Part of the Ram-ily: Serving CCSD for 31 years, Emfinger named districtwide Teacher of the Year

Published 8:30 am Saturday, November 25, 2023

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When LaFayette-Lanier Elementary School closed down, Media Specialist Ellen Emfinger wasn’t sure what the move to Valley High School would mean for her. Two years later she has become a part of the Ram-ily and was awarded the districtwide Teacher of the Year Award.

Emfinger has served the Chambers County School District for 31 and a half years. She began her career at Valley High but after getting her master’s degree in library media education, she moved to LaFayette-Lanier.

“I was a little bit intimidated about being a high school library,” Emfinger said. “Because I’ve been away from high school literature for over 30 years.”

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However, she said the change has reinvigorated her after so many years.

In addition to her duties as the media specialist, Emfinger also serves as the annual staff advisor, Honor Society advisor, Beta Club co-advisor and Rambassador sponsor. In her two years back at VHS, she has also started a Book Club.

“They seem eager to jump on board with any crazy idea I may have,” Emfinger said.

The Rambassadors are a service group that volunteer for various activities in the community. Emfinger said she has enjoyed helping connect the students with organizations throughout the community.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to work with our ambassadors here at school,” Emfinger said.

The Rambassadors recently volunteered for the annual employee family picnic for John Soules Foods and State Masters Games of Alabama hosted by the city of Valley.

Working with the Chambers County Commission, Emfinger helped engage students in the Alabama People Against a Littered State (PALS) organization. When she moved to VHS, the ecology club was established to keep students involved with the program.

LaFayette-Lanier Elementary School won the state honorable mention award in 2022. This year the VHS ecology club won first place and $1,000 in the Alabama PALS Clean Campus Program.

After the intercom system began to fail, Emfinger encouraged the annual yearbook staff to produce a weekly news broadcast. That way students could get school notifications, character development and sports. Emfinger said the “Ram Alert” has helped some students discover and foster their desire to pursue journalism.

Emfinger said she also works part-time at Chambers County Library, which has helped her connect her students with resources. Emfinger hosts activities like the library’s lunch and learn. She also helps host classroom lessons such as the Edgar Allan Poe escape room activity.

“The library is everyone’s classroom,” Emfinger said.

Emfigner said she felt flattered and honored to be recognized by her peers. She said she has enjoyed getting integrated into the Valley High family.

“I have been very fortunate to work for some amazing administrators who believed in me and helped guide me along the way,” Emfinger said. “Paul Sikes, Sam Bradford, Danny Berry, Vickie Leak, Rusty Newton and now Montray Thompson have all had a huge impact in helping me develop as an educator. I feel very blessed to have learned from each of them.”