For the Columbia Academy administration, the choice for Teacher of the Year for the 2020-2021 school year was an easy call. With the way she is able to reach her students academically, spiritually and emotionally, there was no choice other than Sally Hitt.
Hitt said it’s a very special recognition to be chosen as the top teacher, and she almost felt undeserving because of the quality of her peers at CA who were also deserving.
“It’s very special and humbling,” she said. “Something that was really neat about it is in large part it was due to the students and the letters (they wrote) recommending for that. They gave me those letters, and reading back over them, the things that they say are really special to me.”
During the annual teacher appreciation meal in March, CA headmaster Angie Burkett read some of the student letters when announcing the teacher of the year. At first, Hitt didn’t realize it was going to be her, but as the letters progressed and more intimate details were shared, she began to think, “Oh my, this might be me.” She was given a beautiful necklace as part of being honored.
When test scores rule the day in modern academia, what often gets lost is how much a teacher cares about their students and how that can translate to a student’s success in the classroom. For Hitt, caring about each and every student that sits at a desk in her classroom tops the list.
“In many ways, I receive as much from them as I give to them,” she said. “I enjoy working with them and like to explain things.”
CA assistant headmaster Robby Hathorn said first and foremost the administration can always count on Hitt to effectively do whatever is asked of her. But secondly, Hitt’s nature in the classroom is bar none.
“She truly and genuinely cares for her students, and they know that. We, as an administration, know that,” he said. “And she has proven to be a quality math teacher where the students are able to learn in her class through her teaching style.”
One of the ways Hitt demonstrates how she cares about her students is a bulletin board behind her desk in her classroom. There she pins newspaper clippings of every time one of her students appears in the paper.
As a student at Columbia Academy as a teenager, Hitt often helped her fellow classmates with their algebra because God gave her the ability to understand complex equations. However, she went to college to be an elementary teacher, seemingly leaving algebra and other middle school and high school-level curricula behind. But upon graduating, she called her former school looking for a job, and Columbia Academy was in need of a junior high math teacher. Teaching math at the middle school level made her want to go back to school to get a degree in mathematics, allowing her to transition into teaching a variety of grade levels. Currently Hitt teaches two seventh-grade classes, two eighth-grade courses, one ninth-grade class and a senior course.
“You might call it coincidence, but I feel the Lord opened that up for me,” she said. “The (senior class) is special because some of them I’m teaching for a fourth year. It’s neat to get them back and see them grown from seventh grade all the way to senior.”
What drew Hitt to return to CA as a teacher after studying at the private school herself was the family and Christian atmosphere.
“I put a bible verse up on the board every day, and that’s something some of the students wrote in their comments — they notice those. What they don’t know is while I put them up there for them, sometimes I put them up there for me. If you’re having one of those off days or having one of those days when you’re struggling with something, you can look up there. We’re able to have our faith, and it can be up front if we want it to be.”
One of the blessings about teaching for Hitt is being able to see what her students do with their lives. Her current pastor is a former student of Hitt, she purchased a vehicle from a former student and former students have taught her children.
Hitt has taught at CA for 25 non-consecutive years, beginning in the 1980s before taking a 15-year break to be a full-time mom and eventually returning for the past 15 years. She credited her parents, Robert Pace and Jo Ann Ingram, and her teachers for making education a priority in her life and inspiring her to always do well. She is married to Mike Hitt.