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At the Top of DeSoto County, Terry Now Aiming to be Mississippi’s Best

At the Top of DeSoto County, Terry Now Aiming to be Mississippi’s Best

Judith Terry most likely wasn’t going to sweat this particular trip to the principal’s office.

The math teacher at Olive Branch’s Center Hill High School was summonedby top administrator Doug Payne before the Christmas break.

“He called me into his office,” recalled Terry, “and told me that I had been voted by my peers to be Teacher of the Year.”

And that was just the first bit of good news. The DeSoto County School district – Mississippi’s largest with 41 schools – now sought an educator to represent them for Teacher of the Year honors at the state level.

The spotlight once again shined down on Terry, during an announcement made public February 6 at the county office in Hernando.

“I was really pretty shocked,” said Terry, in her fifth year at Center Hill. “It’s just really a great honor, because this is a large district and there’s a lot of good teachers. So it’s just really an honor to be selected among all of them.”

Teaching, however, wasn’t the first career Terry had chosen upon graduating from Northwest Mississippi Community College. The Independence High School Valedictorian had been exposed to math and an appreciation of numbers at an early age, as her father, Henry Worley, worked as an inspector for the Department of Transportation.

“Math was a big thing in his job, so he’s real strong in math,” Terry said. “And my mom (Mary) is a nurse, so she was mathematically inclined as well.”

As for Terry, she initially opted for an opportunity with Sycamore Bank in Senatobia. Throughout her 14 years there, she stayed heavily involved with agricultural education. The role with the Independence Future Farmers of America (FFA) alumni program allowed her to continue a longstanding friendship with veteran teacher Larry Malone, who made sure Terry’s first full school year at Center Hill (2012-13) was a successful one.

“He called me two or three times a week to see how it was going: ‘Can I give you any advice? Can I help you with anything?’ He was just always there,” said Terry, who began teaching algebra, before eventually shifting over to geometry and the school’s PSAT/ACT program. 

Said Payne: “She’s come in and made this her life, made this her passion. She does a good job in the classroom. She builds the relationship with the kids early on.”

Many have been impressed with the innovative ways that Terry drives geometry home to her students.

“I do a lot of hands-on things,” she said. “The activities that I do kind of apply what we’re doing to real-world situations. They do a city street project. We do some art projects. Just something that makes it easier for the kids to understand and learn.”

Outside the classroom, Terry is the Center Hill archery coach and co-sponsor of the sophomore class and Diamond Girls. At home, she’s the mother of 16-year-old Randi. But, as far as parental advice goes, it reaches far beyond her own daughter.

“I try to tell the kids that the decisions that they make now and the habits that they create now are the ones that will stay with them for the rest of their lives,” she said. “I try to help them learn to make goodstudy habits and good work habits so they can be successful. The ultimate goal is to make them productive citizens.”


Chris Van Tuyl is a DeSoto County resident and former newspaper journalist who enjoys the company of his wife and pets, and watching sports.


2016-17 DeSoto County School-By-School Teachers of the Year:

Matthew T. Yardley (Career Tech East)

Ellen Graham (Career Tech West)

Jeanette R. Aday (Center Hill Elementary)

Judith W. Terry (Center Hill High)

Sheila Bruno (Center Hill Middle)

Dionne Weaver (Chickasaw Elementary)

Yolanda R. Flie (DeSoto Central Elementary)

Marylyn W. Rodgers (DeSoto Central High)

Kirk Stockett (DeSoto Central Middle)

Samantha Dawson (DeSoto Central Primary)

Paula Sanchez (Greenbrook Elementary)

Lori K. Edge (Hernando Elementary)

Holly Neel (Hernando High)

Carla Lee Smith (Hernando Hills Elementary) 

Rachel Fragale (Hernando Middle)

Ashley Sommerfeld (Hope Sullivan Elementary)

Brenda Casey (Horn Lake Elementary)

Mindalyn Hestir (Horn Lake High)

Shakita Palmer (Horn Lake Intermediate)

Crystal Robinson (Horn Lake Middle)

Tammie Miller (Lake Cormorant Elementary)

Shauna Baker (Lake Cormorant High)

Meredith Willis (Lake Cormorant Middle)

Karen Sandridge (Lewisburg Elementary)

Lindsey L. Bragg (Lewisburg High)

Tabitha Green (Lewisburg Middle)

Tiffany McCracken (Lewisburg Primary)

Rebecca Rushmore (Magnolia)

Leanna Carraway Clark (Oak Grove Central Elementary)

Mary Ann Mullins (Olive Branch Elementary)

Michael Evans (Olive Branch High)

Jennifer Scruggs (Olive Branch Intermediate)

Ashley Ginn (Olive Branch Middle)

Amy Gardner (Overpark Elementary)

Stacy Harrison (Pleasant Hill Elementary)

Rose Berry (Shadow Oaks Elementary)

Jane Thyfault (Southaven Elementary)

Anissa McGinnis (Southaven High)

Ashley Parbs (Southaven Intermediate)

Mary Kristen Coleman (Southaven Middle)

Chevonne Dixon (Walls Elementary)

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