Loudon County’s annual Young Achievers celebration scheduled for April 16 was canceled because of the pandemic.

But that didn’t stop Loudon County Education Foundation from honoring students and teachers who excelled during the school year.

“When the school systems were closed, we determined we would be unable to hold the event due to the number of people who typically attend,” Michele Lewis, LCEF executive director, said in an email correspondence. “We usually have between 1,200-1,500 people in attendance. We were waiting to see if school would reconvene and, if so, we planned to reschedule. A call to First Baptist (Church) of Lenoir City confirmed that activities at this location were suspended until further notice. We had an idea to visit school assemblies to make presentations if school reconvened for the end of the 2019-20 school year, but as we all know — that wasn’t possible.”

This year marks the 26th Excellence in Education awards ceremony.

“This community recognition of accomplishments for 236 teachers and students is important,” Lewis said. “The award may not get a student into Harvard, but the sense of pride that we are able to create is phenomenal. We have Lt. Gov. Randy McNally at the event, shaking everyone’s hand saying, ‘Good Job!’ We have state Reps. Kent Calfee and Lowell Russell, we have mayors Tony Aikens, Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw and Jeff Harris there. We have the captains of our local industries, the superintendents and a massive audience of friends, families, teachers, volunteers, all clapping proudly saying, ‘Look what you have accomplished, we are so proud of you!’

“And although our winners won’t have quite that level of recognition this year, they all have had brothers, sisters, friends or teachers that they have seen go through this process and they know that they now belong to that group of winners and their community is proud of them also,” he added.

This year there were 211 Young Achiever classroom winners, 20 Young Achiever grade-level winners chosen from classroom winners and four Young Achiever finalists, who were chosen from grade-level winners. Nine essay contest winners earned first, second and third place in each level, Lewis said.

Six Outstanding Teachers and six New Teachers of the Year — three from each school system — were also recognized.

“The 5-6 grade-level winner and the 7-8 grade-level winner will be submitted to the International Leadership Network to compete on the national level,” Lewis said. “We send the application for each student and then receive notification of placement. We have had two national winners.”

Prizes are being mailed to participants, Lewis said. Teachers and students are given plaques, gift cards or certificates.

One Young Achiever Finalist is Fort Loudoun Middle School eighth-grader Jaxon Walker.

“I was actually kind of surprised, there were so many good people that were running against me,” Walker said. “I thought one of them were going to get it, but I guess I’m kind of lucky that I got it.”

Walker was grateful for the recognition.

“I think it’s pretty cool because they know how much work I put into being smart, and I just try my hardest,” he said. “I think they understand what I try to do.”

Lenoir City Intermediate/Middle School fourth-grade English teacher Jordan Barbour was recognized as a New Teacher of the Year. To be recognized is a “great honor and really an accomplishment,” she said.

“It just means a lot to be recognized after teaching there for three years and putting in a lot of hard work and to just be recognized for that is really great,” Barbour said.

She believes the celebration is a good way to honor students and educators.

“I think it’s really great for the students, especially for them to be recognized for all their hard work and accomplishments and for teachers, too,” Barbour said. “Not just inside the classroom but for our kids and all the extracurricular activities they do and things that they participate in outside of the classroom, too.”

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