School board names principal, teacher and support person of year

Principal of the Year Mark Sutton with his wife Alise, and sons, Addix, 14, Paxton, 11 and Michael, 7.

Diane Peltz – Contributing Writer

At last month’s meeting of the Macon County School board, three people were honored for their service to Macon County Schools. Mark Sutton has been chosen Principal of the Year, Thomas Graham was named Teacher of the Year and Christina Tallent was honored at Support Person of the Year. 

Principal of the Year

Mark Sutton has been chosen Principal of the Year. Sutton has been the principal of Macon Early College (MEC) for the past five years. 

He began his teaching career at East Franklin Elementary School in August 2000 and then went to South Macon from 2001-2004.  He taught at Franklin High School (FHS) for half a year and then Macon Middle School (MMS) from 2005 – 2007. Sutton taught Health and Physical Education at all those schools until he became Assistant Principal at MMS in 2007.  He served at MMS until Mountain View Intermediate School (MVI) opened in 2010 where he became MVI’s first principal.

“I served as principal at MVI for six years. I then choose to transfer to MEC to gain some high school experience and have been serving in this role ever since,” said Sutton.  “MEC is a wonderful school. The family atmosphere that is created by the students and staff make it a safe place for students to learn and grow.  MEC allows students to obtain a high school diploma and two-year college transfer degree simultaneously.”

Some advice that he would give to a middle schooler about MEC is, that it is a place where students are serious about their studies and dedicated to working hard to achieve their goals.

Sutton has been married to his wife Alise for 20 years. They met as students at Western Carolina University (WCU). They have three boys, Addix, who is 14, Paxton is 11, and Michael who is 7. They also have a dog named Bella.
Sutton enjoys exercise and sports.

 “I believe that exercise and taking care of myself makes me a better husband and father.  I have also volunteer coached multiple sports teams in Macon County and served on many community organizations that revolve around youth.  I truly enjoy working with youth and trying to make a difference.  I was born and raised in Macon County.  I have continued to pour my time and efforts into the community, mainly the youth,” said Sutton.  

His final words of wisdom to all students is, “Always believe in yourself”!  

Board announces Thomas Graham as Teacher of the Year

Thomas Graham, Teacher of the Year

Thomas Graham has been chosen as Macon County Teacher of the Year. This is his ninth year teaching Band at MMS. 

“This is my 13th year as a teacher,” said Graham. “I graduated from West Virginia Institute of Technology in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science in Music Education.  I received my Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Technology from Grand Canyon University.  I have taught band, chorus, piano, general music and computers.”

Before MMS, he taught in west Virginia for 20 years.  He currently teaches 7th grade band and 8th grade band and jazz band. 

“Teaching music is a fantastic way to connect with students in a different way than they often are able to in other classes,” said Graham. “In band, students learn to be creative in the way they perform music and also learn how to be a family and be supportive of each other as they learn.  Strange sounds come out of band instruments when played by beginners, but one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching band is to hear how amazing student abilities can grow in just a year.  All jobs have their ups and downs, but I have found that teaching is something that I thoroughly enjoy.  I do not dread going to work, I look forward to going each day. When students I taught years ago connect with me on Facebook or see me in person, it is always heartwarming to listen to them tell me something they learned in my class helped them as adults or how much band was a positive part of their youth.”

One of Graham’s favorite quotes is “Success does not consist of never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time,” by George Bernard Shaw. 

“I have enjoyed being a Macon Middle School Panther more than I can say in a  few words. I appreciate all my fellow teachers, administrators, and staff at MMS for all their hard work and making our school so successful. I have made many friends here and hope I have positively affected some lives along the way,” he said. 

“I am happily married to a wonderful lady named Marina Hunley-Graham.  Marina is the Artistic Director for the outdoor drama “Unto these Hills” in Cherokee.  I have three sons, two daughters-in-law and four grandchildren – all of whom live in Florida except for one son who currently attends Swain High School and still lives with us.  I have a cat named Jumper that truly lives up to her name. She is as energetic at 16 years old as she was as a kitten,” he shared. 

Graham’s hobbies include snow skiing, playing musical instruments, and he and his wife love to watch movies.

Christina Tallent selected as Support Person of the Year

Christina Tallent, Support Person of the Year

Christina Tallent began working at Cartoogechaye Elementary School in November of 2019.  She is a teacher assistant for the second grade block, which consists of four teachers. She explains. “I visit each of their classrooms at set times throughout the day to support them in any way needed.  This could involve working with small groups of students that need extra help, assisting with grading papers, filing completed work/forms, managing communication folders, and helping prepare weekly assignments/making copies, etc.  I try to take care of time-consuming, daily tasks, in order for the teachers to have more time for student engagement.  However, during the 2020/2021 school year, I also assisted in the third-grade classrooms and monitored the fourth grade during their recess time.”

Before working at Cartoogechaye, she was a substitute for Macon County schools starting in 2018, shortly after relocating back to the Franklin area.  Her previous career was as a Marine Biologist, working for both the UNC Institute for Marine Sciences in Morehead City and then the Virginia Institute for Marine Sciences at the College of William & Mary in Gloucester Point, Va.

“I really enjoy interacting with the students and seeing them acquire a new skill or achieve a goal.  Each day is different, meaning that although my rotation schedule is set, there are always new tasks or needs that arise.  I’ve yet to really find anything that I would consider a ‘dislike’ about my job.” 

Tallent has been married to her husband Joe, for almost 23 years.  The couple has two daughters.  Abby is 16 and has just started her junior year at Macon Early College.  Maddy is 10 and is beginning 5th grade at Mountain View Intermediate.

“The family has a tortoiseshell cat that ‘chose us’ shortly after we moved into our house,” she said of the family pet. “Although she is an outdoor cat, she doesn’t wander far from our front porch, where she can be found sleeping almost any time during the day. I enjoy cooking, working outside, gardening and also birding.”

Something she might tell her students is, “You can learn something new every day!” and to always “Be Kind.”

“After living all along the East Coast of the U.S., due to relocating for my husband’s career in the Coast Guard, I feel very blessed to be back in Franklin.  Although the town has grown considerably since I grew up here, it is a very special place and my heart is happy to be home,” she shared.


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