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Lawrence, Brown and Zalinka lauded in district-wide honors

MADISON – Madison City Schools held its Institute Day on July 27 as an all-hands meeting for employees to launch the 2023-2024 school year. At this meeting, the district’s top teachers and staff member were announced.

* District Elementary Teacher of the Year, Kara Lawrence – Currently, Lawrence teaches fifth-grade classes at Heritage Elementary School.

Lawrence received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. She earned a master’s degree in instructional leadership at the University of West Alabama.

“My educational philosophy is that all children can be successful when given the right tools and environment to thrive. Therefore, cultivating meaningful relationships with my students is a priority,” Lawrence said in her profile in Heritage’s website. (madisoncity.k12.al.us/Page/17)

She and husband Ben have one son, Harrison. “I love learning new things and sharing what I learn with others,” Lawrence said.

* District Secondary Teacher of the Year, Kristen Brown – At Liberty Middle School, Brown teaches science classes.

At Jacksonville State University, Brown received a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in chemistry. She later obtained a master’s degree in secondary-education general science from Alabama A&M University.

“Before teaching, I worked in the medical field for over 12 years and spent several years working in a research lab,” Brown said in her profile in Liberty’s website. (madisoncity.k12.al.us/Domain/1892)

Kristen’s spouse is Dawson Brown, who works as an accountant. The Browns have five children: Allie, Dawson Jr., Caden, Tom and Kate Brown.

* District Staff Member of the Year, Jodie Zalinka – Zalinka works at Heritage Elementary School as a Permanent Substitute. She fills in for Heritage teachers when they are sick or need to take personal leave for a day or more.

Kara Lawrence, Kristen Brown and Jodie Zalinka each received $5,000 from the MCS district.

Guest speaker was Dr. Candice Storey Lee, an alumna in the Class of 1996 at Bob Jones High School. Lee works as Athletic Director and Vice Chancellor at Vanderbilt University. She is the first African American woman to supervise an athletic department for a major college. She manages 250-plus people and 17 athletic programs with a budget at approximately $110 million.

Another tradition at Institute Day is the presentation of service awards to MCS employees. Employees with 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years of service were recognized.

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