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"Jeff Helms, Publications Director"
334 613-4212

MONTGOMERY Kathleen Hirsch, a history, economics and language arts teacher at Daphne High School in Baldwin County, has been named Alfa's Teacher of the Month for December.

A 30-year veteran of the classroom, Ms. Hirsch's teaching experience includes work as a college English and writing instructor. As this month's winner, she will receive $1,000 from Alfa, as will her school. Alfa Insurance Company and the Alabama Farmers Federation began sponsoring the awards program last year in an effort to recognize excellence in education.

Ms. Hirsch, who earned her bachelor's degree in speech and drama from the University of West Florida and her master's of English education from Florida State University, compares teaching to opening doors.

"To open that amazing door, to instill wisdom to those inside, I must build the bridge for students from the printed page to their reality. The solution to meaningful learning is simply asking the 'why?' and relating it to the 'me!' If I, as the instructor, cannot satisfy the need to know, I should not and do not teach the topic," she said.

Ms. Hirsch accomplishes her teaching goals by helping her students take ownership in their classroom and studies. Each year, her classes are given the responsibility for arranging their classroom, which includes sofas, guitars, a keyboard, several beanbags and art-filled walls.

"As a teacher, I must offer that cup of learning that is more thrilling than the can of beer or the whiff of weed. I hold in my hands the future of my world," Ms. Hirsch said. "I want 'my future' to see, to feel, to believe, to touch, to love, and to desire to know and appreciate everything from the elegance of Spanish moss to the magnificence of Gone With the Wind, from the ordinary chore of changing a diaper to analyzing Plato's Republic. Each day is a new day; each child is a new life! My greatest joy is sharing the love of learning."

During 1999, the Alfa Teacher of the Month program will honor one outstanding public school teacher from each of the state's eight public school board districts; two private school teachers; and two principals. Each winner is chosen based on an independent committee's evaluation of the applications received.

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