VINEMONT, Ala. – Vinemont High School teacher Shannon Bridges was surprised Friday morning at the school’s annual awards ceremony when she was named the Air Force Association (AFA) Alabama State Teacher of the Year for 2019. Bridges was first selected as the AFA Tennessee Valley Chapter Teacher of the Year for 2019, which qualified her for the state award.
By being selected as the Tennessee Valley Chapter winner, Bridges was awarded $250, and as the state winner, she received an additional $500 to use toward materials and expenses in the classroom.
AFA Tennessee Valley Chapter President Rick Driesbach was on hand for the awards ceremony Friday and addressed the students, “Each year we recognize a teacher who has done extraordinary things in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. It is so important to the United States Air Force in their air, space and cyber missions. We need scientists, engineers and mathematicians coming from your ranks. I am old and you are young, so we need you. To make you knowledgeable in all those things, we have fine teachers and you have one of the finest here at Vinemont.”
A surprised Bridges said, “I had no idea! I had no clue. It’s a great accomplishment and I am just overwhelmed. I am in charge of InSPIRESS and that is our program through UAH and NASA where we design and build, it’s an engineering program, so that money will go in that account to help fund building supplies. I take them to the United Launch Alliance. I take them to the Space and Rocket Center. I take them on different field trips so they can see the engineering process so that will help fund our field trips and any building supplies we need for our future.”
Bridges is involved in many of the student organizations at Vinemont High School and teaches many classes, including ninth-grade biology and honors biology, 10th-grade chemistry, 11th-grade dual enrollment biology 103 and 104 through Wallace State Community College and 12th- grade physics. She also serves as the varsity cheerleading coach, varsity girls and boys golf coach and National Honor Society sponsor. She started a group at the school called GEMS (Girls Engaged in Math and Science).
“This year the GEMS project was endangered and threatened turtles and tortoises of Alabama and (Principal) Mr. (Robin) Netherton helped me put in a grant and we got a $2,000 grant. Hopefully we are going to start our recycling project here next year to recycle to help wildlife,” Bridges shared. “I love what I do. I love the kids and I am so proud of them and I want them to experience different things. I want them to realize how close NASA is. They can be a NASA engineer and only drive 40 minutes down the road.”
Netherton said of Bridges, “She won the Cullman County Secondary Teacher of the Year. She’s won the AFA Teacher of the Year and the Tennessee Valley Teacher of the Year. She does a variety of things here at Vinemont High School that we couldn’t live without. She’s an outstanding asset to our faculty. She’s a duel enrollment teacher. She’s the teacher you would want your kid to have.”
Find out more about the AFA awards at www.afa.org/education/teacher-of-the-year.
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