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Grenada School District Teacher of the Year, 2023

From the Communicator, 6/1/23

Lakela Lancaster, a second- and third-grade looping teacher in reading at Grenada Elementary PreK-3, was named Grenada School District 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year.

In his nominating letter, GES Principal Cole Surrell cited Lancaster’s reputation for inspiring “tremendous growth” in her students. “Her expectations help to bring the most out of her students while instilling an enthusiasm for learning,” Surrell wrote. “She is continuously creating and finding new activities to help all her students reach their maximum potential. If a student struggles, she will try different approaches until the child succeeds. The genuine love and respect that her students have for her is a direct indication of her ability to reach each one.”

Superintendent Dr. David Daigneault presented Lancaster the award and illustrated her success in the classroom by describing how she helped 30 second graders who were far behind in reading to pass their third-grade reading assessment. 

Lancaster, a licensed dyslexia therapist as well as a teacher, instituted a new program at GES in 2021 that focused on these children’s reading development. This year, 29 out of those 30 students passed the state reading test. 

“When we got them, most of them could not even read,” Lancaster recalled. “They all have dyslexia or they were suspected [to have] dyslexia or just had major reading problems. Over the last two years, they’ve all received dyslexia therapy, and their reading proficiency has soared.” 

Lancaster gave credit to the district’s two dyslexia therapists, Emily Herring and Amanda Moorman, both of whom were integral to her students’ success. Lancaster said the new program at GES was modeled on effective practices they’d all learned while earning their degrees in dyslexia therapy at the special-purpose 3-D School in Petal, Miss.

At the award’s ceremony, Lancaster thanks Principal Surrell for taking a chance on the program, which had never been done at GES.  

“It was a little risky in that we wouldn’t see results in the first year,” Surrell said. “We had to wait two years to get the results, but when they came, they were tremendous.”

This year marks Lancaster’s 21st teaching at GSD. She is married to Mark Lancaster, and they have three children — Peyton Estes, Caleb Estes, and Nate Newton.

Lancaster was awarded a plaque and a selection of gifts donated by local businesses. By tradition, she also received a new teacher desk and chair, hand-crafted by Bobby Biddy of the GSD Maintenance staff.

Four other teachers across the district were nominated for Teacher of the Year. Also honored as their school’s Teacher of the Year were Lindsey Leggett (Grenada Elementary 4-5), Tandy Whitten (Grenada Middle School), Leah Hollingsworth (Grenada High School), and Lisa Holland (Grenada Career and Technical Center).