JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – South Side Elementary School second grade teacher Morgan Rankin has been named the 2021-2022 Tennessee Teacher of the Year. Rankin was the top choice out of nine finalists Tuesday night during the state’s ceremony in Nashville.
Originally from Canada, Rankin has now taught at South Side for seven years.
Though she calls it an honor, Tennessee’s top teacher did not expect to receive the award.
“Oh, I almost hit the floor!” said Rankin. “I was absolutely shocked! Absolutely shocked.”
Of all the incredible teachers in the state, South Side Principal Kaytee Jones said Rankin stands out.
“She is so deserving of this award, we are so proud of her,” said Jones.
Jones says what sets her apart is how she builds relationships and engages her second graders.
“She really listens to the interests of her students and figures out what motivates them,” said Jones.
In Mrs. Rankin’s classroom, learning and fun are inseparable.
“I’m always looking for those hands-on ways that are gonna get those kids excited and hooked in the learning,” said Rankin. “Kids by nature are really curious, inquisitive and often really driven on their own to seek out information. The best part of my job is I get to be a part of steering that in specific directions.”
She encourages her students to be strong readers, to ask questions, and above all else be kind.
“The things we are doing now are shaping them into who they are going to be as adults. I think that is an incredible opportunity,” said Rankin.
She received Tennessee’s top teaching honor after a year unlike any other. The pandemic threw every teacher for a loop, navigating remote learning and COVID protocols to follow.
“I think that is one of the hardest parts about teaching is sometimes it feels like everything is falling apart. You’re just gonna make sure those little people in front of you, whether it’s a computer screen or in your classroom, don’t feel that,” said Rankin.
Rankin says her South Side community is filled with teachers just as deserving of this award and credits her success largely to those fellow educators she works with daily.
As for her students, she wants to leave a lasting impact.
“I would like them to know that they are loved and that I think they are capable of amazing things. Even in their darkest, hardest days, I hope they remember me thinking of them as someone who can do it,” said Rankin.
Mrs. Rankin will go on to represent Tennessee in the national competition for “Teacher of the Year.” She and the other eight finalists also now serve on a teaching advisory committee with the Tennessee Department of Education.