Kristen Wyatt

Athens Elementary teacher, Kristen Wyatt, is the 2019 Bluefield Daily Telegraph's Excellence in Education award winner

BLUEFIELD — Contributions the region’s teachers make to their communities were celebrated Tuesday with awards that were based on the nominations submitted by the grateful students they help every day.

More than 100 teachers from West Virginia and Virginia gathered at The Clover Club in downtown Bluefield for dinner, door prizes, and to see who among their colleagues had been chosen for special recognition. After dining and socializing, they learned that the recipient of the 2019 Cole Chevy Bluefield Daily Telegraph Excellence in Education Award was teacher Kristen Wyatt of Athens Elementary School.

Circulation Director Ernie Horn of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph read the audience a nomination letter written by one of Wyatt’s students. Nomination letters submitted to the contest were left with their original spellings and sentences.

“I would like to nominate Ms. Kristen Wyatt for the best teacher award because she was the teacher who taught me to read,” student Samantha said in her letter. “Reading is my favorite subject. I was in first grade, I asked to read in front of the class and I couldn’t read most of my book. The day after I asked her if she could help me to read and she said yes she helped me and then the next day I read the book to her and I had mastered it! She taught me how to read, she changed my life! She also helped me believe I could do it and that school could be fun.”

Wyatt said later that she almost didn’t attend Tuesday’s award banquet, but one of her son’s ball games was canceled and her sister insisted that she come to Bluefield.

“I was shocked and extremely grateful,” Wyatt said.

Wyatt said she originally wanted to go into medicine, but she worked at the Princeton Health and Fitness Center's daycare and after school program, and realized that she wanted to go into teaching.

Runners up for the 2019 Excellence in Education Award were Janet Burton of Ceres Elementary School and Lori Hale of Graham Middle School.

“I think Mrs. Burton at Ceres Elementary School should win this award,” student John wrote. “Well, because she has taught me how to do my best. Mrs. Burton has gotten me to read a lot more than I used to. She also got me to take on more responsibilities. This is why I think Mr. Burton should win.”

“Shocked,” Burton said after being asked for her reaction to the news. “I’m surprised and I don’t know if I’m more deserving than any of the other teachers here.”

Teacher Lori Hale was unable to attend the presentation due to a previously-scheduled family gathering, Horn said. He read a nomination letter from one of her students.

“I would like to nominate Lori Hale for Educator of the Year because she not only helps her students educationally, but in other ways as well,” student Leah said. “She goes over material slowly and clearly so everyone in the class understands it. She also congratulates students, not only for grades, but for effort and improvement. She also tells us to always use the word ‘yet. I don’t know how to do it, yet.’ Those are my reasons why Lori Hale should be Educator of the year.”

Tommy Cole of Cole Chevrolet welcomed the teachers to The Clover Club. He thanked the Bluefield Daily Telegraph for participating in the event and spoke of the newspaper’s contributions to the community.

“I wanted to take a minute to discuss the importance of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph,” Cole said. “We are so fortunate to have the Bluefield Daily Telegraph in our community.”

Newspapers have struggled in the age of social media, but “there are some great things going on in this community and the newspaper is a part of it,” Cole said, adding that when he was mayor of Bluefield, he appreciated how the Daily Telegraph’s reporters covered city Board of Directors meetings.

“They didn’t over report. They didn’t under report. They reported the news,” Cole said.

Horn reminded the teachers about the Bluefield Daily Telegraph’s Newspapers in Education program, which provides newspapers for teachers at low or no cost throughout the school year. Newspapers in Education covers 44 schools across seven counties in West Virginia and Virginia, and provides teachers with a useful tool for students to use as they grow.

“If you haven’t taken advantage of it, contact us next school year,” Horn said.

The event’s main sponsor was Cole Chevrolet, and additional sponsors included Princeton Health Care Center, Leslie Ann’s, Bland Street Auto, Derm One, Princeton Community Hospital, Bluefield Regional Medical Center, The Willow Gift Gallery, and Princeton Health & Fitness. The teachers also received gift certificates courtesy of Grant’s Supermarket and the Hometown Service Center.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com