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Banks teacher among finalists for Alabama Teacher of Year award

The 16 finalists for Alabama’s 2020-21 Teacher of the Year were announced on Monday and Sontessia Youngblood, fifth-grade teacher at Banks School, was among them.

Youngblood is the elementary finalist for District 5 which qualifies her as a candidate for the Alabama Teacher of the Year which will be announced in August.

Dr. Mark Head, Pike County Schools senior administrator assistant, hired Youngblood when he was principal of Banks School.

“Speaking from a school administrator’s standpoint, Mrs. Youngblood did a dynamic job from day-one,” Head said. “And, I can say the same from a parent’s standpoint as well as from a professional standpoint, because Ms. Youngblood taught both of my children so it was not a surprise that she would be a finalist for state teacher of the year.”

Head said every student in Youngblood’s class is equally important so she individualizes her instruction to reach every student.

“Ms. Youngblood feels it is her responsibility to reach every student and, in doing so, she sets the standards high,” Head said. “She makes no excuses for herself; she does everything she can to reach every child. And, she has so much success doing so. It has been amazing to sit back and watch.”

Head said Youngblood is not only dedicated to those she teaches but to education as a whole.

“She is always willing to serve on committees within the school and the system and also on the state level,” Head said. “Anything that Mrs. Youngblood can to further education at Banks School, in Pike County and in Alabama, she does it.”

Youngblood, who just completed her 11th year at Banks School, said she is extremely honored and very excited to be a finalist for Alabama’s Teacher of the Year honor.

“But, I didn’t do this by myself,” Youngblood said. “This honor belongs to my Banks family, to my principal, my fellow teachers and to my students because at Banks, we are family.”

Youngblood is a native of Troy and a graduate of Charles Henderson High School and Troy University where she received her both her bachelor and master’s degrees.

At Banks School, Youngblood teaches reading, writing and social studies to about 40 fifth-grade students each year.

Youngblood said her commitment to her students is always to help each of them do the best they can and be the best they can.

“My daughter had a speech impediment and, it was important to me and to her that she not let that hold her back from becoming who she was supposed to be. I am an advocate for all my students. I don’t want anything to hold them back from becoming who they are supposed to be.”

Youngblood tells her students from day one, “I believe in you.”

“If my students know that I believe in them, if they know they can trust me, then everything else falls into place.”

Knowing her students and their interests is vital to connecting with them individually.

“Knowing how they are different is important,” Youngblood said. “Tapping into their creativeness is a way to motivate them to do better and be better.”

Youngblood has found that art and music are strong motivating factors in learning.

“When my students have down time, they will pull out their notebooks and draw and that leads to the illustration of stories and historical events,” she said.

Fostering her students’ love of reading is most important “because reading is crucial to everything.”

And, for Youngblood, teaching is everything and she makes sure that her students know how important their education is and how important they are to her.”

And, knowing that the Pike County Board of Education believes in her is as important to her as her students knowing that she believes in them.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a candidate for Alabama’s Teacher of the Year,” Youngblood said but added she is “just as grateful to be a teacher at Banks School.”