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Area educator is finalist for state teaching award

By Staff
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
The field of candidates for the 2003-2004 Alabama Teacher of the Year program has been narrowed down to 16 of the state's most exemplary educators.
Wanda Duncan, speech-language pathologist and early childhood educator for the handicapped teacher at Danville-Neel Elementary School, is among the eight elementary education candidates.
Duncan was recently recognized as Morgan County's Teacher of the Year.
"I was surprised and honored," Duncan said of her nomination. "I've never won anything before."
Duncan, along with two classroom aids and a team teacher, works with 22 preschool and kindergarten students to address academic weaknesses prior to entering first grade. She said Danville-Neel is very fortunate to have such a great early intervention program and a staff, principal, and community that support it.
"It's amazing to see the progress our students make in one year's time," Duncan said. "That is the result of having four teachers to nurture and support them. Danville-Neel has truly been blessed to have a principal like Mr. (Jeremy) Jones and parents who believe in this program."
Jones said Duncan is an asset to Danville-Neel and the Morgan County School System.
"With her commitment to 'her babies' and academic excellence, Mrs. Duncan is the ideal educator," Jones said. "She care, motivates, and empowers. Through her tireless dedication to her students, she has helped all of them to achieve goals that were said to be out of their reach."
Leslie Etheridge, a parent of one of Duncan's former students, said she believes Duncan should be named "Teacher of the Century."
"I told her once that I didn't think this was a career for her as much as it was a heart calling and mission field," Etheridge said. "The children who have been served by her have truly been given a tremendous start in their education and their parents have been firmly, but compassionately, introduced to the world of special education."
Marthelle W. Stover, former director of education for the Morgan County School System, called Duncan a Godsend.
"Though Mrs. Duncan is a consummate professional in her areas of specialty, she also fills whatever role she needs to assume with and for her children," Stover said. "She is an advocate and a trainer for others who seek to serve, and she offers support to families and staff."
Duncan said her compassion for and commitment to her students just comes naturally.
"I see these little children each day and I know God is so wonderful," Duncan said. "I think how sweet and precious they are. God just put a little angel right here. I am so very blessed and fortunate to be with them each day."
The final four teacher of the year nominees will consist of the top two district teachers from the elementary and secondary levels. The final step in the selection process is an interview of the top four finalists. From the interviews, the state judges will select the teacher of the year and an alternate.
The district finalists, teacher of the year, and the alternate will be honored at a reception in Montgomery in May.