Second-generation excellence

After 30 years of working as a CMS teacher assistant, Dorothy Futrell said she is planning on "going out with a bang." She is currently planning a Beauty and the Beast-themed end-of-year party for Shamrock Gardens Elementary students, staff and parents. Futrell, who will be retiring July 1 was recently named Central 1 Learning Community Teacher Assistant of the Year.

Futrell, who has been named school-level teacher assistant of the year more than 10 times, said she was shocked to win for her learning community. "I went to the interview panel and didn't think anything about it," she said.

As the main event planner for the school, Futrell said she has a reputation for being impossible to surprise. "They got me good," she said. "There were banners and I walked through the whole school and all the students cheered."

Futrell kept trying to call her husband and children to share the news. "No one would answer and I was getting really frustrated," she said. It turned out her family was standing outside, waiting to surprise her.

She began working for CMS 30 years ago at Winterfield Elementary. When her principal transferred to Shamrock Gardens, she moved with him and has been there for 20 years.

Futrelll can be counted on to show up, whether it's visiting a student's home or showing up at the athletic activities, her students can depend on her.

When a student had behavioral issues, she said she'd call his parents. "He told me that their phone had been cut off, so I couldn't," she said. "I said 'That's fine. I will come to your house.': And she did. "He was absolutely shocked, but we didn't have one behavioral issue with him after that."

Among her many duties, Futrell manages bus transportation for the school. She mets frequently with transportation and makes sure students are getting on the right bus and getting home safely. She starts school early to run practice routes with the bus drivers and has been known to get in her car to learn a route or figure out a student's bus.. "I know where pretty much every student lives, what bus they take and what their route is," she said.

Futrell leads small groups of students who need help with reading and math. She recently had a student improve by 42 points on a test. Futrell congratulated the student and asked her how she managed such an improvement. "She said that it was because of me. I am not an easy crier, but that really touched me."

In 2016, state senator Jeff Jackson shadowed Futrell for a day to learn more about what teacher assistants do. He live-Tweeted the event and was shocked by how many things Futrell does in a day and how calm she is.

Futrell's colleagues combined all of Jackson's tweets into a book called A Day in the Life of Ms. Futrell. "I didn't even realize everything that happens in a day," said Futrell.

After two decades at Shamrock Gardens, Futrell said she is now teaching children of former students. "I can't believe that I've been here that long, but time flies when you love what you do," she said. "And I do."