grade math and algebra teacher whose philosophy is that all students can learn, is East Ridge’s Teacher of the Year. 


Currently a doctoral candidate at Lincoln Memorial University, she has an A.S. from Walters State, a B.A. from Carson-Newman University, a M.A. from Tusculum College and an Ed.S. from Lincoln Memorial University. A 13-year educator, she has been in her current position for the past four years 


Fleenor said students are the center of her classroom. “My job is not to teach content, but to teach students. Through high expectations and teamwork, I believe my students can participate successfully in the global economy in the 21st Century.”


“Communicating and modeling high expectations on the first way of school sets the tone for the year,” Fleenor said. “I talk to students about their own goals and expectations and then I am able to communicate to students what I expect for them as well. I believe all students can learn with high expectations and teamwork.”

All students learn at different rates and achieve at different levels, so differentiating instructions meeting their learning needs, Fleenor explained. “I use a variety of teaching strategies and activities to meet the needs of various learning needs,” she said, noting that she provides tutoring for students each morning to meet individual needs. 


Teamwork is essential to success. “In today’s global society, individuals must work together and collaborate to accomplish a goal or task,” she said.  “In the classroom, teamwork is students and teachers working together to achieve a goal. Teamwork also is teachers collaborating on the same project. 


“On the eighth grade team, I collaborate with my teaching partner and share ideas with other subject level teachers to develop effective lesson plans. I also collaborate with other grade level math teachers to develop common formative assessments to gauge our students’ learning and use the date to develop strategies to remediate or enrich students’ knowledge of a particular concept,” he said. 


At East Ridge, Fleenor is founder and director of the school’s successful Bear Hunt. The 5k, which began in 2007, generates $8,000-$10,000 each year for school needs.


The project is now in its 11th year. “The impact of the race is evident through the increased test scores on TNReady, due to effective test preparation in software purchased with these funds. Students also have exposure to technology they may not have in their homes,” she said.



She serves as Junior Beta Club lead sponsor through which she coordinates and leads service projects for students, prepares and leads the induction ceremony for officers, coordinates fundraisers, and coordinates state and national field trips for Betas. 


She is a member of the East Ridge Data Team and actively participates in combing through data from the spring TCAP tests and Algebra EOE. She reviews subgroup data and identifies struggling learners.


West High

Amy Whaley



Amy Whaley, who teaches Advanced Computer Applications, Web Foundations I, and Business Communications, is West High’s Teacher of the Year.  An 18-year teacher, she has spent the last 13 of those years in her current position. 


She holds a B.S. in business management, and an M.A.T. in teaching curriculum and instruction from Carson-Newman University. 


Advisor of West Side Story, the monthly school newspaper, and webmaster for the school, Whaley also is the school’s graphic designer. This includes the Trojan Army Hall of Fame bulletin, awards ceremony bulletins, and annual graduation booklet. Additionally, she serves as schoolwide Community Relations Chair. 


Business department chair, she is PLC (professional learning club) leader for computer applications, works to create common formative curriculum alignment, and, as organization administrator to proctor Microsoft Office Industry Certification tests, has instructed 17 students to receive 46 industry certifications in one semester. 


As FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) advisor, Whaley leads students in regional, state, and national competitions, serves as leader of West High’s Thanksgiving box drive through which the school feeds more than 400 Hamblen County residents each year. 


Whaley’s West Side Story has earned the rank of Best Overall Newspaper in the state and second place school newspaper. She serves as advisor to the weekly Trojan Talk column in the Citizen Tribune, instructs students to do interviews, assists students in raising $5,000 annually to print newspapers at no cost to the students, and designs advertisements for local businesses. 


Before joining the West High staff in 2007, Whaley was business teacher at Morristown East, where she sponsored the Hurricane newspaper. She has served as an adjunct professor of Topics in Business Education at Carson-Newman. 


Whaley recently partnered with Alcoa Howmet Morristown to pair Career and Technical Education (CTE) video production students with industry to produce a video for a global competition among 82 facilities from 19 countries. 

“I aimed to create a bond between industry and CTE students to improve academic performance in Hamblen County Schools,” she said. “The Alcoa Howmet plant manager, director of schools, principal, another teacher, and I meet over six weeks to lead a work-based learning production team and film a community service video for Howmet.”


Howmet received a $25,000 grant with our first place in the world CTE video and invested $15,000 of the grant in the school system for ACT Analyze Ed practice materials. 



Since then, all Hamblen County students have utilized the Analyze Ed practice materials to increase the county ACT cumulative score from a 20.1 in 2012 when ACT was not required at West High to a 20.6 at West and 20.2 for Hamblen County with all junior students testing before receiving a diploma. 


“My partnership role with Howmet merged the CTE classroom with academics to provide an impact student sustainability after graduation for Hamblen County students,” she explained. “All Hamblen County high school teachers, including myself, have created rigor in the classroom with ACT practice materials for the past five years.”


“Today, the Howmet partnership project we began has created 23 Hamblen County work-based learning internships,” she said. “…my role has been to prepare students for summer internship interviews through resume and cover letter preparation matched with soft skills. Moreover, our Hamblen County summer internship program produced conversation between the Hamblen County CTE director and CTE coach with industry to create a Work Ethic Diploma noticed across the state.  Due to continued CTE and industry partnerships, 102 Hamblen County students in May of 2017 will receive a red carpet interview to over 30 Lakeway Area industries any time after high school graduation with a Work Ethic Diploma.”


Overall, her initial role with Howmet improved overall school culture to close a gap between industry, CTE, and academics today.  ACT scores have improved, work-based learning summer internships have increased, and the project also advanced conversation to produce the Work Ethic Diploma to merge CTE with academics for sustainability of students in the workforce.