Galen Scott

Community members at the Weatherford ISD Education foundation’s Miss Anna Hackett Teacher of the Year Luncheon closed their eyes and imagined what it would be like to teach special education Monday.

Even the air conditioner politely clicked off, adding to silent, contemplative look of audience members. People were asked to think about the different challenges that face educators every day.

When they opened their eyes, 8-year-old Miah was waiting in his wheelchair with a grin. Kelly Long was named teacher of the year and rushed forward, tearfully embracing her student as the audience stood on its feet with applause.

Miah is a student in Kelly Long’s special education Sustained Therapeutic Assisted Resource (STAR) Class at Austin Elementary. Many of Long’s students suffer from cerebral palsy or other physical disabilities.

Kelly and Miah have been working together for five years. The emotional teacher was singled out for special recognition and reluctantly accepted the award.

“It’s incredible,” she sighed. “But it’s just so important that people recognize how important it is that the STAR students are involved in every aspect of school.”

She game much of the credit to Shawna Cooper, her assistant. “There is no way I could do it without her,” Long said. “And I’ve learned so much from all [WISD teachers] and I’m in such incredible company. It just takes the whole team to keep these kids going.”

Twelve other WISD faculty members were honored as teachers of the year at the annual ceremony.

Carla Bruno earned a degree in accounting but, in the end, left the bean counting to the accountants. Now she teaches precalculus at Weatherford High School.

“It’s not about the money, it’s about the kids,” said Bruno’s personal introduction. She was honored as secondary teacher of the year.

Corey Whitehead teaches Texas history at Tison Middle School. Whitehead himself is a product of WISD, though according to his introduction, turned out a bit of a rebel. But the caring tutelage of teachers like David Adams helped him to become an educator. Whitehead and Adams were both honnored as a teachers of the year during Monday’s ceremony.

The Education Foundation donated prize packages to all honorees. Board Member Mark Riebe sponsored the event.

“This is a great way to give the teachers in our district some recognition,” he said.

In just five years, the education foundation has raised more than a half-million dollars for local schools. Of that money, approximately $227,000 was put directly back into classrooms through special grants.

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