Once again, the kudos are heading straight for one of Sikeston's own. A teacher at the Sikeston Career and Technology Center, Lance Brooks is one of the company's newest Teachers of the Year.
"A few weeks ago I was in the middle of class and my director walked in with two Wal-Mart representatives and presented me with a big $500 check for the school," Brooks said, grinning. "I thought that was pretty special, I really appreciated it. It was totally unexpected. And to find out that it was people like parents, students and teachers who did the actual selecting really made be proud."
He, along with the other winning teachers, received the educational grant money from the Wal-Mart/SAM'S CLUB Foundation to benefit their local school.
This year Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has partnered with Phi Delta Kappa International, considered the world's leading education association, to implement the annual teacher recognition program. The company will donate $2 million to schools with winning teachers.
The graphic communications teacher doesn't deny that this is all flattering, but at the same time he doesn't feel he does anything in the classroom that he deems particularly spectacular. He merely teaches to the best of his ability and tries to make learning fun for his students.
"What I enjoy most about my job is seeing my students acquire new skills, learn a trade and accomplish things they didn't think they were capable of doing before," he said. "I also like seeing them take what they've learned and use it at VICA contests. I've taken several of my students to state over the last three years that I've been involved in VICA.
"I'm really proud of being named Wal-Mart's Teacher of the Year. I'm not sure it will affect my teaching though because I always do the things I think I need to do to get my students to learn as much as possible about the field. I do think maybe I'll have more of a self-appreciation for the job that I do though. And it is nice to be rewarded for something you enjoy doing." Wal-Mart's Teacher of the Year program is one of the largest teacher recognition programs in the country. Since its inception in 1995 the Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year program has recognized nearly 11,000 teachers nationwide and contributed more than $8.4 million to schools.
Brooks now has the opportunity to apply for the state and national Teacher of the Year honors. Whether he wins the title or not, he said he will continue teaching as he has at Sikeston Public Schools for the past seven years.
"Someone once told me to be firm but fair and another person told me to push my students and get out of them as much as they can give, to expect them to do their best which may be more than they even thought they could do," Brooks said.
"Those are two pieces of advice I have never forgotten."