PCES teacher in ‘Sweet 16’

Published 4:00 am Saturday, April 4, 2015

submitted photo Mona Pop, teacher at PCES, was announced as one of the “Sweet 16” finalists for the 2015 Alabama Teacher of the Year award.

submitted photo
Mona Pop, teacher at PCES, was announced as one of the “Sweet 16” finalists for the 2015 Alabama Teacher of the Year award.

The Alabama Department of Education announced Wednesday the “Sweet 16” finalists for the 2015 Alabama Teacher of the Year award.

Pike County Elementary School teacher Elena Romona “Mona” Pop is one of the eight elementary school finalists.

The “Sweet 16” finalists were chosen from more than 130 teachers from across the state who were nominated by their school districts. An elementary and secondary teacher was chosen from each of the eight Alabama Board of Education districts.

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Tommy Bice, state schools superintendent, said in a new release that the “Sweet 16” finalists are outstanding educators who have accomplished great things with the students they teach and interact with daily.

“We are honored to have them working in our schools,” Brice said.

The “Sweet 16” finalist will be narrowed down to a “Final Four” before the state Teacher of the Year is announced in Montgomery on May 13.

Anita Grant, PCES principal, said Pop has been employed with the Pike County Elementary School and district as the English Language Learner instructor for four years.

“During this time Mrs. Pop has made a tremendous impact on our school by her dedication to her students, school and community,” Grant said.  “Under her direction EL test scores have improved overall and the rate of students exiting the program has increased.

“Mrs. Pop remains updated in her field and uses her expertise to train our faculty.  She pursued and received a grant for learning in Spain to improve her personal language skills.

“In addition to working with our ELL students in the classroom, Mrs. Pop goes above and beyond her position’s call of duty by securing clothing and furniture for struggling and needy families.

“She is so highly respected throughout this community that word has spread and some families have moved to this area in large part for their children to be able to be educated by her and have her as an advocate.  She accompanies parents to a variety of meetings affecting their children in order to break down any language barriers. She translates between teachers and parents at report card conferences. She is the ultimate liaison.”

Pop said the nomination is huge for her.

“I feel humbled to be on the “Sweet 16” list,” she said. “I am very fortunate to be part of an amazing, collegial teaching community here at Pike County Elementary School. My colleagues and administrators are an inspiration for me. Here, we are all committed to make our students a priority and actively engaged in their education. My students and my colleagues keep me passionate and excited about what I do every day.”

Pop said working for Pike County Schools has been a tremendously rewarding experience.

“I’ve grown both professionally and personally, learned a lot, and met wonderful educators who quietly devote their lives to serving their students,” she said.

“As an EL Teacher, I provide assistance to students with limited English skills and minority students from different countries. I also facilitate communication between school staff and parents who do not speak English.”

Pops said she regards teaching as a profession that develops gradually through self-examination, trial and error, inquiry, teamwork, training, and continual practice.

“I strongly believe that educators have a duty to cultivate a love of learning and equip students with the necessary skills to address both life’s challenges and opportunities,” she said. “Acquiring a second language is a complex undertaking that requires time, patience, enthusiasm and a lot of practice. Currently, the majority of my students are of Hispanic origin. Many of them have immigrated to the U.S. for economic reasons or to avoid persecution.

“They bring to school their cultural and linguistic heritage and, when they arrive here they experience, aside from a new language, a new culture, and often a new way of thinking, acting, or feeling.”

In working with the students and their families, Pop said she has come to realize that being a teacher also entails promoting diversity, inclusion, and universal understanding and tolerance among people.

“After all, teaching is about encouraging, engaging minds, celebrating every little success, sharing knowledge, listening, having a desire to help others grow, and fostering an environment of acceptance, empathy and respect where differences are always celebrated,” she said.

Prior to employment with the Pike County School System, Pop worked as an ESL teacher in Europe for six years and three additional years in South Carolina. Then, her husband’s work brought them to Alabama.

Grant said the entire school system congratulates Pop on the prestigious recognition as a “Sweet 16” finalist for the 2015 Alabama Teacher of the Year award.

“If chosen to represent the State of Alabama as Teacher of the Year, Mrs. Pop would be an outstanding representative,” Grant said. “We are very proud to have her as a member of the Pike County Elementary School faculty.”