By Lora Scripps
A first-grade teacher at Brookhill Elementary School with Athens City Schools has been chosen as an elementary finalist for Alabama Teacher of the Year.
Shane Leopard is one of 16 finalists, known as the “Sweet 16,” in the eight Alabama districts. She emerged from a pool of more than 150 educators from across the state to represent District 8. Local board of education members, a local superintendent or representative, the current district Teachers of the Year, and a representative from higher education served as committee members in selecting nominees.
The Alabama Teacher of the Year program is known as one of the oldest and most prestigious award programs for teachers, according to the Alabama Department of Education.
Leopard’s journey toward becoming a finalist began when peers at Brookhill nominated her for the Brookhill Elementary Teacher of the Year. Before becoming a state finalist, Leopard was also nominated by an Athens City Schools committee for the school system’s Elementary Teacher of the Year.
“We are all so proud that others will get the chance to see just what an exceptional teacher Shane Leopard really is,” said Brookhill Elementary Principal Felicia Phillips. “She works tirelessly and exemplifies the ‘can do’ spirit. She believes in every child and does whatever it takes to reach them all. I am just elated that she is being recognized for all of her efforts.”
Leopard said she was “beside herself” when she found out she was in the running for Alabama Teacher of the Year. “I was thrilled,” she said, adding she jumped up and down and possibly let out a scream. “I’m just so excited.”
Leopard has taught first grade for more than six years. “I love teaching and I love my kids,” she said. “I encourage them to keep on keeping on and to read as much as they possibly can as well as push themselves to do better.”
Leopard’s dream of becoming a teacher began in the third grade at Elkmont. She credits her third-grade teacher, Dawn Harper, as her inspiration. “I had a fabulous teacher in third grade at Elkmont,” she said. “She was just amazing. Ever since I was in her room, I knew I had to be a teacher.”
Leopard is a 1987 graduate of Elkmont High School and received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Athens State. She went on to receive her master's degree in elementary education and AA Certificate from Alabama A&M University.
She met her husband, Larry Leopard, while attending Elkmont High School. The couple married in 1990 and has two children, Emily and Chandler. Emily is a senior at Athens High School and Chandler is in the seventh grade at Athens Middle School. The Leopard family attends Hays Mill Church of Christ.
Leopard is currently vying for the “Final Four” and ultimately the 2014-2015 Teacher of the Year, which will be announced by the Alabama state Board of Education and the Alabama Department of Education at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 14, at the RSA Plaza Terrace.
Alabama’s Teacher of the Year spends the majority of the school year serving as a full-time ambassador for education and the teaching profession as well as presenting workshops to various groups. Additionally, Alabama’s representative is a candidate for the National Teacher of the Year.
“Alabama continues to be represented with some of the most outstanding educators in the nation,” said State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice. “Their dedication to education, commitment to learning and compassion are reflected in the accomplishments of their students. We are proud to have teachers of this caliber working in our schools.”