The Johnson City School system recently announced its three teachers of the year. Science Hill’s Jackie Smith won the award at the high school level while Misty Davis of Indian Trail won the honor in middle school and South Side’s Jamie Mains Milhorn was named the elementary school teacher of the year.
Smith’s ability to pass on her passion for science to her ninth-grade honors biology class made her a clear choice for the award.
“I love teaching,” Smith said. “One of the reasons I went into teaching was to get kids excited about science again.”
Smith is in her fourth year of teaching at Science Hill after spending a decade in the classroom in Harford County, Maryland, and she said that she feels right at home teaching her students about science at Science Hill.
“I think one of the reasons why I keep the energy level that I do is because of the students,” Smith said. “I absolutely love teaching and I love my students. And I want to make sure that every day is fun and exciting for them and it can’t be fun and exciting unless I am excited to teach it.”
Smith also serves as Science Hill science department chairperson and the district science content leader at the high school level. Smith said that by making her lessons relevant to her student’s lives that she hopes to rekindle their love of science.
“A lot of times, at this age, students are getting turned off from school,” Smith said. “So making it relevant and helping them make connections to what they deal with in their everyday lives is a way that I try to help them get that love back for school, that they use to have when they were younger.”
Davis took a winding road to the classroom. She started her career in communications and spent some time as a stay-at-home mom before eventually becoming a teacher. After getting involved in her daughter’s schooling through PTA and volunteer work, Davis knew her next job would be as a teacher.
“I guess I had to be in school so much, with my daughter and doing PTA, my goal was to make school the best possible experience for her and her friends. I was there so much that I fell in love with the classroom and being around the kids,” Davis said. “It’s fun being around the kids and teaching them new things.”
Davis teaches both science and social studies at Indian Trail. She said she enjoys the challenge, especially when it comes to providing her students their first in-depth dive into U.S. History.
“I love them both, because one has a lot of hands-on investigation, as far as science goes. And then in social studies, it has a lot of investigations and cause and effect information,” Davis said.
Milhorn has been at South Side for the past 11 years, where she has found a home teaching kindergarteners.
“Watching them grow and building the relationships is what keeps me energized and motivated,” Milhorn said. “The kids come in here and some of them don’t know how to write their name, then they leave reading. I just get a lot of joy being involved in that process.”
Milhorn has secured enough funding to ensure every student in her classroom has access to an iPad, and she uses technology to assess her students’ progress more efficiently.
“Assessment is a huge thing that changes (with the addition of technology),” Milhorn said. “Having the students work on devices allows me to immediately see how they are working and what type of problems they may be having.”