The recent 2013 Lamplighter Awards Banquet gave students an opportunity to express their genuine appreciation to educators whom they respect and admire. Read on for some of their moving essays and a complete winner’s list.

A “Pretty Slick” Teacher

“I try to make it fun for you guys. It’s boring to just sit down and work. I want you guys to have fun but still be successful. You have to enjoy life a little bit here and there.”

My favorite educational flame always says this to my class. Mrs. Davis is an extravagant teacher who shines brightly every day. Even when she has her bad days, we can barely tell because her bubbly personality always prevails and brightens up the room. When I first met Mrs. Davis, she had a smile on her face that stretched from ear to ear, and her eyes sparkled with excitement. From that moment I knew that I was going to love her. Her presence is always comforting to many students, and she is a great inspiration. With many different traits that make her a great teacher, all of these factors create a bright flame of passion for her job, which is why I admire her.

One thing about Mrs. Davis that makes her an inspiration is that she always makes sure that her students are given the opportunity to have the best educational experience possible. One day my class had taken a daily grade on an assignment that was very complicated. Everyone seemed to be struggling, even my peers who get straight A’s. The assignment felt like a thousand pounds of math equations had been placed on our shoulders. My classmates and I tried our best, but we were hopeless. Suddenly we heard an excited squeal in the back of the classroom. Like a superhero, Mrs. Davis sprang from her chair and sprinted to the other side of the room to get dice from a box. At first my classmates and I exchanged weird glances that said, “Has Mrs. Davis gone crazy?” Little did we know that the dice would put a new trick up our sleeves. Gleefully she tossed the dice to one of my friends while imitating a baseball pitcher. Mrs. Davis told her to roll the dice on the floor with her best shot. After a few laughs and explanations, my classmates’ brains had been ignited, and quickly we learned how to complete our assignment and succeed. “Now isn’t that pretty slick!” Mrs. Davis said.

Mrs. Davis is also an inspiration because she can be a great teacher while also being a friend. Only a few teachers who have walked into my life have made me feel welcome at all times. Luckily for me, Mrs. Davis is one of those teachers, and I have been given the opportunity to be in her class two years in a row. Just like a friend, she comforts us when we are feeling sick, she gives us words of encouragement, and we share secret code names that only Mrs. Davis, my classmates, and I FosterMiddleSchool-MyaPatterson-HelenDavis-understand. For example, “radiation” is the code word for . . . well, I can’t say it out loud because my classmates and I pinky promised we wouldn’t tell. Without Mrs. Davis, math class would be so much a bore.

Mrs. Davis has the biggest heart, one that is glazed with gold. I honestly don’t know any other teacher who loves to be at school every day and gets as excited as a young child getting candy when my class understands a concept well.

I will miss all of the hugs, high-fives, and secret codes when I move onto my high school days. In only two years’ time, Mrs. Davis has left an impression on me that will last a lifetime. She has taught me many life lesson and given me wise advice, and she always has her heart open to me 24/7. Thank you, Mrs. Davis, for always showing me the bright parts of the world instead of the dark. You always and forever will be my “pretty slick” teacher.

Helen Davis, 8th grade math teacher, honored by Mya Patterson, 8th grader, Foster Middle School


Memories and feelings have a tendency to attach themselves to people we have met in our lives. Like thunder, they flash throughout the mind when something hints of that certain someone. Bad and good memories alike, emotions are inevitable, and when they are good, they are great. I have been lucky enough to have been introduced to a woman with enough audacity and wisdom to give me a lifetime of thunderstorms.

Being a victim is the farthest thing from easy, but treating yourself as one is effortless. For two years that was all I had been doing. I was pushed out of school and forced into a corner that reeked of finality and loss. I had not only fallen prey to the people who were at the hand of my high school demise, but I had also victimized myself along the way. I became what they wanted me to be, and I thought that is all I would ever amount to until I met her.

A friend of my sister never stopped talking about L.E.A.D. Academy High School. I was sure I had heard of it once, but my familiarity with the name was vague. She described how the school invested itself in Longview’s troubled youth, but my own history with the district made me think it was too good to be true. My sister’s friend begged and pleaded for the opportunity to take me to the principal of the school to see if I was eligible to attend the school. Hearing the conviction in her voice and having an inordinate amount of time on my hands, I let me her lead the way. Before I could second guess her offer, we were already inches away from the office of Mrs. Shumaker.

Before she spoke, I could tell she was proud of her job and who she was, not only as an administrator but also as a servant. Her walls were decorated with past students’ artwork, and the edges of her desk were lined with portraits of her children. She gave off such a warm energy with her welcoming demeanor and exuberant smile. She told me to take a seat, and a conversation that changed everything began. The conversation didn’t last long, but that during that half hour, Mrs. Shumaker succeeded in altering my way of life more than anyone in my tight knit group of loved one ever had. She discussed credit plans and college opportunities, things I had never given a second thought. It surprised me how much emphasis she put on my potential when she had never met me, but it was heartwarming nonetheless. I left the office feeling optimistic and ready to prove myself academically.

