ABOUT THE FINALIST
Years at school: 5
Education: 1985 Chattanooga High graduate
Family: Two sons, one who already graduated from Lookout Valley and another who is a junior there.
"She'll do everything from painting a wall to fundraising for the school. She's done about everything for the school. She's a great supporter for out whole school and community. It's invaluable to have people like her concerned for the kids. She has a great heart for kids." - Lookout Valley principal Rick Rushworth
Freeman also works part time at the Lookout Valley Sonic and takes online education classes.
Typically, Tracey Freeman's classroom wouldn't be a place most students at Lookout Valley High School would want to find themselves. Freeman oversees the school's In-School Suspension program, where students are sent for minor disciplinary issues. But her wide smile and peppy attitude often bring students back to her room even when they aren't assigned there.
"Sometimes I'll have kids come by just for a hug or a pat on the back or an encouraging word," Freeman said. "I have an open door policy just to talk. Sometimes they don't have that at home and sometimes I listen with a different ear than their parents. You'd be amazed what a little positive influence can mean for these kids. You never know, I may be the person that helps change their attitude and if I can do that for even one child, then I feel good about my job."
Freeman has worked at Lookout Valley for five years, but not just in the school's ISS program. She is also the president of the PTA, president of both the football and baseball booster clubs, as well as working with the Hamilton County PTA as well as holding a part time job at the Lookout Valley Sonic and takes online education courses.
"In a time when there are so many cut backs in the public schools, lots still needs to be done so its great to have someone willing to do so many things," said Lookout Valley principal Rick Rushworth. "She is actively involved in all school activities. She has a very genuine and personal interest in every student. ISS is a timeout and it can be an awkward academic environment but she cares about each kid. It comes across how much she cares for all the students."
Freeman was nominated to be recognized for her excellence in public school education by colleague Marilyn Slayton.
"She loves the daily interactions with her students," Slayton wrote in her nomination letter. "It is her goal to help the student to learn from their experience in ISS in hopes that they will not return. Tracey is very vocal when it comes to the needs of students, staff and her community. She has developed individual relationships with all of her students.
"She understands their learning capabilities as well as any personal problems or obstacles that they may be facing. She offers sound advice and her class is a comfort zone for the kids, thus making the overall learning environment of the school a well-balanced place to be."
Freeman credits one of her teachers and coaches, the late Ellen Williams who was her cheerleading coach at Chattanooga High in 1985 for teaching her what a difference one person can make in the lives of students.
"All that I am today was because of her," Freeman said. "She showed me compassion and taught me how to conduct myself like a lady and I'm forever indebted to her for that."
The most challenging part of her job, she said, is reaching the student who seems just beyond her grasp.
"It's always the child that's a hard nut to crack," she said. "I want to think I can reach all kids but there are some that slip through that I'm not able to reach and that hurts. I want to mother everybody."
Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@ timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293.