Dogwood 5th grade teacher Alexa Guynes came to work today unaware that she would be living a once-in-a-lifetime moment within the first hour of school. Guynes was awarded the Milken Educator Award, which honors the best educators in the country. Guynes is the only recipient this year from the state of Tennessee and the first recipient from GMSD. According to the Milken Family Foundation, this is the Oscar of education. They wish to target early to mid-career teachers and honor them for the successes they have achieved and encourage the promise of what they will accomplish.
Dogwood students and staff, district office staff, school board members, and community leaders gathered for an assembly, which was presumably about literacy initiatives. Then Dr. Jane Foley, from the Milken Family Foundation was introduced. She built suspense by asking students to define excellence and asking them to tell who helps them learn before finally announcing that a teacher at Dogwood would be distinguished as one of the best in the country. When Alexa Guynes’s name was announced, it was better than a pageant moment. The shock was evident as she brought her hands to her face. The tears were delayed.
Guynes checked all of their boxes. The Tennessee Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn said Mrs. Guynes “exemplifies what we want to see in every classroom for every child in this state… She has laboratories of literacy in her classroom.”
“I am speechless,” Guynes said as she faced the crowd of excited students and co-workers. “I am overwhelmed. I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was a kindergartner, and I never wavered. This is my passion. This is what I want to do. I love my babies, my children. I love coming to work every day.”
That passion she has for her job is evident to everyone she works with. “She cares about the whole child,” 5th grade teacher Melinda Henson said. “She makes sure all of the needs are met, not just the academic needs.”
“She goes the extra mile and beyond what she is required to do, especially for the kids who need the extra support,” 5th grade teacher Linda Fredrick said. “She makes sure they have everything they need.”
Her coworkers have her love as well. “I have to give a shout out to the people I work with because I could not do it without them,” Guynes said. “My fifth grade team is the best in the country. I could not be who I am today without them, my administrators, the district office, the parents. The whole school and community deserves this as well.”
Guynes, who has been at Dogwood since 2014, is always learning and leading. Not only is she the ELA content lead for grades 3-5, she also spearheaded the Book A Day program at Dogwood with Ms. Frederick. In that program, she reads a children’s book every day to her class, and they have analytical discussions about the lessons they learn from the books. She is fully engaged in making her students love to read.
“When she reads,” 5th grader Cade Sipniewski said, “she puts joy into each one of her words.”
She does bring joy to the classroom. “She makes reading fun when we do different reading styles like campfire reading,” 5th grade student Alex Corman said.
Guynes spent the first part of this week in Nashville learning about the TN writing assessment, making sure she is at the forefront of all of the reading and literacy initiatives. She returned to Dogwood energized by her new learning to find out that people from across the country have noticed her passion and dedication to the art of teaching.
"Ms. Guynes demonstrates unwavering care for every child in her classroom,” said Superintendent of Germantown Municipal School District Jason Manuel. "Dogwood Elementary School has an incredible culture and she is a leader amongst her colleagues. Ms. Guynes makes learning fun and has a heart for students. She helps to challenge young minds but also helps to grow her students as people. We could not be prouder to have Ms. Guynes represent Germantown Municipal School District on a national stage as a Milken Educator."
That passion and dedication is obvious to her students. “She always has a smile on her face no matter what kind of day it is,” Nick Soucia said. “She always wants to see people be happy with learning.”
“She cares for her students, and she tries to make us learn everything the right way,” Grant Roberts said. “ELA used to be my least favorite subject, but now it is one of my favorites because Mrs. Guynes made it better.”
“She wants everyone to feel good about themselves and not feel embarrassed or left out,” Luke Laird said.
To her students, she has always been one of the best in the country. Now everyone knows.
Guynes joins a team elite teachers from across the country who were also awarded this honor. Guynes not only receives the recognition and celebration of today, she also will get a trip to California in April to work with the other Milken educators and a $25,000 check.