By Ed Enoch
Staff Writer | The Tuscaloosa News
Nick’s Kids Foundation honored 23 local teachers Friday during its third annual Teacher Excellence Awards Luncheon.
The honorees included 22 Tuscaloosa-area teachers, who received excellence awards, and Martha Cook, the former director of the Rise School at the University of Alabama, who received a lifetime achievement award.
The event is designed to honor teachers and recognize their contribution to the community.
“It’s the teachers who go above and beyond, inside and outside of the classroom,” said Katie Mellown with the Nick’s Kids Foundation.
The foundation has recognized about 75 teachers in the three years it has sponsored the luncheon, Terry Saban said.
Terry Saban, a former teacher and the wife of Alabama football coach Nick Saban, said the job is a tough task that often is underappreciated.
“I appreciate what you do,” Terry Saban said to the gathering. “This place should be crowded with our community thanking your for what you do.”
Like coaching, teaching is a profession driven by passion for a job that impacts the lives of others, Nick Saban said.
“It’s really a calling,” he said.
Terry Saban presented the teachers with plaques. The teachers also received $500 in gift cards. The award winners will receive five cards to different stores, Mellown said.
The teachers offered quick comments as they accepted their plaques, taking a moment to thank colleagues and the Sabans while reflecting on their jobs,
“I teach because there is a need, and everything I put into my students, they return tenfold,” said Valerie Grayson of Central Elementary School.
The foundation partnered with Edgar’s Bakery, Jim ’N Nick’s, Pat’s Florist and Lacefield Designs for the luncheon at the Tuscaloosa River Market.
The Rise School bell choir performed at the event.
Friday’s luncheon was the first time the Saban family’s nonprofit charity has given a lifetime achievement award, Mellown said.
“The Sabans are really close to Martha and wanted to do something special for her,” Mellown said.
Cook worked at Rise from 1974 until her retirement on Dec. 1. Terry Saban presented Cook with the lifetime achievement award, which was patterned on the BCS National Championship crystal ball trophy.
“It’s all about the children,” Cook said.
The excellence award winners for 2014 included Carman Tidwell of Alberta Elementary School, Rebecca Jenkins of American Christian Academy, Stacy Stone of Arcadia Elementary School, Valerie Grayson of Central Elementary School, Sherry Drake of Eastwood Middle School, Rhoda H. Richardson of Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, Shayla Pettway of University Place Elementary School, Rene Bailey of Northington Elementary School, Tiffany Craig of Oakdale Elementary School, Wendy Black of the Rise School, Lana Woods of Rock Quarry Elementary School, Jack Hazelrig of Rock Quarry Middle School, Elizabeth Voltz of Skyland Elementary School, Chamayra Kennard of Southview Middle School, Lynn Blankley of Southview Elementary School, Suzy Gatewood of Tuscaloosa Academy, Elizabeth Ellege of Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools Elementary, Laura Prior of Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools Middle, Griffin Parrish of University Place Middle School, Frances Young Fritz of Verner Elementary School, Tera Wilder of Westlawn Middle School and Shalandra Eppes of Woodland Forrest Elementary School.
Nick's Kids Foundation