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"Jeff Helms, Publications Editor"
334 613-4212

MONTGOMERY Janice Graves, a teacher at Blountsville Elementary School in Blount County, has been named Alfa's Teacher of the Month for March.

A graduate of Samford University with a master's degree from the University of Alabama in Birmingham, Ms. Graves taught for four years at schools in Georgia and South Carolina before joining the faculty at Blountsville in 1972. 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 two years ago as a way to recognize excellence in education.

Ms. Graves, who was named the Blountsville Elementary Teacher of the Year in 1999, said students learn best when they are interested in the subject.

"All children can learn," she said. "They learn at different rates and through different methods. Some children learn better through sight, some by listening, but all children learn best when they are encouraged and involved."

In Ms. Graves classroom, students are active partipants in the learning process. They have built a terrarium and an aquarium, and they participate in field trips and in-class demonstrations. Visitors to Ms. Graves' class have included a beekeeper, a blind woman, and native Americans. In addition, Ms. Graves' often uses her personal adventures as a starting point to teach her students lessons about math and science. Her exploits include flying an airplane, accompanying the Air National Guard on a refueling mission, going a mile underground in coal mine and attending Space Camp.

Carla Gorham Strott, a teacher and former student of Ms. Graves, said Ms. Graves "had a way of bringing the outside into the classroom, and that included both nature and community resources."

During 2000, 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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