Rawlings named SMS Teacher of the Year

Tiffany Rawlings was named the Teacher of the Year for Sweetwater Middle School and was also honored as Secondary Teacher of the Year for Sweetwater ISD.She is the art teacher for grades 6 through 8 and has been teaching for a total of 21 years. Rawlings has been teaching at Sweetwater ISD for four years.She earned her BFA in Art Education from Texas Tech University. She is a member of the Texas Art Education Association, as well as the National Art Education Association.In 2000, Rawlings was named Teacher of the Year at Sweetwater Intermediate School. Three years earlier in 1997, she was honored with the Midland Morning Lions Club Teacher of the Year award. In addition, she is involved in activities at Champion Baptist Church.Rawlings began teaching in the fall of 1993 and admits that a lot has changed since that time. While she thought that she could change the world through art education--a notion she now finds “quite distant and humorous”, the one thing that hasn’t changed is her belief that she was meant to teach.“As I drive to work most mornings,” she stated, “I pray, ‘God, help me to love each one of my kids and make a positive difference in their day. May my words and actions come from you Lord’.” Rawlings said that even though she knows God hears her prayer, she says it to remind herself each day that she is there to serve the students. While some days it seems difficult, she said that she wants that daily reassurance from God that she can take on the task.And when she wonders what the actual responsibilities are for educators and how they can be successful, she explained, “There isn’t an exact answer...certainly not anything specific that can be written on a piece of paper. I know it when I see it.”She refers to her favorite professor, Dr. Gene Mitler from Texas Tech, who calls the quality of a good teacher as “withitness”. These teachers can take on a wide variety of tasks within a 45-minute classroom period, such as managing classroom behavior, taking attendance, giving input and suggestions, providing counsel, writing nurse and restroom passes, organizing and handing out materials and encouraging, motivating and challenging students.The responsibility is huge, but Rawlings noted that successful teachers can make it look easy. She added that teachers have three vital responsibilities, and that the subject they teach is used as a tool to engage the students.“If every student left class with a clear vision of their purpose, a hunger to learn, and a clear understanding that education is their ticket to achieve their potential, than I would say the job is done,” she described. “Obviously, the ‘job’, the mission, the goal is not complete, but in small steps we walk towards it.”With the understanding that a difference can be made when a teacher believes in a student--something she believes after 21 years of teaching, Rawlings said it’s the reason why she teaches, and she gets to witness that every day.She recalled one Sunday afternoon when Mr. Hopple decorated the school hallways to motivate students for the STAAR test, and when Ms. Cleckler was smiling and laughing while planning and organizing the district UIL meet in her classroom. She also called to mind the time when Ms. Brashers lovingly and patiently answered a question that had been asked about ten times in a two-minute time span, along with the dedication displayed by Mrs. Whittenburg who worked during the summer to prepare for her students.And, she recollected the work done by Mr. Withrow after hours in order to make the campus look nice so the students could take pride in their school.“Examples of outstanding teaching are within the walls of SMS everyday,” she said. “Even when there is disappointment, or setbacks and hardships, outstanding teachers continue taking small steps towards the goal, giving students the tools they need to achieve their potential.”