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May 29, 2002   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
May 29, 2002

"MONTGOMERY, Ala." Dr. Betty Armstrong's ability to bring out the best in her teachers and students earned the Houston County principal recognition this month as part of Alfa's Teacher of the Month program. As this month's winner, she will receive $1,000 from Alfa Insurance Co. and the Alabama Farmers Federation. Her school, Hidden Lake Elementary School, will receive a matching award for its role in encouraging excellence in education.

A graduate of Troy State University, Dr. Armstrong began her career in 1977 as a teacher at Selma Street School. She later earned her master's and educational specialist degrees from TSU as well as a doctorate in education from the University of Alabama. Dr. Armstrong served as principal of Cloverdale School in Dothan for 13 years before being tapped last year to head the faculty at the newly established Hidden Lake Elementary School.

As a principal, Dr. Armstrong said her responsibility is to nurture both teachers and students by making the most of their diverse abilities.

"I believe that all teachers can become better teachers if they receive opportunities for success and development," she said. "Excellence can be achieved only by focusing on strengths and managing weaknesses."

To encourage participation among faculty members, Dr. Armstrong has created a School Improvement Advisory Council, which identifies needs within the school. Once priorities are set, she assigns faculty members to work on each project, based on their particular abilities. Dr. Armstrong also involves the community in school improvement projects. One such project allows teachers to work in cooperation with honor students from the nearby middle school and high school to provide instruction in areas such as art, foreign language, research and problem solving.

Another area Dr. Armstrong has emphasized is technology. Her schools were among the first in the area to automate the entire library collection, and teachers from other schools often visit Hidden Lake to see how technology has been incorporated into the classroom curriculum.

To encourage excellence among her faculty and students, Dr. Armstrong emphasizes recognition and awards. Students are rewarded for academic and athletic performance with parties, awards and recognition in the school's newsletter. Teachers also are honored through Golden Apple awards, Teacher Appreciation Week activities and in the local media. One of the more unusual recognition activities is the Accelerated Reader challenge. The challenge, which is a payoff for student achievement, has resulted in Dr. Armstrong being taken to the roof of the school in a fire truck bucket and being "slimed" by students.

This is Alfa's fifth year as sponsor of the Teacher of the Month program. During the 2002, Alfa will honor one teacher from each of Alabama's eight state school board districts as well as two private school teachers and two principals. Program criteria and application information for the program are available by clicking on ""Alfa Teacher of the Month"" in the Ag Links section of the Alfa Farmers website, www.alfafarmers.org.

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