Teacher qualifies for $100K award

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 6, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

Jo Ann Bedwell, a fourth grade teacher at Clark Elementary School, is one of ten finalists in the running for the $100,000 Kinder Excellence in Teaching Award.

The Kinder Award is the largest single unrestricted award in American history given to a K-12 teacher. The winner will be announced on June 12.

The nomination was unexpected for Bedwell, who has been teaching at Clark Elementary for 31 years.

A Pensacola, Fla. native, Bedwell moved to Selma after earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in elementary education from the University of Montevallo.

In addition to her teaching duties, Bedwell is responsible for the school’s 21st Century Learning after school program. As she sits in her classroom Thursday afternoon, Bedwell said she is humbled and honored to be an award finalist.

“It’s great to feel like you’ve worked hard and somebody notices your work,” she said.

School reading coach Mary Lain Peel was the first to throw out Bedwell’s name as a potential finalist. To be eligible for the Kinder Award, candidates are required to be a full-time classroom teacher in a public or private school with at least 50 percent of their students qualifying for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program. Candidates are also required to provide proof of students’ academic gains on national or state standardized tests.

The Kinder Award was created in September 2005 when Houston, Texas-based philanthropists Nancy and Rich Kinder partnered with the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) Foundation in an effort to recognize teaching excellence.

“The work of all the finalists is extraordinary and it will be difficult to choose just one winner,” said KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg. “It is our hope that some day, we won’t have to make this decision – that teachers earning as much as other respected professions will become the norm instead of an exception to the rule.”

Kinder Award representatives will be in Selma April 27 and 28 to observe Bedwell before making a final decision. In the meantime, Bedwell will continue to pursue her passion.

“I love working with children,” she said. “I love to see them learn and grow.”