LEAD academyhigh-SamPonce-KimberlyShumakerMy journey up to this point has been a long, tiresome one. It has had twists and turns, and it has broken its skeleton more than once, but I am honored to say I am finally arriving to the place I was always meant to be, all because of this woman. She gave me a chance when I wasn’t looking for one. She took a faithful leap of gargantuan proportions, and if it weren’t for that jump, I would still be hanging on by a thread. She fostered me when I didn’t have a square one to go back to. She constructed it with tender love and the purest of intentions. Everything about her makes me believe. She convinced me of the system and who I was as a person. Her smile shined and revealed possibilities that I thought the universe had revoked, and now I feel like riding those tumultuous academic waves with professional skill. When people ask me who I am most grateful for in my life, I will say Mrs. Shumaker of L.E.A.D. Academy.

Kimberly Shumaker, Principal, honored by Sam Ponce, senior, L.E.A.D. Academy High School

Mr. Tatum

“Brrring!” went the bell as I walked late into my fourth period class. I already loathed school. I didn’t feel like coming because it seemed as if summer had gone by too quickly.

In the classroom I saw my first male teacher, and I knew immediately he was going to be mean. Little did I know he would be the most reliable, entertaining teacher I have ever met. Mr. Tatum helped me the most because he was there when I needed him.

I remember our first real test in his class. I was really nervous because I had not studied as much as I should have. Instead of lecturing me about not studying enough, he encouraged me and made feel confident. Guess what? I passed! He also let me know that next time I might not be as lucky. He said I needed to get serious about studying. As a result, I did.

froestParkMiddleSchool-AshantiDotrey-TroyTatumMr. Tatum not only helped me when he knew I needed it, he even helped me when I didn’t. I every realized that he actually cared about me. I will never forget the day my dog passed away. I came to school, hating the world because it had taken my best friend, but my whole day changed when I entered Mr. Tatum’s class. His corny jokes helped me through the day. I never thought that coming to his class would help me not only in school but in the world. I thank him for that.

As I come to the end of my middle school career, I will never forget all the things Mr. Tatum has done for me. By just being there when I needed him, Mr. Tatum has changed my life forever.

Troy Tatum, formerly 6th grade science teacher, currently Student Services Director, honored by Ashanti Dotrey, 8th grader, Forest Park Middle School


My Lamplighter

I am nominating Mrs. Dawn Rusk for this year’s Lamplighter Award because she is cool and a very good teacher. She makes us laugh whenever she makes jokes. I don’t know what is inside her, but whenever I go to her class, I feel like I am standing in warm sunshine. She always tells us to do our best and make good decisions.

One day I was feeling bad, but Mrs. Rusk helped me solve my problem. My dilemma was a boy whom I will call John Doe. He had made mean remarks about my commercial for our reading class. I explained what had happened to Mrs. Rusk, and she took care of everything for me. Of course, I was no longer sad. Instead, I was on cloud 2000. I was feeling this way because she stood up to listen and protect me. I was so appreciative that I told her thank you.

All I want to say is that I love Ms. Rusk and thank her a lot. Thanks for everything.

Dawn Rusk, 5th grade teacher, honored by Yesenia Barron, 5th grader, J. L. Everhart Elementary School








sharon collins honored by ashley martin-ned e williams elementarySomeone Who Inspires Me

I have had many teachers who inspired me, such as Mrs. Stratton, Mrs. Mumphrey, Mrs. Hamilton, and Mrs. Collins. I am truly thankful for all of them, but my favorite is my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Collins.

Mrs. Collins has inspired me to become a teacher like her. For some time now, I always thought when I grew up that I would become a doctor, but when I discovered how great she was at teaching, I thought to myself, “I can follow in her footsteps.”

Mrs. Collins has taught me many great things in math, reading, science, and social studies. Her favorite subject is science, which is mine too. Sometimes we use food in our science experiments. We have used Oreo cookies, apples, oranges, and hard boiled eggs to compare the earth’s layers.

The best thing I like about Mrs. Collins is that almost every Friday, if we follow the rules and complete our assignments all week, we get about an hour of “Fun Friday.” While the other classes are doing work or going outside for recess, we have a blast.

Another thing I admire about Mrs. Collins is whenever we need help, she will assist us. She makes her lessons interesting by using games. She is also nice and very funny.

Mrs. Collins has taught me so much that every six weeks I have been on the A Honor Roll. That is why I would love to be like my favorite and talented teacher, the cool Mrs. Collins, when I grow up. I will always love her forever!

Sharon Collins, 5th grade teacher, honored by Ashley Martin, 5th grader, Ned E. Williams Elementary School