When the state of Tennessee named Knox County AP calculus teacher Wanda Lacy as 2013–14 Teacher of the Year, officials highlighted her sensational student success rate. Lacy (BS ’71, MS ’91) has taught AP calculus at Farragut High School for the last six years, and during that time every one of her students has taken the AP exam with 97 percent earning college credit.
Her drive to succeed began early in life. “My dad was an inspiration. He made everything that we did a learning experience. He encouraged me to make high grades and gave me incentives for high grades,” she says. Lacy graduated high school as the valedictorian.
When she became a math education major at UT, she says her teachers challenged her constantly and supported her when she needed it. “I had classes at UT that inspired me to want to excel as a teacher.”
Now, Lacy challenges her students to overcome obstacles using real-world applications. Her approach involves group collaboration to solve problems. The group makes class presentations and answers questions, with each student taking responsibility for a specific role.
Lacy’s Teacher of the Year honor gives her new responsibilities as well. She is traveling to conferences in Arizona, Washington DC, Alabama, and New Jersey to collaborate and learn from other state teachers of the year.
After thirty-three years as a teacher, she shares this advice for UT students who are studying to become educators.
“Teachers must believe that if we know and use an array of teaching strategies, all students can learn. As teachers, we must also figure out how to inspire those students who do not want to learn. The job is difficult; the hours are long; the salary is small; but the rewards are incredible.”