Joan Comer is Teacher of the Year for Columbia Elementary School. (CONTRIBUTED)
Joan Comer is Teacher of the Year for Columbia Elementary School. (CONTRIBUTED)

Archived Story

Comer reprises honor as Teacher of the Year

Published 7:23pm Thursday, June 6, 2013

MADISON – Joan Comer is Teacher of the Year for Columbia Elementary School.

She earned the same honor at West Madison and Endeavor elementary schools and for Madison County Schools in 2003. At Columbia, Comer teaches sixth-grade reading and language arts and serves on the English-Language Arts Committee at school and district levels.

Encouraging students as lifelong readers, Comer had students count words they read, creating “a fascination as they built their ‘word banks.’ Their vocabulary grew and comprehension expanded.”

By year-end, sixth-graders had read more than 152,936,644 words. Percentage of proficient readers increased from 79 to 86 percent. Students reading below grade level decreased from 21 to 1 percent.

Comer strives to transition from “instructor” to “facilitator” for student learning.

Watching “struggling readers struggle” when school begins is her major challenge. “Madison is a high-traffic area, due to job availability. Many times students will enter my class several grade levels behind in reading,” she said. “I live for those ‘light-bulb moments’ when students realize they can conquer their reading barriers by using strategies I teach them.”

Second-grade teacher Miss Brenda Cagle was Comer’s motivation to teach. As Comer matured, the “special bond” continued with Cagle. “The cool thing about our relationship is (we) were both reading coaches at our schools at the same time and collaborated,” Comer said. Pam Tanner also influenced Comer “with high expectations. She prepared a ‘reluctant me’ to enter college.”

Comer earned a bachelor’s degree at Athens State College and a master’s degree from Alabama A&M University.

She started teaching for Madison County at Gurley in 1987. When she taught at West Madison, “Dee Fowler was principal. A blinking light was at the intersection of U.S. 72 and Wall Triana. West Madison was the only elementary K-3,” she said. She also taught at Monrovia and Endeavor elementary schools and Clements High School.

Her husband Roger works at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant. They grew up in Rogersville. Their daughters are Camille, headed to enter Mississippi State University, and Chelsey, a Columbia fifth-grader.

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