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The Thomas J. Joiner Award of Education Excellence was name after the late Tom Joiner, scientist, philanthropist, dedicated civic leader and longtime resident of Tuscaloosa who passed in March of 2019 at age 86.

Mr. Joiner believed in the power of education to change a life and acted on his belief daily.  He was a pillar of the Tuscaloosa Community and a business leader.  He was a permanent member of the Tuscaloosa Education Foundation Board of Directors and took his position very seriously by providing leadership in intentional ways.  We will be forever indebted to Mr. Joiner for his contribution to public education and our community.  Tuscaloosa Education Foundation wants to reward those exhibiting his altruistic values of family, education, connection and philanthropy. 

Award will be given annually by the Tuscaloosa Education Foundation.

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2022 Recipient: Rev. Schmitt Moore

On August 25, 2022, at the TEF Gratitude Gathering, Rev. Schmitt Moore was named the Thomas J. Joiner Award of Education Excellence Recipient. Rev. Moore served as District 1 representative on the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education for 12 years. He served as the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church for over 26 years and was selected in 2018 to replace Bishop Calvin Woods as the Alabama president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He has served as the president of the New Antioch Bethlehem District [NABD] Minister and Deacon’s Union, Dean of the NABD Congress of Christian Education and secretary of the Alabama Baptist State Convention.

Rev. Moore, who was born in Greene County but raised in Tuscaloosa from the age of 5, has been a member and served enthusiastically many civic, religious and community organizations in our community. He was a founding member of the Tuscaloosa County Jail Ministry, the Tuscaloosa Nursing Home Ministry and Project BETHEL (Bringing Education to Help Expelled Learners).

2021 Recipient: Mrs. Jeanne Burkhalter

Jeanne Burkhalter, retired after 33 years in education as the principal of the Tuscaloosa Magnet Elementary School.  She brought this school from a concept to one of the best schools in the nation.  Jeanne started her career as a teacher's aide at Alberta Elementary School. A year later, she was hired as a kindergarten teacher at Woodland Forrest Elementary.  She served as principal of Cottondale Elementary in the county for three years. In 2013, Burkhalter was recognized as the Alabama PTA Principal of the Year, and the school achieved its long sought-after goal of becoming a fully authorized International Baccalaureate school — it became a candidate for the IB program in 2011.  Also in 2014, the magnet elementary school was selected as U.S. Department of Education National Blue Ribbon School under her dynamic leadership. A total of 337 public and private schools — including five in Alabama — were recognized as 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

What you may not know is that Jeanne Burkhalter, after several years in retirement, went to Dr. Mike Daria and said she wanted to try a technique that she had created based on her years as principal and her experience serving as a reading coach that would bring struggling readers to grade level.  She implemented the Book Buddies program, and it became a great success and ultimately is the Reading Allies Tuscaloosa program that we are intimately involved with today.  Her vision, her expertise, and her willingness to give back to her community through education is why she is received the Thomas J. Joiner Award of Education Excellence in 2021.

2020 Recipient: Shelley Jones

On November 3, 2020, the Tuscaloosa Education Foundation announced the Thomas J. Joiner Award of Education Excellence recipient Ms. Shelley Jones.  Shelley has long been an active community leader and lifelong educator.  Her career in education began first as a teacher at Northington Elementary and then a principal at Woodland Forrest Elementary. She is the recipient of countless awards for her work in education including The University of Alabama National Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumni Award (2017), three-time State PTA Outstanding Local Unit in Alabama Award, District III Alabama Association Elementary School Administrators Distinguished Principal Award, State PTA Outstanding Elementary Principal of the Year, National PTA Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Educator Award Honorable Mention and Alabama National Distinguished Principal Award. After retiring, she served eight years as a Tuscaloosa City School board member. She is also serving the United Way of West Alabama as their 2020 Campaign Chairperson.


Congratulations to Ms. Shelley Jones!

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2019 Recipients: Dr. Mike Dara & Dr. Walter Davie

On August 19, 2019, the Thomas J. Joiner Award of Education Excellence was awarded to the first recipients, Dr. Michael Daria, Tuscaloosa City Schools Superintendent, and Dr. Walter Davie, Tuscaloosa County Schools System Superintendent. These superintendents have bridged the lines of school zones and worked together for the good of a community. We want to recognize their contributions to K-12 education in our community as well as their altruistic actions toward developing a community of excellence for future generations. 

Thank you, Dr. Daria and Dr. Davie, for working tirelessly to promote change and create one voice for Tuscaloosa. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed, and the Tuscaloosa Education Foundation celebrates you!

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