Cullman City School Board names Teachers of the Year

Left to right are Miranda Gunter, West Elementary School; Cassie Bowen, Cullman Middle School; Leanna Smith, East Elementary School; Susan Sharpe, Cullman City Primary School and David Benefield, Cullman High School. (Cayla Grace Murphy)

CULLMAN, Ala. – At its regular meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 12, the Cullman City School Board recognized the system’s 2023-2024 Teachers of the Year. Winners received a certificate recognizing their achievements, a gift card from AmFirst Credit Union and the opportunity to receive a $1,000 stipend to benefit their classrooms.

Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff shared words about each winner:

David Benefield: Cullman High School Teacher of the Year 2023-2024

Benefield is celebrating his 30th year of education, with the last 27 of those being at Cullman High School. He received his Bachelor’s from Auburn and his Master’s from Alabama A&M. He gained recognition as a national board-certified teacher in 2006, and was one of the first agriculture program teachers in Alabama to receive national board certification. He serves as a CHS FFA advisor and has seen success with the organization over the years; CHS FFA has won several state championships and has multiple state runner-up awards. He also serves as a CHS sports shooting team assistant coach and faculty sponsor. He has been recognized as one of Cullman City School’s “movers and shakers” for the last two years.

Aside from his many educational accolades, he is very active in the Cullman community at large by serving with a myriad of organizations. Benefield is currently the director and vice president of the Cullman County Cattleman’s Association and previously served on the Cullman County Farm-City Committee. He is a dedicated member and committee member of Duck River Baptist Church.

Cassie Bowen: Cullman Middle School Teacher of the Year 2023-2024

Bowen has made an incredible impact on the Cullman City School community with an unwavering dedication to the students of Cullman Middle School. Her commitment extends to various areas as she teaches English language students and provides dyslexia and tier three intervention while also serving as Cullman Middle School cheer coach.

Bowen’s ability to address the needs of English language students reflects her deep understanding of diverse learning styles, fostering an inclusive and supportive classroom environment. Through her expertise in dyslexia intervention, she has demonstrated a remarkable ability to empower students facing unique challenges, ensuring every learner receives the support they need to thrive. In the area of tier three intervention, Bowen’s commitment to academic excellence shines as well. She goes above and beyond to identify and address the specific needs of students who require additional assistance, playing a pivotal role in their educational journey to overall success.

Leanna Smith: East Elementary School Teacher of the Year 2023-2024

Smith is a graduate of Athens State University and has been an educator for 17 years. She has taught Pre-K to fifth grade and volunteers with middle and high school students. She has been a teacher at East Elementary School for four years and currently teaches third grade where she also serves as the outdoor classroom coordinator and garden club sponsor. She is married to Christopher Smith and has two children.

Principal Melanie Harris contributed, “Mrs. Smith is always making those around her happy through her acts of kindness, service and positivity. She was born to learn, volunteer, collaborate and ensure success for all.”

Not only is she an advocate for East Elementary, but also Cullman City Schools as she serves and assists her husband with the Bearcat marching band. She finds joy in building student relationships and watching them grow socially, emotionally and academically. She loves challenging herself to work and grow in new areas and tells her students that, often, the rewards are waiting at the end of the challenge. She’s a lifelong learner and is currently working toward her national board certification.

Miranda Gunter: West Elementary School Teacher of the Year 2023-2024

Gunter has spent most of her life in the Cullman City School system as a student of East Elementary School, Cullman Middle School and Cullman High School. She received her undergraduate degree in elementary education at the University of North Alabama and received her Master’s degree from the University of Alabama-Birmingham, where she received an award for outstanding graduate student in the department of leadership, special education and foundations. She has taught for 24 years in Cullman City as a gifted teacher, fifth grade teacher and third grade teacher.

For the last nine years, she has been the gifted teacher at West Elementary. She is married to Scott Gunter and has two sons, Preston and Harrison. She believes teaching is a calling that has been very rewarding for her; it is especially rewarding when she sees former students and they share fond memories.

Susan Sharpe: Cullman City Primary School Teacher of the Year 2023-2024

Sharpe has been a kindergarten teacher at Cullman City Primary for the last four years and has been in education for 18 years, having taught in Tennessee, Georgia and Arkansas. She has taught a variety of subjects throughout her education career and has taught in grades from kindergarten to second grade as well as P.E. and serving as a student-teacher supervisor.

According to a parent from Sharpe’s class, “She is the type of teacher who is the same in the classroom as she is at a basketball game or anywhere else in public. She has had such a huge impact on my son; he gained not only educational knowledge in her classroom, but confidence, too.”

She is passionate about her students and their interests, and loves to see her students succeed.

In other business:

  • The Board approved a Memorandum of Agreement for Clinical Experiences with the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Education, effective Aug. 1, 2023
  • The Board approved a mileage contract effective Dec. 1, 2023 through Sept. 30, 2024
  • The Board approved a contract with Patrick Bates for technical projects with the CCS Technology Department, effective Dec. 12, 2023
  • The Board approved a joint purchasing agreement with Sand Mountain CNP Cooperative
  • The Board approved the salvage of a Color Laser Jet Pro m452dn printer from Cullman City Primary School

The next regular Cullman City School Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024, at 5 p.m. in the Cullman City Board of Education board room.

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