LCSD names Administrator, Teacher of the YearBy HASKEL BURNS,
With 19 educational facilities in the Lamar County School District, one can imagine it would be quite a task to pick just two educators for the district’s Administrator of the Year and Teacher of the Year.
Which makes it all the more meaningful for Oak Grove Lower Elementary School Principal Matt Thomas and Purvis Lower Elementary School teacher Karin Harvison to be selected for those titles for this school year. As part of the award, Thomas and Harvison will now represent the district in the state competition for Administrator and Teacher of the Year.
Thomas began his career with the Lamar County School District in 2009 as a social studies teacher at Sumrall High School, where he taught for three school years. While at the high school, he finished his administrative degree and later took an assistant principal position at South Forrest Attendance Center for a year.
He then came to Oak Grove Lower Elementary as an assistant principal in 2013 and took over as principal two years later.
“I’ll be honest with you – the feeling that probably sifts to the top is humbleness,” Thomas said. “With all the great administrators in this district, it could go to so many other great administrators before me.
“I look at a lot of the things my peers do, thinking I need to raise my professionalism to their level. So to be chosen by them is very humbling.”
Thomas was sitting at a principals’ meeting when district superintendent Tess Smith notified him he would be receiving the award.
“We all saw the email where we got a chance to vote, as we do every year,” Thomas said. “So when she started mentioning it, I thought, ‘Well, I reckon we’re going to find out something today.’”
For Thomas, one of the most memorable things about being named Administrator of the Year was receiving a commemorative coin bearing that title, along with the school district’s logo and motto.
“I taught one of Mrs. Smith’s children – her oldest, Sawyer,” Thomas said. “I know most of her children are in the military, and something that she said is a military tradition is to swap commemorative coins.
“So she actually gave me (the coin), and I thought it was really neat and very original.”
Thomas said the wonderful thing about Oak Grove Lower Elementary is the high volume of true professionals the school offers.
“Our teachers are some of the best in the world – I’m convinced of it,” he said. “I know that probably every school and every principal says that – and they should – but to have 53 certified people and 70-plus overall employees who really get along well, it’s remarkable.
“It makes me proud to come here every day. The way they support one another, in and out of school and the positive attitudes they have – there’s not just any one thing that makes me look forward to the next day. It’s just an awesome building to be in.”
Harvison started with the district 16 years ago, where she taught kindergarten through fourth grade at the former lower elementary building. She now teaches physical education to Pre-K through second-grade studens.
“I was very excited (to be named Teacher of the Year), and honored of course,” Harvison said. “Being a physical education teacher, that’s not something that necessarily is recognized so much, so I was excited.”
Harvison was completely surprise to learn that she’d been named Teacher of the Year, and equally surprised to see Smith and the entire county office show up to recognize her for the achievement.
“I was in the middle of my classes, teaching, so it was a surprise,” she said. “I didn’t know I was chosen.
“They brought a huge poinsettia when they made the announcement, and Mrs. Smith did an announcement to my kindergarten class to explain what the award was. So my kids were excited and that was really cool.”