During football season, the Titans Radio and American Paper and Twine pick one teacher in the state each week to win $400 in school supplies and gift basket. Each is entered into a contest for the grand prize: $800 in school supplies and a trip to the Titans-Jacksonville game, where he or she will be recognized on the field.
Woodmore Elementary School Principal Cheri Grant heard about a statewide "Teacher of the Week" competition, and she immediately thought of one person to nominate: Zena Buckley, a first-year guidance counselor at her school.
On Friday afternoon, the students gathered in the cafeteria for a special assembly to surprise Buckley with the award, sponsored by the Tennessee Titans Radio and the American Paper and Twine Co.
Grant started describing the unknowing winner. The kids murmured and not so subtly pointed with outstretched arms at their best guess, Buckley.
"And the award goes to ... " Grant said to prompt the students.
"Ms. Buckley!" the kids all shouted back.
Chris Romito, a branch manager from American Paper and Twine who came to help present the award, estimated the company gets hundreds of nominations each week, but Buckley's stood out.
"It's hard to believe there's somebody more dedicated than her," Romito said.
Before this year, the school only had a guidance counselor one day a week. But Grant used Title I money to hire Buckley full time this year.
"My vision was to take care of the needs of the whole child, and she's perfect," Grant said.
For Buckley, it's important to expose the children to college and different career paths. So she applied for, and was awarded a grant from the Junior Service League to take the kids on field trips to colleges in Atlanta and Chattanooga this year.
"Hopefully, they will be able to feel the same excitement that I feel about my educational experience," Buckley said.
Her students can attest to her good work, too.
"I think she needs to be here because she's a sweet teacher," said fifth-grader Shynae Schofield. "She smiles at us, she doesn't yell at us."
Romito said that he didn't know of any other teachers in Hamilton County who have won the award before, but next week's winner happens to be in Hamilton County, too.