On May 9, Zestlan Simmons, AP Language and Composition teacher from Booker T. Washington High School in Montgomery, was named the 2018-19 Alabama Teacher of the Year. Ms. Simmons has been engaged in the work of A+ College Ready since its inception in 2008.
Governor Kay Ivey, Interim State Superintendent Dr. Ed Richardson, newly elected State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey, members of the State Board of Education, and a multitude of district superintendents, principals, and teachers as well as other education advocates were all gathered at the ceremony has she and other outstanding teachers were also honored.
The field had already been narrowed to four finalists, Carol McLaughlin, Greystone Elementary; Meghan Allen, Minor Community Elementary; Dr. Blake Busbin, Auburn High School, and Ms. Simmons. Mr. Busbin is also closely tied to A+ Education Partnership because of his work with A+ College Ready. Both Blake and Zestlan are consultants who lead Saturday Study sessions for Advanced Placement students throughout Alabama.
After the ceremony, Blake Busbin, the runner up secondary teacher of the year said that his biggest concerns was that, if he were named Teacher of the Year, he would have to miss school the day before his students took the AP U. S. History Exam. He said that since he was not the Teacher of the Year, he could be with his students for one last day of preparation. That concern exemplifies why he was honored as one of the final four and why A+ College Ready is proud that he is a member of our consultant family!
When four Montgomery high schools were selected to receive the A+ College Ready grant, all eyes were watching. As a novice AP Language and Composition teacher at Booker T. Washington High School, Zestlan knew that her school and A+ College Ready expected extraordinary things from her. Undaunted and intent upon serving her students’ needs, she enthusiastically plunged into her new assignment. After attending an AP Summer Institute, Zestlan began preparing for August by contacting her A+ College Ready Content Director and her Lead Teacher for direction. From that enthusiastic beginning, Zestlan has consistently led her students to a solid record of success on Advanced Placement exams.
Zestlan’s vigor and success in the classroom brought her the opportunity to become a presenter for the course-specific Saturday sessions provided for AP English students. Once again stepping out of her comfort zone, Zestlan provided students stellar support in preparing for the rigorous AP exam. Her professional growth became more and more evident, so A+ College Ready invited her to join a select cadre of master teachers as a Laying the Foundation (LTF) trainer. She accepted. Nationally endorsed by LTF, Zestlan now facilitates this vital training not only in Alabama but also around the country.
A+ College Ready AP Content Director, Diann Frucci, who was Zestlan’s colleague in Montgomery County before joining the A+ College Ready staff, said, “Zestlan has always been a dedicated champion of education. She is a lifelong learner who uses every new strategy available to reach all her students. Her engaging classroom demeanor seems to draw out the best in them, and I’m elated to see her hard work recognized.”
In addition to all of the work described above, Zestlan is a National Board Certified Teacher and is a College Board reader for the AP Language and Composition Exam. The entire A+ family congratulates Zestlan on this well-deserved honor.