PFPS teacher wins reading award

Dec. 18, 2012 @ 11:20 PM

Pigeon Forge Primary School (PFPS) teacher Sharon Coker was awarded the Tennessee Reading Association's (TRA) Reading Teacher of the Year Award for her contributions in enabling and encouraging students to read.

Coker is in her 23rd year of teaching at PFPS. She currently teaches third grade, but she's taught kindergarten and second grade in the past.

Randy Kincaid, Instructional Supervisor of English/Language Arts K-8 for the Sevier County School System, nominated Coker for the award.

"He called me in October and said he was allowed to nominate six teachers, and said I'd been chosen as a finalist," Coker said.

Coker received the award at a TRA conference in Murfreesboro, Tenn. on Dec. 3, and Coker said she was surprised when they called her name.

"I was a little shocked, to say the least," Coker said.

While attending the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Coker initially majored in business, but in her sophomore year she took her career in a different direction.

"I decided that I didn't want to just work with numbers," she said. "I wanted to do something that would make a difference."

Making a difference is the reason Coker won the award. She said the thing she loves most about what she does is seeing her students reach the threshold of understanding.

"In reading, it's when they realize, oh, I can read. Oh, I can read for fun," she said. "That's the most enjoyable part of it."

Coker's own experiences give her a personal understanding of the struggles students go through with reading. She admitted that she herself did not used to read for fun.

She was first inspired to read for pleasure when a professor asked her class to list three books they would recommend everyone read.

"I didn't have three books that I had read for pleasure. That kind of shamed me into getting into it," Coker said with a laugh.

Then, when she started attending reading conferences and meeting authors and illustrators, she found out what drove them to write books, "and that made me more interested in wanting to read and share with the children first-hand knowledge from authors about the books they had written," she said.

rhargett@themountainpress.com