Rotary honors teachers Susan Parker, Skikila Smith

Susan EspirituOur Town Youth, South Knox

At its April 4 meeting, the Rotary Club of Knoxville honored Susan Parker, a fourth-grade teacher at South Knoxville Elementary School, and Skikila Smith, a ninth-grade English and advanced creative writing teacher at Austin-East Magnet High School, as its 2023 Outstanding Knox County Teachers of the Year. We wrote about Ms. Smith here.

Each winner received a $500 check, along with a $250 gift certificate to A&W Office Supply. “The Rotary Club of Knoxville is proud to honor dedicated educators like Susan Parker and Skikila Smith,” said Lynne Fugate, chair of the club’s Teacher Recognition Committee. “Each year our committee is inspired by the nominees we review. Our winners truly make a difference for our children every day.”

Susan Parker

“Susan Parker came to us with 24 years of experience,” wrote Principal Tanna Nicely of South Knoxville Elementary School in her nomination letter. “As she is often heard saying, ‘The classroom is where my heart is and where I feel I make the largest impact.’ Mrs. Parker’s entire career has been served in Title1 schools like Sarah Moore Greene, Pond Gap and now SKE, where children with the largest needs are found and where she feels called to serve.”

In her remarks, Parker said several factors are important for a successful class, including a loving environment, genuinely caring for the students, structure and expectations. “They all should know that they are expected to do their best,” she said. “And part of my job is to help them believe that they can do their best. Education is a game changer for many of my students. Changing their mindset to expect something from themselves and their education is important.”

On a lighter note, Parker said that, after she finished giving what she thought was a particularly good, well thought out and planned lesson, she asked her students if they had any questions. One little girl raised her hand and her question was, “Where do you get all of your scarves?”

As Susan’s former principal at Sarah Moore Greene, I also know of her incredible passion for her profession. She is the epitome of what we want education to represent, the heart and soul of the classroom, where you not only care about what the student is learning but that the student loves the learning. Susan Parker embraces this role as the teacher and mentor in the classroom.

Brooks Clark of the Rotary Club of Knoxville contributed information for this report.

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