For Immediate Release: July 23, 2020
JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) and the Office of Teaching and Leading today announced that Debra Houghton, principal of Mannsdale Upper Elementary in the Madison County School District, has been selected as the 2020 Mississippi Administrator of the Year (MAOY), and Benjamin Austin, 9th and 10th grade Social Studies teacher at Petal High School, has been selected as the 2020 Mississippi Teacher of the Year (MTOY).
Houghton, who has served as principal at Mannsdale Upper for six years, believes educators must work together across districts, schools and communities to help all students in Mississippi, not just the students in educator’s buildings or district.
“My most rewarding professional experience as an administrator is watching the growth of my students and teachers,” she said.
As a high school history teacher over the past three years, Austin believes that all students have the right and ability to learn; and to ensure this happens, Austin makes sure that classroom learning is both relevant and purposeful.
“I want students to see value in their learning, and I want their learning to become real to them. To do this, I make global connections,” he said.
The annual Mississippi Administrator of the Year program honors an administrator who demonstrates superior ability to inspire teachers, to employ exemplary leadership practices and to participate as an active member of the community. The recipient receives a $5,000 stipend and shares expertise through various presentations and activities for the improvement of education in the state.
The annual Mississippi Teacher of the Year program recognizes exemplary teachers in the state who inspire students, demonstrate leadership both inside and outside the classroom and serve as active members of the community. The award recipient also receives a $5,000 stipend and will share expertise through various presentations and activities. Austin will represent Mississippi in the National Teacher of the Year competition.
Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education, said the winners’ level of commitment to their students and their professions are worthy of distinction, and they are shining examples of the exceptional educators throughout the state.
“I join with their school communities in congratulating them on their achievements,” Wright said. “All of the finalists showed outstanding leadership and dedication throughout their careers, and the students benefit greatly from having these professionals working on their behalf.”
Weeks before today’s announcement, each school district selected a District Teacher of the Year and District Administrator of the Year. Following an intensive selection process, four congressional district winners were chosen from district award recipients. Finally, one teacher earned the MTOY recognition and one administrator earned the MAOY recognition following an interview with finalists.
Should either the 2020 Administrator or Teacher of the Year be unable to fulfill their duties, an alternate candidate has been selected for each role. Keri Jo Sapp, principal of Bramlett Elementary in the Oxford School District, is the 2020 Alternate Administrator of the Year and April Lang, Mathematics teacher at Forest High School, is the 2020 Alternate Teacher of the Year.