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February 01, 2003   Email to Friend 

FLORENCE TEACHER USES RENAISSANCE TO INSPIRE STUDENTS
Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
February 01, 2003

MONTGOMERY, Ala. A Florence teacher's love of Renaissance literature and her remarkable ability to use that passion to inspire students earned Darlene Montgomery $1,000 this month when she was named Alfa's Teacher of the Month for February.

Ms. Montgomery's school, Bradshaw High School, received a matching award from Alfa Insurance Co. and the Alabama Farmers Federation for its roles in encouraging excellence in education.

A graduate of the Bradshaw High School, Ms. Montgomery earned her bachelor's degree from the University of North Dakota and a master's of education from the University of North Alabama before returning to her alma mater as a 12th-grade English and creative writing teacher in 1993. The former Alabama Teacher of the Year finalist and Florence City Schools Teacher of the Year credits her success to a teaching philosophy that focuses on preparing students for the future.

"The goal of education should be to guide students to an understanding of the universal relationships between all academic disciplines and between the classroom and life," she said. "The first time I truly understood the importance of my work as a teacher was when I began encountering former students in the roles of caretakers. It was an eye-opening experience when I checked into the hospital for tests, and it was one of my former students taking my X-rays and another who was taking my blood pressure every hour. I realized then that I have a duty to make sure that my students are ready to take on the responsibility that goes with running the world."

Ms. Montgomery accomplishes this daunting task by using the Renaissance as a springboard into lessons relating to literature, mathematics, economics and science. She often parallels contemporary works like the Star Wars movie with literary classics like Beowulf and MacBeth.

"Once the students understand how everything we study is connected, learning becomes exciting and fun," Ms. Montgomery said.

Ms. Montgomery's success stories include a student who entered an essay contest and won an all-expense-paid trip to England and Wales. That student now attends Agnes Scott College on a full writing scholarship and plans to spend her junior year studying at the Sorbonne. Another student received funds for college after his essay was published in Guideposts magazine.

As a coordinator of the Alabama Renaissance Faire, Ms. Montgomery also has inspired students to volunteer their time and energy to ensure the success of that regional tourist attraction. In addition, she plans and oversees an annual Renaissance lecture series for Bradshaw students, and she is the faculty advisor for Signatures, a publication that highlights the creative talents of Bradshaw students.

During 2003, Alfa and the Alabama Farmers Federation will honor one outstanding teacher from each of Alabama's eight state school board districts as well as two principals and two private school teachers. Criteria and application information 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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