District kicks off second semester with mid-year convocation


At the Petal School District mid-year convocation, the district announced both the overall Petal Teacher and Administrator of the Year.

Lori Johnson, a teacher at Petal Upper Elementary School, was named Petal Teacher of the Year. This is the second year that an upper elementary school teacher claimed the title.

Margaret Tynes was named Administrator of the Year.

Director of the Center for Families and Children Dede Smith introduced the teachers of the year.

“There are lots of superstars in our district,” she said. “You’re all worthy.”

She welcomed Johnson to the stage to claim the title of District Teacher of the Year.

“I feel like I’m in a room full of giants,” she said. “You all have poured into my life over the years.”

The Brandon native teaches sixth-grade English Language Arts and Social Studies. She has worked for the Petal School District for all 15 of her years in education.

Johnson said it is the guidance from teachers and administrators like Lawrie Wallace, Emily Branch, Dede Smith and Gloria Wyatt, who have mentored her, that means the most.

Others who Johnson said have encouraged and taught her over the years include Robin Atwood, director of the South Mississippi Writing Project and World Class Teaching Program at USM; educational authors like Kylene Beers, Kelly Gallagher, Rose Cappelli, Lynne Dorfman, Timothy Rasinski, Joseph Harris and many others.

Johnson earned her Associate of Arts from Jones County Junior College. She received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from The University of Southern Mississippi and Master of Education in Mild and Moderate Disabilities from William Carey University.

Tynes, the 2017-18 Administrator of the Year, wears a number of hats in her position in the school administration office, but the one she wears most proudly is that of chief cheerleader for the school district.

As the mother of three Petal High graduates (Paul, Daniel and Charley), Tynes knows how important Panther Pride is to the community and she serves as a conduit for those both in and out of the district who wish to see it succeed.

Dillon said she typically tosses them in the trash when she receives nominations for her for the award. He said they received many nominations this year, and that Tynes is nominated each year.

Tynes was surprised, as she had made the powerpoint announcing the recipient of the award and her name was not what was printed on it that morning.

“She is very deserving and has a big heart for people,” Dillon said.

At the beginning of the convocation, Dr. Superintendent Matt Dillon, who recently recovered from the flu, took the stage to welcome faculty, staff and administrators back from Christmas break.

“We are halfway to the finish line,” he said. “Over the break, I had some time of reflection looking back on 2017.”

Dillon said he took some time to think back over the tornado; snow day; awards given to many people in the district; the fact that the Petal School District was named No. 1 school district in the state of Mississippi and the success of the arts, academics and athletics over the past year.

He also had some positive words and encouragement for everyone as the second half of the 2017-18 school year begins.

“Seize every opportunity to make a positive difference,” Dillon said. “Despite what season of life, when we come together, great things will happen. Great things are ahead for Petal School District, thanks to our secret weapon: our faculty and staff. I’m proud of our district and proud of the direction we’re going.”

Steve Gilliland, an award-winning speaker and comedian, said that being a teacher is not a career, but a calling. He asked each person to consider what five people have made the biggest impacts in their lives and to aim to be one of those people for someone else.

As the Petal School District faculty, staff and administrators head into another semester, Gilliland told them to prepare hard and finish easy.