Twenty-seven years ago, Raymond C. Lewis Jr. and his wife, Jeanne Lewis, established the Columbia Fund for Academic Excellence Awards to give the school district’s greatest teachers the recognition that they deserve.
“My husband was on the school board and he felt that a person could be the best teacher in the world and not get the recognition that they deserved,” Jeanne said. “It (setting up the fund) was also influenced by the fact that we had three kids who went through the public school system.”
This year, seven Columbia teachers will be recognized for their teaching excellence and will be awarded an engraved silver tray and $1,200 in cash.
“It’s the only monetary award that’s given in the school district,” said Dr. Lynn Barnett, assistant superintendent of student support services for Columbia Public Schools.
Seven awards are given yearly in the categories of: Outstanding Elementary Educator Grades Pre-K through 2; Outstanding Elementary Educator Grades 3 through 5; Outstanding Middle/ Junior High Educator; Outstanding Senior High Educator; Outstanding Educator in a Specialized Area; Outstanding Beginning Teacher; and Outstanding Administrator.
This year’s winners in their respective categories as mentioned above are: Donna Bogle, Shepard Boulevard Elementary School; Camilla Gilliland, Paxton Keely Elementary School; Calene Cooper, West Junior High School; Diana Rahm, Hickman High School; Linda Coutts, coordinator of K through 5 Mathematics; Jaime Edwards, Rock Bridge Elementary School; and Deb Corkery, Gentry Middle School.
More than 100 educators have received these awards. Winners are nominated by parents and peers, and a committee of central office administrators makes the final selection.
“The feedback that comes from parents, peers, students, and administrators is very important in the selection process,” Barnett said.
According to Barnett, once teachers are selected, the school works with the parents and students to write up recommendations.
The award has always been funded by the Lewis family, along with other donations, most of which come from private individuals.
“When Raymond passed away, many people contributed to the fund as a memorial,” Jeanne said.
The awards banquet will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Peachtree Conference Center. UM System President Elson Floyd will give remarks to the winners and guests.