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Top Teachers Appreciation Contest 2024

We all have a favorite teacher, someone whose influence has profoundly affected our lives. Even when classrooms are a distant memory and we’ve forgotten most of what we read in textbooks, the lessons of certain teachers stay with us. Some educators not only have a knack for making learning fun and interesting, but also for bringing out the best in their students. Great teachers go beyond their job description to serve as mentors, cheerleaders and trusted advisors.

We asked our audience which teachers in our three-county area deserved the title of GCW Top Teacher 2024. We were overwhelmed by the response, as we received thousands of nominations. The results are in, and we are pleased to introduce this year’s winners:

Harrison County

Magen Sullivan

St. James Catholic School

What the nominators say: “Magen genuinely loves the children she teaches. She is 100% dedicated to them and how they learn.”

What the principal says: “Magen Sullivan has been a part of our St. James Catholic school family for three years as an elementary school teacher. Her love of teaching is evident, as is her love for the students. It is no surprise that she has been voted the Harrison County winner in the Gulf Coast Woman Top Teacher contest.

Magen and her husband, Chad, are proud parents of six beautiful children. They are a faith-filled and loving family. Magen is an inspiration to us, and she truly lives her faith every day. She is a leader of the Jr. Spirit Movers organization at school, helping to shape the faith formation of our students.

Magen finds a way to teach all the children in her first-grade classroom with approaches to learning that they understand and enjoy. She provides a loving and nurturing environment for all her students, and St. James is a better and stronger school because of her.

The faculty and staff of St. James Catholic School are happy and excited for Magen Sullivan, the 2024 Gulf Coast Woman Top Teacher winner for Harrison County.” – Tricia Harvey, principal of St. James Catholic School


Honorable mention for Harrision County:

• Crystal Leshore, Gulfport Central Middle School

• April Hoyt, Bayou View Elementary


Jackson County

Jennifer Elmore

St. Martin North Elementary

What the nominators say: “Mrs. Elmore is a phenomenal teacher who cares about meeting every student’s needs every day.”

What the principal says: “I have had the opportunity and privilege to work side by side with Mrs. Elmore, a third-grade teacher, for the past year. Mrs. Elmore has a total of 12 years’ experience working in the classroom as a teacher. She has a passion, love and enthusiasm for teaching. I am repeatedly impressed by her approachability, openness and positive attitude no matter what the obstacle. Mrs. Elmore is a problem-solver, an overcomer and an innovator — all while being a rockstar team member. She has mastered the elusive art of setting rules while maintaining lasting relationships and being firm, yet fair.

She is mindful that though she teaches state standards, she ultimately is teaching her students important life lessons through acceptance, guidance and love. Remaining current with the latest technologies and instructional strategies through professional development has allowed her to reach struggling and troubled students and still challenge the brightest of students in not only her classroom, but her school.

Some people have a calling in life; Mrs. Jennifer Elmore was meant to teach children. She balances this lifestyle all while remaining a dedicated wife, mother, daughter, sister and trusted friend. She demonstrates and models to her students what it is to strive for excellence, respect others, never give up and how far a smile really goes. – Shannon Melton, principal of St. Martin North Elementary


Honorable mention for Jackson County:

• Shani Dunn, Eastlawn Elementary



Hancock County

Kaleigh Warton

South Hancock Elementary

What the nominators say: “She goes above and beyond to ensure that her students receive a quality education and also enjoy school.”

What the principal says: “Ms. Warton currently is employed with the Hancock County School District, serving as the third-grade English language arts (ELA)/math teacher for South Hancock Elementary School and as track coach for Hancock Middle School. She has served a total of three years with South Hancock Elementary, two years as a teacher assistant and one year as a certified teacher.

Ms. Warton’s dedication and hard work echoes into her students’ overall wellbeing and achievements. Ms. Warton demands nothing but the best from her students. She models these expectations by being a team player and working with her colleagues to creatively design and implement high-quality lessons that challenge her students on all levels. She constantly is building positive relationships with her students and their parents to maintain a strong educational foundation in her classroom. Ms. Warton also serves on the Student Advisory Committee, where ideas are discussed to implement positive, innovative changes in our school. Ms. Warton is a life-long learner with the desire to further her education by pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees.

Thank you, Ms. Warton, for being part of our South Hancock Elementary family. Congratulations for being selected as the Hancock County winner in Gulf Coast Woman’s Top Teacher Contest!” – Thomas Mallini, assistant principal of South Hancock Elementary School

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