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Three years ago Pigeon Forge Primary produced the Tennessee Teacher of the Year. It consistently ranks among the best schools of its size in the state. Now it can boast of yet another honor for one of its instructors.
Teacher Sharon Coker was awarded the Tennessee Reading Association’s Reading Teacher of the Year Award for her contributions in enabling and encouraging students to read. Coker is in her 23rd year at the school. She teaches third grade, but she’s taught kindergarten and second grade.
Randy Kincaid, instructional supervisor of English/language arts K-8 for the Sevier County School System, nominated Coker. She received the award at a conference in Murfreesboro, where she joined the other finalists.
While attending the University of Tennessee, Coker initially majored in business, but in her sophomore year literally changed course. That she elected to go into teaching is a reward for her and for the students she has taught over nearly a quarter-century in the classroom. The award for her skills in teaching reading to a generation that sadly does not read as much or as well is not just well deserved, but important.
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.”
She was first inspired to read for pleasure when a professor asked her class to list three books they would recommend everyone read. Coker’s inspiring teaching surely has encouraged her students to read for pleasure as well, and spend less time in video games and social media in order to derive the joy of getting into a good story.
Congratulations, Sharon Coker, on your award. Perhaps in your classroom these days is a student who, thanks to what you do, will go into teaching and do for her students one day what you are inspiring your own kids to pursue.