Area Educators Join Elite Group

COLUMBUS, Miss. – Five K-12 educators were honored for their service today at the annual Mississippi Hall of Master Teachers ceremony held on the campus of Mississippi University for Women. This year’s inductees include Claudia R. Carter, Kay Ellis and Julie K. Heintz, all of Columbus, and Connie C. Buse and Kimberly K. Wyatt, both of Tupelo.

The teachers were judged on the basis of their professional activities, educational leadership, contributions to curriculum and course development, teaching philosophy and influence on students and other teachers. Involvement in extracurricular activities also was a part of the evaluation.

Buse, a gifted teacher at Rankin Elementary School in Tupelo, is in her 16th year as an educator and is a National Board certified teacher. She was the recipient of the 2012 Achieving Excellence in Education Award in the Tupelo School District.

A former student wrote: “I had the great privilege of having Mrs. Buse as my first grade teacher and have continued our relationship. She challenged me and encouraged me to succeed. Even now as a junior in college, I will never forget the impact that Mrs. Buse has had on my life. She continues to monitor and encourage my academic success. She is a devoted and trustworthy teacher.”

Carter is in her 40th year of teaching, and she is a National Board certified teacher at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science. She was awarded the 2012 State Educator of Excellence Award.


A former student, now parent, said, “Few parents have the opportunity to give a gift like Claudia Carter to their children. Her name on a class schedule is a golden ticket to engaging, interactive learning that inspires great math minds. I know this because not only has Mrs. Carter taught my oldest child for the last three semesters, but she was also the very teacher that inspired me to become the teacher, tutor and mathematics curriculum writer I am today.”


Ellis serves as the media specialist at Sale International Studies Magnet School, an International Baccalaureate World School in the Columbus City School District. She has been an educator for 32 years. One of her greatest achievements and contributions to her school and community has been her role as the coordinator for the Primary Years Program for the International Baccalaureate studies at Sale Elementary.

An administrator wrote: “Kay is a master of creativity and imagination in moving students away from the norm. She constantly looks to involve the students in areas that enhance them academically and socially. She promotes a caring environment. Faculty members look to her as a mentor. Kay takes ownership in anything that will make Sale School better.”

Heintz teaches social studies at MSMS. She is a National Board certified teacher with 15 years of experience. Heintz was District Teacher of the Year in 2011-2012.

One of her colleagues stated, “I met Julie in 2008 when I began teaching math at MSMS. Her guidance helped me to feel included in the community as an equal rather than as a subordinate. One of Julie’s greatest assets as a teacher is her first-hand knowledge of world history and cultures.

“She spends her summers traveling the world through teacher-training programs and applies that knowledge to lessons in the classroom. She does not lead her students as a teacher limited to textbooks, or even the news; she leads with a comfort that indicates true mastery.”

Wyatt is a special education teacher at Milam Elementary in the Tupelo School District. She is National Board certified and has taught for 23 years. In addition to serving in many leadership positions in her district, Wyatt is also continuing her education as a student in the Specialist in Education Leadership Program at Delta State University.

A parent wrote: “I met Ms. Kim last year after my son’s grades began declining. He seemed disconnected at times. I gave her permission to evaluate my son. She recommended that we see our doctor, feeling that our concern may be more medical than academic.

“He was diagnosed with petit mal seizure disorder causing visually unnoticed seizures through the day. I will forever be grateful for Ms. Kim’s intervention. My son is well on his way to reaching his full potential. Though he is not in the special education program, Ms. Kim continues to check on him.”

The Mississippi Hall of Master Teachers, which now includes 125 members, was established in 1991 to recognize educators for their excellence to teaching. To be eligible, teachers must have at least 15 years of teaching experience, including at least seven years of teaching in Mississippi schools.

It was held in conjunction with the Institute for New Teachers, which was initiated in 1993 to advise and encourage beginning teachers.

During the program, guests also heard from Dr. Gay Barnes, 2012 National Teacher of the Year finalist.

The Kelly Gene Cook Sr. Charitable Foundation sponsored both events.



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