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WFISD teacher surprised with Dorothy Huffman Award

Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 1:24 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - A teacher at Milam Elementary School got a big surprise on Thursday, when Wichita Falls ISD officials presented her with the Dorothy Huffman award -- without telling her they were coming!

Third grade teacher Jessica Whitman was the winner of the $1,000 award, which can be used in Whitman’s classroom however she desires.

School district officials gathered outside her classroom in secret right after school began before bursting through the door in a surprise ceremony. Whitman and her third grade students were dressed in their Halloween best, and the kids quickly took on the spirit of celebration.

“Her students love her,” said Milam principal Gena Ayers. “She can tell you anything and everything about every single one of her students.”

The Dorothy Huffman Award was established by Dr. Louie Huffman through the WFISD Foundation in memory of his wife, who was a WFISD teacher from 1952 to 1990. Dorothy Huffman began her career at Crockett Elementary, and taught at several different elementary schools in the district throughout her career. The award recognizes her love of teaching third grade, as she recognized it as a crucial transition point in a student’s education.

Milam Elementary School Principal Gena Ayers said that this year’s award winner embodied that spirit: “Mrs. Whitman is an amazing teacher that refuses to let her students fail. She will find whatever it is that’s holding them back and fill those gaps. She loves on them, pumps them up, and gets them excited about math. She takes them under her wing and helps them be successful and independent.”

Whitman’s determination and love for her students can be seen in the results. She had 40% of her students score MEETS on STAAR last year, one of the highest scores in the district when compared with other third grade math teachers.

Whitman herself preferred to defer the praise to her students.

“Third grade is a really tough year, so it’s just a pleasure to help them have that little light bulb moment come on and be so proud of themselves and the growth that they’ve made,” she said.

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