The math instructor was chosen as the school’s top teacher of 2010 by a selection committee of her peers, parents and pupils at the Jasper city school.
The 54-year-old pre-algebra instructor said she was “surprised and astounded” to receive the recognition.
“I thought ‘what?’ I thought it was some mistake” said Stepp, who started her teaching career more than 14 years ago.
She started teaching at Maddox Middle School in 2003.
Although Stepp said she felt “very honored to be chosen for the award,” she says receiving accolades is not at the top of her to-do list.
“I don’t want any praise and glory or anything like that for it (teaching) because that’s not what I’m there for,” Stepp said. “I’m there to teach them and help educate them.” Stepp added she is also at the school to serve as a mentor to her students.
Patsy Stricklin, the school’s principal who served on the teacher of the year selection committee, could not be reached for comment by deadline on Thursday.
Stepp, a native of West Virginia, studied math education at the University of Virginia College at Wise. However, her first exposure to the profession came about when she was involved in the PTA when her sons, Nick and Jake, were in elementary school.
She said working with other children through the Parent-Teacher Association made her think she would enjoy working with kids on a full-time basis.
Stepp came to Alabama in 1990 when her husband, Sam, received a work transfer.
As the top teacher at Maddox Middle School, Stepp will have her portrait displayed in the meeting room at Jasper City School’s central office where the Jasper City Board of Education holds its monthly meetings. The win also puts her in the hunt for the city school system’s secondary teacher of the year.
“We’ll have an elementary and a secondary teacher who will go on to represent the system at the regional level and state,” said school system superintendent Robert Sparkman.
Facing off against Stepp will be Teresa Kitchens, Walker High School’s teacher of the year.
Competing for the school district’s elementary teacher of the year is Meagan Fields from Memorial Park, Dionne Nelson from T.R. Simmons and Melanie Turner, an instructor at West Jasper.
Sparkman said all five teachers of the year will be recognized at the school board’s January meeting where they will receive certificates recognizing their accolades.
“We’ve got some goods ones,” Sparkman said about the winners. “These are all sound, strong teachers.”
Sparkman said performance in the classroom is not the only criterion considered when determining the teacher of the year.
“There’s a lot of things involved in this,” Sparkman said about the award in which community involvement is among the matters considered. “It takes a lot into account.”
Stepp replaced Greg Tinker, the 2009 teacher of the year at MMS. Tinker was also the school system’s secondary teacher of the year.
When she’s not teaching or grading tests, Stepp enjoys attending First United Methodist Church on Sundays and Crimson Tide football games on Saturdays.
“Usually during football season we can be found in Tuscaloosa,” said Stepp.
Stepp said the thing she most enjoys about being a teacher is the interaction she has with her students. At times, she said her lessons involve more than math.
“Just because you’re teaching them math doesn’t mean it’s strictly math,” she said. “Sometimes everyday life lessons are the best lessons that they learn from a teacher.”