Lane Thomas has found her calling in special education. Thomas, a 5th grade special education teacher at Jefferson Academy, was recently named the system-level Teacher of the Year for Jefferson City Schools.
“I am very honored to be named the TOTY for Jefferson City Schools because I teach alongside extraordinary educators who all deserve this title,” she said. “The Jefferson City School system is a learning environment in which students are always placed first and where the support from our community is unmatched.”
“The leadership at Jefferson Academy creates a culture of family in which all teachers are encouraged to work together and support one another in order to meet the needs of all students,” she added. “I feel very blessed to be a Dragon and extremely proud to represent Jefferson as the TOTY.”
This is her fourth year teaching special education at JA, where she supports students in language arts and science.
Her undergraduate degree is in elementary education, but she began her career working with students with reading difficulties in the Early Intervention Program.
She later pursued a master’s degree in specific learning disabilities to gain knowledge and strategies to help struggling readers.
“This decision led me to a career that has almost solely consisted of supporting students with learning differences, which I truly believe is my calling,” Thomas said.
She has taught for 21 years including at Kennedy Elementary School, Grayson Elementary School, Bay Creek Middle School and Grayson High School. She has also served in many roles from a teacher in a self-contained specific learning disabilities classroom to special education department chair.
Her favorite memory was attending the high school graduation of a student she taught as a 1st grader in a self-contained classroom, supported at the middle school level and helped in his ability to earn his diploma.
“It was an amazing experience to work at each school level (elementary, middle and high) in the same cluster because I was blessed with the opportunity to witness the growth of many of my students,” Thomas said.
“Although it is very important to illustrate growth in academic achievement through data, there is student growth that cannot be measured in numbers,” she noted.
She incorporates character building daily with students, as she believes the single most influential component to a student’s ability to succeed is his or her belief that it is possible.
“My goal every day is for my students to enter and leave my classroom knowing they are winners.”
“Lane stands firm in her belief that all students can and will be successful,” JA principal Christopher Whitworth said. “She also possesses a great deal of respect from her colleagues in 5th grade, the SPED department and throughout the school and school system due to the knowledge and skills that she possesses as well as her calming and loving demeanor and level of professionalism. She is a teacher who works tirelessly and diligently to establish positive relationships with her students and ensures that they know she cares for them.”
He also said she is exceptional at differentiating the learning environment and catering to her students’ needs to ensure they feel loved, important, successful and equal to everyone else.
“That, in itself, is one of the reasons I know without a shadow of a doubt why she was selected by her peers as our Teacher of the Year and the District Teacher of the Year,” he said. “She loves all of her students – just as they were her own.”
“Ms. Thomas was born to serve in the teaching profession and I am proud to share the title of “teacher” with someone like her. Our school, as well as her students and their families, have benefited and will continue to benefit from the time she has dedicated to this profession.”
OTHER TEACHERS OF THE YEAR
JCS also recently celebrated its school-wide teachers of the year.
School-wide teachers of the year were:
• Janet Fielding — Fielding is a kindergarten teacher at Jefferson Elementary School. This is her 23rd year in education.
"Mrs. Fielding is a phenomenal teacher who provides creative, engaging learning activities for her students," JES principal Chrissy Joiner said.
"Her love for her students is evident and is reciprocated," Joiner added. "She is such an asset to JES and to every student's life she touches."
• Penny Cain — Cain is a 6th grade math teacher at Jefferson Middle School. This is her 28th year in education.
“Mrs. Cain is an exceptional teacher,” JMS principal Carol Ann Knight said. “In addition to being an excellent teacher, Mrs. Cain is also very involved in the Jefferson community.”
“I can remember one time when planning a memorial service for one of our JMS teachers, both Penny and her husband spent all afternoon trimming tree limbs and preparing the area for the service,” Knight added. “She is always one of the first teachers to reach out to anyone in need.”
• Molly McCarty — McCarty is a special education teacher and the girls’ head soccer coach at Jefferson High School. This is her 20th year in education.
“Molly McCarty is an invaluable member of our JHS family,” JHS principal Rob McFerrin said. “Serving as our SPED department chair, our girls’ head soccer coach (2022 State Coach of the Year) and a passionate special education teacher, Mrs. McCarty loves her students and players and they know it.”
“While changing students’ lives in the classroom and on the field, she also affects the culture and climate in the building by always having a positive attitude in the hallways,” McFerrin added. “Molly simply makes Jefferson High School a better place.”