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Estimated 300 attend Chamber awards banquet

VALLEY — On Thursday evening, the Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its first-ever Education Awards Dinner. An estimated 300 people were present in the Valley Community Center’s Community Room for the program. A total of 25 educators, administrators and support personnel received awards in 12 categories. Seven educators from the Valley campus of Southern Union State Community College received awards along with 13 volunteers, 15 community members and 12 partners in education.

Chamber Executive Director Ashley Crane said the program was similar to a Heroes awards program that’s done in Phenix City with one major difference.

“They do their program for one school system,” Crane said. “Our program includes every school and school system in the Greater Valley Area.”

More than 20 schools were asked to take part. Those that did had nominees for the different categories.

Each nominee for an award was asked to submit a biography and to answer questions about their accomplishments. Based on their responses, some finalists were chosen in each category and they were interviewed by a select committee.

“The overall winners were determined based on a point system using the information that was provided by their finalists in a questionnaire,” Crane said. “Tonight, you will see public, private and post-secondary being recognized,”

Brandi Drake of Springwood School and Joshua Bryan of the Chambers County Career Technical Center were recognized as the Classroom Teachers of the Year; Eric Creel of Valley High and Matthew Hurst of Chambers Academy were recognized as the Specialty Teachers of the Year, Matt Mims of Chambers Academy and Travis Engram of Valley High are the Rookie Teachers of the Year and Becky Sands of Lanett Junior High the STEM Teacher of the Year.

Jason Phillips of Huguley Elementary School is the Coach of the Year, Janna Cole of Huguley Elementary and Terry Walls of Springwood the Support Employees of the Year. Charlie Williams of Lanett City Schools and Shelly Remmel of Springwood are the Food Service Employees of the Year and Belinda Reed of W.O. Lance Elementary in Lanettt the Health Services Employee of the Year.

Lisa Smith of Fairfax Elementary School is the Maintenance and/or Custodial Employee of the Year, Greta Wilson of the Chambers County School District and Jonathan Reynolds of Springwood the Transportation Employees of the Year. Dr. John Mehaffey of Chambers Academy and Dr. Kelli Hodge of the CCSD are the Administrators of the Year.

Receiving awards from the Valley campus of Southern Union were Mindy Reynolds, Teacher of the Year; Jimmy Sands, Specialty Area Teacher of the Year; Charris Campbell, Rookie Teacher of the Year; James Alsobrook, STEM Teacher of the Year; Stanley Herring, Maintenance Employee of the Year; Mercedes Richardson, Support Employee of the Year, and Robin Brown, Administrator of the Year.

Recognized as Volunteers of the Year were Bethany Roughton, Charlene Story, Cindy Calhoun, Denise Clark, Dr. Pat Martin, Judy LaFollette, Mamie Pennington, Marissa Sellars, Mary Allen, Denise Reaves, Stanley Roberts, Stephanie Thomas, and Theresa Ware.

Community Members of the Year are Alan McDitt, Chief Angie Spates, Debbie Wood, Douglas Jones Sr., Gary Harris, Gregory Sutton, Dr. Jason Etherton, Laurie Blount, Karanja Story, Five Points Mayor Derrick Wright, Lanett Mayor Kyle McCoy, West Point Mayor Steve Tramell, Stanley Roberts, Valerie Gray and Woody Harmon.

Receiving awards as Partners-in-Education for the Year were the Chambers County Development Authority, CharterBank, Fairfax First Baptist Church, Fairview Baptist Church, the Fredonia Heritage Society, Happy Valley Baptist Church, the Lanett Church of Christ, Parker’s Foods, the Shawmut United Methodist Church, the Lanett United Methodist Church, Vernon Carter and West End Baptist Church.

The program closed with a special award being presented to Richard Carter, who recently coached the Lanett High Panthers to a third consecutive 2A state championship in boys basketball.

“Leadership has been a very integral part of Coach Carter’s contribution to Lanett High,” Crane said. “Last year he helped introduce his players to a new character education program. He taught lessons about leadership and responsibilities that make a profound difference in the attitude of the program. He was a perfect instructor because of how genuine he is with the students.”