This week’s feature for Teacher of the Year is Marla Mulliniks. She teaches first grade at Rutland Elementary School.
Mulliniks is in her second year teaching first grade at Rutland, where she has been teaching various levels for eight years. She also taught kindergarten and first grade at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy.
She received her early childhood education degree from Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville. She always knew she wanted to go into teaching. When she was a child, she said she would lined up her toys and would pass out and grade papers.
Mulliniks has always gravitated toward the younger grades. She enjoys teaching first grade because her students are becoming more independent and developing their critical thinking skills.
In addition to her normal class, she also teaches the lower SOAR group, which provides additional help for students who may be struggling with certain subjects.
“I have a heart for those kids and I like to see when the light comes on,” she said. “I think a lot of that is just their confidence. I think if they get the confidence built up, and when they see they can do it … I really love working with those kids.”
One activity she enjoys teaching is interactive read alouds, which incorporates reading, critical thinking, and writing about different subjects.
“I like the ideas they come up with and their thought process and their opinions,” she said.
Mulliniks also focuses on building relationships with her students.
“If you don’t reach their heart, you’re not going to reach their mind,” she said.
Rutland has been very supportive of Mulliniks, especially after she was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. The entire school would wear pink shirts whenever she had chemotherapy days.
“The school is amazing,” she said. “It’s an amazing support system, the families were amazing. It helped in my healing, I believe that.”
Mulliniks works with a large team of nine other teachers, which she credits with making her stronger.
“They’ve all made me a better teacher, I learn so much,” she said. “We’re all so different, but we work together really well.”
She is humbled and grateful that her colleagues chose her as Rutland’s Teacher of the Year because of how many wonderful teachers there are at the school.
“The only reason I feel like I am a good educator is because of the people I’m surrounded by,” she said. “You’re only as good as the people you’re surrounded by and as your team.”