Mississippi College

MC Graduate Peggy Carlisle Named America's Best Teacher

November 9, 2007

Peggy Carlisle sends postcards to her Jackson students over the summer months, partners with a school in Kenya and is always in a joyful mood to see kids learning in her classroom.

Described as a "jewel" at Pecan Park Elementary, Carlisle brought home a new honor Thursday to her Mississippi school. The 1975 Mississippi College graduate was saluted as the Wal-Mart and Sam's Club 2007 National Teacher of the Year.

"I'm overwhelmed and so pleased," Carlisle said after receiving the award, the top Wal-Mart honor for classroom teachers competing in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. The award, she said, really speaks to the company that "values quality in our school. I have good students."

Carlise becomes the second Mississippi teacher to win the coveted award (a Tupelo educator won in 2003) in the 12th annual competition. As a result, her Jackson public school has now received $36,000 from the Wal-mart Foundation. It will be used to purchase the Peggy Carlisle computer lab on wheels, Principal Wanda Quon announced to an auditorium filled with loud applause from scores of students and colleagues.

"We love you, Mrs. Carlisle!," was the loud message from students after hearing speakers like Jackson Mayor Frank Melton and Mississippi Superintendent of Education Hank Bounds praise the USA's best teacher.

"America is proud of you," Melton told the MC graduate before the mayor announced a proclamation declaring it Peggy Carlisle Day in Jackson, Mississippi. He also thanked students for their classroom performance, and commended the great teachers and staff at a super inner-city Jackson school. "You are No. 1 in the country," the mayor said. "Let's keep it that way."

Bounds said he hopes Carlisle, a 27-year teaching veteran, doesn't learn the word "retirement" in her vocabulary. "You epitomize everything there is about good teachers. We are so incredibly proud," he said. "You are an outstanding teacher and tremendous representative of the state of Mississippi."

Near signs with messages like "Think Math" on the auditorium walls, Quon said Carlisle has "brought science to life in the classroom." She is the school's Open Doors/EXCEL teacher for gifted students in grades two through five.

Last month, Carlisle was honored during a Homecoming awards brunch at her alma mater in Clinton as the Christian university's distinguished alumna in teacher education. A few days later, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club recognized the Flowood native as Mississippi's top teacher for 2007.

Carlisle is a member of the National Teachers Hall of Fame. A teacher at Pecan Park since 2001, she was named to the All-USA Today Teacher First Team in 2002.

Thursday's newest award was a well-kept surprise for Carlisle, but not for many who know of her hard work inside her classroom. "Peggy Carlisle is an example of the teacher we all want our children and grandchildren to experience," said Don W. Locke, dean of the MC School of Education. "She has proven over and over that commitment and innovation bring positive results in the classroom."

Since the awards program began in 1995, Wal-Mart has recognized nearly 30,000 teachers nationwide. Last year, the company donated more than $57 million to support education initiatives. Company officials say Carlisle was selected due to her efforts to empower students to be independent thinkers, use scientific exploration and a hands-on approach to learning.

A company video shown to an appreciative audience featured Pecan Park educators and students and Jackson Public Schools leaders like Superintendent Earl Watkins showering Carlisle with praise. Wal-Mart official Tom Montgomery from company headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. summed it up when he said: "We only want the best and we found it in Mrs. Carlisle."

Before heading to a reception and more hugs from visitors, Carlisle was handed lots of Wal-Mart business cards showing she's America's No. 1 teacher for 2007.

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