Kaitlyn Pickett

Position: Second Grade Teacher

School: College Park Elementary School

School District: Pascagoula-Gautier School District

City, State: Gautier, Mississippi

About the Nominee: Kaitlyn Pickett was nominated by a student, Lydia-Kate Jordan. Ms. Pickett works really hard to make learning fun. She spends time creating fun things for students to do while we learn. To give some examples, she made the classroom into a Pokemon game for students to learn how to read. She also made "Pickettville" to help students learn to work in groups, and to teach them that it's not always about themselves. Ms. Pickett decorates the entire classroom and hallway for different things her students do. She teaches them how to speak properly, and not to say things like "ain't," or "do's not." She's a super fun teacher who stays after school and helps students with their homework.

Ms. Pickett is also on the literacy team, and she helps Lydia-Kate's other teacher all the time because it's their first year. Lydia-Kate says that Ms. Pickett has helped her be a better reader, meet her AR goal and raise her AR level. Ms. Pickett has a chart in the classroom where students can see how far they have to go to reach their AR goal, and they all meet their goals because she really helps them.

When students are sad, Ms. Pickett hangs out with them on the playground. When students don't get along in class, she talks to them to help them be friends again. When Ms. Pickett teaches, she sings, raps, acts and uses puppets. She teaches her students to do what's right, and she helps them use more advanced words such as melancholy and ecstatic to describe their feelings. Ms. Pickett is an awesome teacher, and her students are lucky to have her!

[nominee_videos nominee_email="kpickett@pgsd.ms"]

Chuck Rhoads

Position: Visual Arts Teacher

School: Puckett High School

School District: Rankin County School District

City, State: Puckett, Mississippi

About the Nominee: Chuck Rhoads was nominated by his principal, Robert Crain. Mr. Rhoads is a huge asset to Puckett High School and the Rankin County School District. He is a talented, knowledgeable Visual Arts instructor who not only consistently applies exceptional instructional strategies, but is a master technician of the teaching/learning process.

Mr. Rhoads is a self-driven teacher who single-handedly created Puckett High's Arts program. He has created 3 Arts programs for 3 different schools in Rankin County. Each program has been self-supported by donations and grants that Mr. Rhoads obtained. He is an ingenious, child-centered leader for his students and peers. Some of his art projects include Keep Mississippi Beautiful and The Gardens of Puckett, the latter which has won awards and gained statewide attention. Puckett High's Arts program is a model for other schools. Mr. Rhoads' leadership qualities, along with his Arts programs have brought businesses and communities together.

Mr. Rhoads' art students have benefited from his being a successful teacher throughout his career. Many of his students have attained art scholarships, and their work is featured in his annual art exhibit at the Mississippi State Capitol. Additionally, his students have won the Gold and Silver Keys in the Regional Scholastic Arts programs, as well as the International VSA Arts Awards for Mississippi at Union station in Washington, DC. His students' artwork has been found in the United States Capitol, and two "First Ladies of Mississippi" have student artwork displayed in their homes. Most importantly, Mr. Rhoads has had the most success in changing his students' attitudes and lives. He can turn a negative attitude into a positive attitude and teach students more than just Art. He teaches students to be polite, cordial, respectful and how to become model students.

[nominee_videos nominee_email="crhoads@rcsd.ms"]

Emilee Berryhill

Position: Fourth Grade Teacher

School: Martin Bluff Elementary School

School District: Pascagoula-Gautier School District

City, State: Gautier, Mississippi

About the Nominee: Emilee Berryhill is a LifeChanger at her school. She pushes all of her students to achieve their maximum potential. Her classroom is filled with fun, hands-on activities to keep her students engaged. She always volunteers to tutor her students after school to help them meet their goals. She also provides intensive interventions for students who struggle. Ms. Berryhill builds positive relationships with her students and their parents. She is always in constant communication with her students' parents to ensure their children achieve academic success. In her school, Ms. Berryhill has volunteered to organize many events. One event she organized was the Back to School Pep Rally. She is also the Informational Technology Specialist at her school, helping teachers in the building with their technology issues. She is a mentor teacher to new teachers and veteran teachers, and she helps them plan lessons for their classrooms. Ms. Berryhill also shares her knowledge of new technology programs with teachers in the building. She has presented at the district's Tech Camp for teachers from across the state.

Ms. Berryhill is always asked by the district curriculum specialists to present professional development for math and reading to other teachers from her district. She has been awarded Teacher of the Year by her school, and she has also been awarded A+ Reading, Math, and Technology Teacher by the district staff for multiple years.

[nominee_videos nominee_email="eberryhill@pgsd.ms"]

Mandy Gunter

Position: Third Grade Teacher

School: Bayou View Elementary School

School District: Gulfport School District

City, State: Gulfport, Mississippi

About the Nominee: Mandy Gunter makes strides to improve the lives of elementary students every day at school. On weekends, she designs valuable instructional lessons that boost students' learning, not only in terms of academics, but in terms of learning about how education makes a difference in their lives. Her positive presence motivates veteran teachers at her school and inspires new and novice teachers as well. Her professional reputation as an educator is well-known in her district and community; she has been selected by her colleagues and administrators as Teacher of the Year several times. This is a highly-coveted award that must be earned. She is encouraging to her students and colleagues, and she is a true teacher leader who aims to positively change the lives of students. She accomplishes this endeavor every day in her classroom. Her students demonstrate pride when they learn a skill they can carry forward in their lives forever.

Mrs. Gunter never settles and will not let her students settle for less than excellence. She pushes, nudges and bolsters students towards success. She is a committed teacher who lovingly provides all of the elements that further students' growth. Because she has high expectations of herself, she is a superb model for others. Mrs. Gunter is talented, focused, cheerful and extremely humble. She displays all of the characteristics that anyone, especially students, would want in a teacher. She tutors students to help them achieve their goals and treats them as if they are her own children. Without a doubt, Mrs. Gunter is a LifeChanger. She has literally changed many students' lives this year and during the many years of her tenure.

[nominee_videos nominee_email="mandy.gunter@gulfportschools.org"]

Cynthia Vaxter

Position: Third Grade Teacher

School: Gautier Elementary School

School District: Pascagoula-Gautier School District

City, State: Gautier, Mississippi

About the Nominee: Cynthia Vaxter is a LifeChanger who saves lives in her community on a daily basis. She builds positive relationships with her students, as well as many other students throughout the building. She sets high expectations for her students and holds them accountable for meeting expectations. Ms. Vaxter has implemented many unique ideas in her classroom. Her latest idea is listening to audio books while the students walk outside. She is in constant contact with parents, building relationships with them so their children will succeed. Most parents want their younger children to have her as their next teacher.

Ms. Vaxter is also a valuable member of her school team. She volunteers for many committees throughout the year. She also mentors new teachers and experienced teachers, providing them with classroom management ideas, curriculum suggestions and intervention strategies to help students succeed in school. She is her school's gifted liaison and is on the School Leadership team.

[nominee_videos nominee_email="cvaxter@pgsd.ms"]