Bartlett teacher a finalist for Tennessee Teacher of the Year

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August 16, 2021

For Bartlett 9th Grade Academy photography and visual arts teacher Amanda Tutor, the inspiration for becoming an educator came from another teacher who helped Tutor find her path.

Tutor, who is one of nine finalists for the 2019-20 Tennessee Teacher of the Year award, began her adult years in the early 1990s as a musician. She was a drummer in various local bands until she was 26.

“When I left music and went to college, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Tutor said. “I knew that I wanted to serve other people. I just didn’t know how that was going to happen.”

She found herself in an art appreciation class at Southwest Tennessee Community College. The teacher, Patty Lechmann, changed her life by encouraging her to take her photography class.

“In a way, she set me free. It transformed my life,” Tutor said. “I think photography gives a voice to the voiceless, and it’s a form of freedom, really, which is what art ultimately is.”

So she decided she wanted to do for other people what Lechmann did for her.

“If I had had someone in my life like her when I was a teenager, I think my life would’ve been drastically different for the better,” Tutor said. “I just want to be the person I needed as a teenager.”

The Tennessee Department of Education announced the nine finalists for the 2019-20 Tennessee Teacher of the Year award last month. 

“I would be standing up and applauding for any Fine Arts teacher in Tennessee that was nominated for an award. I’m just shocked that it’s me,” said Tutor, who was nominated by her fellow teachers at Bartlett 9th Grade Academy. “Being nominated by my peers is what makes it so incredibly meaningful to me.”

She began her teaching career at Appling Middle School in 2005. She then worked at Ellendale Elementary, Oak Elementary and Bartlett Elementary before landing at Bartlett 9th Grade Academy in 2013-2014.

“I appreciate the dedicated work of all our teachers, and I’m especially proud of Mrs. Tutor and the recognition she’s receiving for her outstanding efforts in the classroom,” Bartlett City Schools Superintendent Dr. David Stephens said. “Her contributions to the teaching profession and our school district are a true testament to the caliber of educator and individual that she is.”


Added Dr. Bradley Foust, the school district's fine arts specialist in the Department of Teaching and Learning: “Amanda is the most passionate and caring teacher I know. Every decision she makes is informed by her desire to help her students and make them the best artists they can be.

“She is truly deserving of this nomination, and while I hope she wins the Teacher of the Year award for her own sake, I also hope she wins because she is a strong advocate for the inclusion of high-quality arts programs in all schools. I know she will have a positive and lasting impact on our arts program in Bartlett, and if given the opportunity, she will do the same for schools across the state."

Tutor said she always wanted to stay in Bartlett.

“I never wanted to leave the Bartlett community because I got to know the families and what they stood for, and then I got to teach generations of children in the same families, which felt very special,” Tutor said.

Establishing a relationship with the students is a big part of Tutor’s successful teaching method.

“If I know about them and they know I care about them, they’re going to work harder on their assignments and push themselves farther,” said Tutor, who also spends time teaching students at Bartlett High School. “It’s such a rewarding job. The kids are so awesome to teach.”

This summer, she will travel to Nashville for the next phase of the selection process. It involves a sit-down interview with Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn.

“I have visited classrooms in every region, and we have so many passionate and highly effective educators in Tennessee,” Schwinn said in a statement. “Kids never forget their best teachers; they carry the lessons with them for the rest of their lives. These teachers are changing the trajectory of their students’ lives.”

Finalists in each Grand Division (West, Middle and East), along with the Teacher of the Year winner, will be announced during an honorary banquet this fall. The winner will represent Tennessee in the National Teacher of the Year competition and will serve as an ambassador for education in the state throughout the 2019-20 school year.

All nine state finalists will serve on Schwinn’s Teacher Advisory Council for the duration of the 2019-20 school year.

“It would be great to have a Fine Arts teacher on that advisory panel,” Tutor said.

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Michael Waddell


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