By Emily Williams
Cherokee Bend Elementary School teacher Ann Marie Corgill is a finalist for the 2015 National Teacher of the Year award.
Corgill was named a finalist on Jan. 14.
One of four finalists – the other three are from Hawaii, Indiana and Texas – Corgill earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree at the University of Alabama and has been an educator for 20 years.
She teaches fourth grade at Mountain Brook’s Cherokee Bend Elementary School, where she is the school system’s first National Teacher of the Year finalist.
After she learned that she was a finalist for the award, Corgill had to keep her success a secret until a scheduled press release.
“I was in disbelief at first, because I had to keep it a secret for five days,” she said. “I thought, ‘Is this really happening? I can’t tell anybody. I don’t see it written anywhere. Am I making this up?’ It was a little bit shocking, but fun.”
After the press release came out, Corgill’s students and colleagues threw a pep rally in her honor at Cherokee Bend Elementary.
“I’m really thankful for my colleagues,” Corgill said, adding that her fellow educators were only too happy to celebrate. “We are fans of pep rallies, because we get kids to scream on purpose.”
As a finalist, Corgill will soon travel to Washington, D.C., for a three-day interview by a 15-person panel. Once that’s completed, the finalists and each State Teacher of the Year are invited to the White House for a ceremony during which President Barack Obama will recognize the National Teacher of the Year.
Once inducted into the position, the National Teacher of the Year becomes a spokesperson for the teaching profession, traveling the country to give lectures on the state of education and how it can be improved upon and celebrated. That’s why, during the application process, each teacher is asked to provide his or her own platform on education.
Corgill’s personal platform focuses on the relationship between academic education and social understanding.
“My hope is that – yes, we teach for college and career readiness – but that we can teach children for a civil and productive democracy so that children learn, not just the academic part of school, but that they learn how to be better human beings,” Corgill said.
Teachers also should employ non-academic lessons, she said.
“All of those things are necessary to live in the world today, and I don’t know if we spend enough time focusing on those skills,” she said. “I think there needs to be a balance.”
If she’s named National Teacher of the Year, Corgill said, she will travel the country and spread the message that education can be more than just keeping up to date with the Common Core Standards. She said teachers should spend time teaching those social lessons that cannot be found in textbooks.
Corgill said she sees a need to teach children lessons that include “how to problem-solve with one another, become more independent, respectful and learn how to have conversations.”
She’s learned some lessons from her students during her 20-year career as a teacher, Corgill said.
“I think that they have taught me to stop talking so much and to listen, because they have important and wise and powerful things to say,” she said.
Corgill also said that to be a responsive teacher, “I have to be quiet. I have to listen.”
For more information on the National Teacher of the Year Program, visit www.ccsso.org/ntoy.