Lillian Hemphill

lillian_hempmillIImagine being Teacher of the Year not once, but twice! Lillian Hemphill of Pine Bluff, AK, doesn’t have to imagine it. She actually won the title Teacher of the Year twice, receiving her most recent recognition on Monday, May 23, 2011. Her first award was when she taught at Covenant Keepers College Prep in Little Rock, AR, and her most recent acknowledgement is for her efforts at Watson Chapel Jr. High in Pine Bluff.  Hemphill attributed her success in the classroom to the TMCF Teacher Quality and Retention Program.

She learned about TQRP from one of her graduate professors, whom she said, was “ordered to get people signed up for some meeting being held at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. She offered to give us 10 bonus points if we signed up and gave her our email address. I needed the points, so I signed up. About two weeks before my first TQRP, I realized that the program was sponsored by TMCF. My baby brother was a TMCF scholarship recipient. I knew then that the TQRP program was going to give me something more than 10 bonus points!”

“But then,” she continued, “on the first day of the TQRP Summer Institute, my advisor told me I would never make a great teacher and tried to convince me to quit. I ran into Misha Lesley (TMCF’s Senior Director of Programs) in the hall, not knowing who she was. She told me ‘the sun will still rise in the morning and the earth will never stop turning. So, dust yourself off and regroup.’ And, I never looked back.”

Hemphill has attended two TQRP Summer Institutes for New Teachers. In 2009, she attended one at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and in 2010, she attended one at Lincoln University of Pennsylvania.

She said TQRP has taught her to think outside of the box and how to adapt the things she has learned to her classroom. It has also taught her to “never stop leaning and never be afraid to fall…you will miss the best part … getting back up.”

Currently, Hemphill, who has been teaching for the past two years, teaches ninth grade civics and economics to 14 and 15 year-old regular, remedial and special education students. “Since I don’t believe in stereotypes, I told my students to focus and by the end of the year, the world will think you are the AP (Advanced Placement) class. Then, during our recent accreditation, we were observed by the accreditation team. After observing the AP class next door doing worksheets, they observed my students in pods working on business plans and creating multimedia commercials. They asked my “special education students, how did they enjoy taking AP classes. My class and I could not stop laughing. My students’ chests are still sticking out,” she noted with pride.

She credited the latter to TQRP. She believes TQRP has not only impacted her, but her students as well. “I take the motto of ‘the best of the best’ seriously and instill it in my students. They know to ask if they need help and I will be there.”

She said her two Teacher of the Year awards were based on the impact teachers had on their students and that the students and their parents were allowed to select the teachers without the teachers knowing it. Therefore, when it came to her first Teacher of the Year win, she said she was “totally shocked” because she had been placed on unpaid suspension earlier that year due to poor lesson plans. “I never thought that would happen, but like I tell my students, the sun will still rise in the morning and the earth will never stop turning, so I dusted myself off and regrouped.”

“In fact, instead of being the teacher the principal thought I should be, I dusted off my TQRP manual from the summer of 2009, reviewed it, used it, and became the teacher I wanted to be. I guess it worked. I won, beating veteran teachers,” Hemphill added.

Hemphill’s second win made her feel “delighted,” because her parents and family were able to attend the ceremony. This was particularly important to her because she is a fourth generation teacher. “I am from a family of teachers. It was great. I am the only one ever to win Teacher of the Year in the 150 years of my family history.”

While Hemphill is not “planning” to win a third Teacher of the Year award, she does plan to just do her job, get her students excited about learning and growing, pass her Praxis III, become a National Board Certified Teacher, and get a smart-board and more supplies for her class.  And, she added, “I will never stop using TQRP.”

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