Picotte named state VFW Teacher of the Year
LVN Editor Emeritus
Tiffany Picotte has embraced patriotism and veterans in her class curriculum at Numa Elementary School as well as being married to a Navy aircrewman with the Longhorns Search and Rescue at Naval Air Station Fallon and being the mother of two active-duty sons.
Because of her longtime involvement in involving her students with the nation’s military, Picotte has been named as the 2019 state Veterans of Foreign Wars National Citizenship Award for Teachers at the elementary-school level. She now competes against winners form the other states and territories and will attend the national convention in July at Orlando, Florida.
Picotte was first selected as Fallon VFW Post 1002 teacher of the Year and then for District 4, which represents Churchill and Mineral counties and most of Nye County except Pahrump. The state has a total of six districts. Members of Post 1002 presented Picotte both with her national and local awards Jan. 22 in front of her fourth-grade students and her husband Paul, a senior chief aircrewman. She received $1,500 from the state VFW and numerous gift certificates and awards from the local post.
As a wife and mother of three servicemen, her goal is to create awareness for those who have served or are currently serving in one of the military branches.
“I create a comfortable environment for my military students to have an open and caring classroom that understands the challenges when relocating to a new duty station and also to talk about their military family members and their unique way of life,” she wrote in her application packet.
Picotte has provided a number opportunities for her fourth-graders to learn more about veterans. She has organized and displayed a tribute wall for Veterans Day; invited military personnel to speak to students about the importance of doing well on tests; had students create cards of appreciation to hand out to veterans at a breakfast organized in their honor; and invited active-duty personnel from NAS Fallon to the appreciation breakfast.
Picotte worked with members of SAR to bring a helicopter to Numa to be us a static display for students to visit throughout the day.
“They were able to visit with the team about their job and see the helicopter up close,” she explained, “Then they did a rescue demonstration rappelling from the aircraft to the survivor and then hoisting them back into the helicopter while at hover.”
Mike Terry, a Navy veteran and Fallon VFW member who organizes the teacher-of-the-year and student speech and essay programs, said the photograph of Picotte’s students looking at the helicopter was effective.
“I felt the static display and the kids beaming and sitting in the helicopter stood out,” Terry said, adding that her classes also participated in gathering items to send to the troops.
In his nominating letter, Numa Principal Shawn Purrell reinforced her efforts to bring a static display to the school: “For a year-end school event, she helped arrange for a helicopter static display from station SAR that allowed students to view a helicopter up close and speak to active-duty members about their jobs. The event highlight was a rescue demonstration by the SAR team.
Purrell added Picotte’s qualities and skills as a teacher are reflected in her students’ success.
Melissa Nusi, past president of the VFW Post 1002 Auxiliary and current scholarship program chairwoman, said the Teacher of the Award recognizes many people.
“It is a big accomplishment for the teacher,” she said, “but it benefits the school and the children who are in the teacher’s classroom or other classrooms.”
Nusi said the school district can also take pride in having a state teacher of the year, the third Fallon educator to do so in four years.
Picotte began her career in Churchill County in 2002 and taught sixth grade for 12 years. She developed an educational unit that focused on how the government works, and she also took her students through the justice system and crime investigation. The students also heard from a returning Navy SEAL member from NAS Fallon who discussed his deployment to Afghanistan.
“They were able to make connections to the current event with the ancient civilizations they studied from the same area,” she stated in her packet.
Picotte, who received her bachelor’s in elementary education degree in 1998, first taught in the Lyon County School District for four years. She earned a master’s in education from the University of Phoenix in 2002.