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CCA teachers nominated for Teacher of the Year 2017

By: Railey Ayers

The Alabama Independent School Association’s Elementary and Secondary Teacher’s of the Year will be announced at the Student Government Association spring convention in May. Two of the finalists who hope to hear their names called are Janet Penn and Libby Bozeman of Crenshaw Christian Academy.

Bozeman, an elementary education graduate of Athens State University, says that her love for teaching started early.

Many of Bozeman’s family members chose the same career, including her sisters — one of which happens to be a Teacher of the Year nominee from Fort Dale Academy.

“On any given weekend, you could have probably found me playing ‘school’ with siblings or friends as a child” Bozeman said.  “I’ve always had a love for teaching and learning.”

Bozeman says what helps her excel are her beliefs in taking her career to a personal level by treating every child as if they were her own, with each child’s best interest in mind.

“I believe that it is very important to have the respect and admiration of my students, and to serve as a role model for them,” she said.  “I gain respect by treating them fairly, setting high expectations and being consistent with discipline.”

She also gained students respect by teaching them through her own personal hardships. Not even a battle with cancer made Bozeman waver in her dedication to students.

“Being a cancer survivor taught me many things,” she said.

“One of them is that tomorrow isn’t promised, and that I have to do what I can to make a difference in this world today, even if it is just one student at a time. I want my children to have the best chance in life, even when that means teaching something that is not in a fourth grade textbook.  I want to inspire critical thinkers with positive work ethics and strong characters that are productive members of society. I don’t know of any other career that could have more impact on a person’s life than that of a teacher. There’s no other career I’d rather have.”

Penn, CCA’s high school nominee, also uses her passion and dedication to inspire students. She says her deep love for art was what eventually led her career.

“I won an art contest in the fourth grade, and it started my love for art,” Penn said, who has been teaching art more than 40 years. “I got to college and realized that I couldn’t be a chemist or a physicist. I thought ‘You know, I really love art. I should do that.’ So I went to Harding University, and took all art classes.”

After teaching art for 30 years in Crenshaw County’s public schools, Penn found a home at Crenshaw Christian where she not only heads the art program at CCA, but also coordinates the Alabama Independent School Association’s state art show.

“It’s a great learning opportunity for my students, because they get to assist the state judges and actually hear what the judges are saying about other art works, and that helps them with their own.” Penn said.

Penn says that through her 40 year career, her students have kept her going. One of her sources of inspiration are students that share her love for art.

“I keep coming back after all this time because just as soon as I feel I’m close to burning out, I’ll find a student who has such talent.” Penn said.

“Often, the problem is that I’ll find a student that is so good at art, but also good at everything else. But, those few that will cross my path all along that have a passion for art instilled inside them, keep me coming back year after year.”