Veronica McCuiston believes that teaching isn't about the test scores, it's about the process of discovery.
Her dedication to learning is why the Hamilton County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations nominated McCuiston for the 2013 Tennessee Outstanding PTA Teacher of the Year Award, which she won.
McCuiston, who teaches second grade at North Hamilton County Elementary School, credits parental involvement for much of a child's success.
"Parents are a child's first teacher," she said. "I value that what they've given their child ... that love, that support, that nurture that allows that child to walk into my room comfortable, ready to learn."
Principal Jacqueline Hauth said McCuiston is committed to meeting student and parent needs alike.
"She is very student-centered, very reflective and she is a person that goes above and beyond in communicating with parents, always making sure that the parents know what their child's need is here and also taking into account the needs that the parents relay to her," Hauth said.
Mary Elizabeth West, a fellow second-grade teacher at the school, said McCuiston was the perfect candidate for the award.
"She is a great person. ... She is wonderful to work with," West said. "She definitely deserved it."
For McCuiston, the excitement of teaching comes from the moment children realize they can do more than they ever thought possible. It's all about exploration.
"For me, it's that journey," she said. "It's not so much how much you know, but what you do to learn it. I just want to be that person in a child's life that lets them explore and come to that new moment and makes them life-long learners," she said.
True to that spirit, McCuiston has made learning a lifestyle.
She earned a number of degrees from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, including an associate's of science, a bachelor of science in math and science and a master of science in curriculum and instruction with a minor in elementary education. She is now working to become a National Board Certified Teacher. And her next eduational goal is to earn a doctorate in educational law.
McCuiston says it's the children she teaches every day who earned her the statewide award.
"Teachers get recognized for having great students and families. ... But if it weren't for my students and their families, I wouldn't be here. That's what I do," she said.
Contact staff writer Lindsay Burkholder at lburkhold firstname.lastname@example.org.