2019 Teacher of the Year:
Inspired to become an educator by her own teachers, Zestlan Simmons, a National Board Certified teacher, was once told by a family friend to “reconsider her options” when she shared her dream. However, for her, the joy of seeing students engaged in mastering writing skills has been the catalyst for pursuing her dream. This love of empowering students with the awareness of their capabilities led her to a Title I school on “academic alert status”, where she worked with students to improve their Stanford Achievement Test (SAT 9) scores.
As she continued in the Montgomery Public School system, her passion for student achievement and arts education inspired her to return to Booker T. Washington (BTW) Magnet where she once benefited from an arts education through the Carver Creative and Performing Arts Program (CCPAC), which is now BTW. In her role as an educator at BTW, she contributes to cross-curricular planning initiatives, which encourage art and academic teachers to collaborate on special projects and classroom instruction.
Through the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), she started teaching Advanced Placement (AP) Language and Composition in 2009 and was recognized by NMSI as the AP English Teacher of the Year for increasing the AP Language exam scores for minority students by 50%.
In 2017, she pursued a certification in Instructional Leadership so that she could continue to mentor new teachers. Her greatest joy has been to see her former students become teachers in Montgomery, in Alabama, and in the nation.
Simmons teaches English and Art at Booker T. Washington Magnet High School in Montgomery, Alabama. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Teaching Secondary English and a Master of Science in Instructional Leadership, all from Auburn University.