Liberty High School – 2004 Winner

One colleague describes Valorie Stillwell as a “beacon of light.”  Valorie Stillwell has been a Teacher for 21 years.  She  currently teaches at Liberty High School where she chairs the Math Department.  Her peers and students alike describe her as “captivating” and having “passion” for the subject and for her students.

First and foremost, Valorie is an accomplished teacher.  As the Department Chairperson, she discovered that Liberty has a unique problem.  Five separate School districts send students to Liberty.  Valorie understands and has facilitated the creation of an Accelerated Math Program.  Part of this program provides leadership to middle school teachers to help their students succeed when they get to liberty.  She also has spearheaded and teaches a remedial program to help students prepare for High School.  She is a true “A to Z” teacher.  From Remedial math to AP calculus.

Valorie gets results.  She motivates each student by engineering a lesson plan each day to make sure that every child, regardless of their ability, will succeed.  She recognizes that there is some question that every child in her class can answer correctly.  She thinks out her lesson plan in such detail that she will know what question she will ask of each student.  Knowing that they have a chance to be right – some for the first time in a math class – fills them with pride and encourages them to try again.   It tells them that they can succeed.  And it works.  Valorie gets results.  Kids stay in her math courses and they succeed.  That’s why she is the Liberty High School Teacher of the year and the Liberty Union High School Teacher of the year this year.  And in past years she has been the Bristow Middle School teacher of the year and the Brentwood Union School District Teacher of the Year.

Valorie is a role model.  She tries to influence her students by the way she leads her life.  For that reason, no student will ever see Valorie drinking alcohol.  No student will ever see her buying alcohol either.  She won’t permit it.  No student will ever see her litter.  No student will ever tell you that Valorie didn’t keep her word.  She attends her students’ drama and choral performances, their fundraisers, dances, Eagle Scout ceremonies, and athletic events.  She cheers them on from the sidelines and compliments each of them afterwards.  But you will never hear her yelling at the umpire.  Valorie teaches by example.

More than anything, Valorie cares about her students.  A student once asked her if she ever wanted to have children of her own.  Valorie responded, “You are my children”.  Those were not empty words.  Valorie treats her students as if they were her own children.  Every morning before she leaves for school she makes an extra sandwich or two to give to kids who don’t have lunch and can’t afford to buy one.  Her classroom is open each morning at 7:00, an hour before school.  If a student arrives without breakfast, Valorie has them covered.  There is a cabinet in her classroom full of breakfast foods.   And in that cabinet you are also going to find a stack of granola bars just in case she didn’t make enough sandwiches.

And if you need a friend or if your home is lacking a parent, Valorie is there to help you also.  Her classroom door is open to all students, whether or not you take her class.  For that matter, so is her home.  Students drop by her house in the evenings to ask questions or just to have a safe place to be when their parents aren’t home.

Valorie says that teaching is not a profession, it’s a privilege.  She says: “Having a job that paid a lot would be nice. But true teachers realize what they would have to give up.  I see my 6th  Period class and the student who is having such a difficult time in her life right now.  I see her face light up when I say ‘Good afternoon beautiful.  How are you today?’  And then she quietly walks over and asks if I would have time after school to talk with her a while.  For my birthday, she hand embroiders a plaque for me.  Jerry Rice may have a spiffy sports car, but I have Michelle, Karen, and Adam.  And I have as many years as I could hope for to be part of their lives and have them be part of mine.”