Craig Harris/Macon County Times Westside Elementary fifth-grader teacher Nikki Owen (middle) was selected as the Macon County Schools teacher of the year at Thursday afternoon’s Macon County Schools teacher appreciation day. Owen is pictured along with Westside Principal Angela Marshall (at left) and Macon County Director of Schools Tony Boles.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

Westside Elementary fifth-grader teacher Nikki Owen (middle) was selected as the Macon County Schools teacher of the year at Thursday afternoon’s Macon County Schools teacher appreciation day. Owen is pictured along with Westside Principal Angela Marshall (at left) and Macon County Director of Schools Tony Boles.

Nikki Owen set her sights on a career in education from childhood, and her work was recognized when she was named the Macon County Schools Teacher of the Year on May 9.

Owen, who has taught fifth grade at Westside Elementary School for four years, received the award at the Macon County Teacher Appreciation Day Luncheon, which was hosted by the Macon County Chamber of Commerce and held in the Sally Wells Building at the Macon County Fairgrounds.

"I was so excited (to have won) but also very thankful and grateful for all of the people ... who have really and truly helped me to become the teacher that I am," Owen said. "My favorite thing, above anything else, is watching my students grow every year. I also love growing in relationships with my co-workers."

Principals, supervisors and representatives from the Macon County Board of Education voted on which teacher would receive the designation after each school named a nominee.

"(Owen was chosen) based on her character in the classroom, love for students and dedication to her job," Westside Principal Angela Marshall said. "I was so excited for her to receive the award, and it's such an honor for her."

After earning a degree in elementary education from Tennessee State University, Owen accepted her first teaching position at Westside. She is currently working toward earning a master's degree from Union University.

"Math is my favorite subject to teach, which is very ironic," Owen said. "When I was young, math was probably my least favorite subject, but thankfully, I had some really great teachers who made math fun for me. As I got older, that became a passion of mine, and now, it's my favorite thing to teach."

Owen also gravitated toward working with fifth-graders because of their balance between youth and independence.

"At Westside, we're lucky enough to get to know most of the children from pre-K until they get to fifth grade," Owen said. "It's really special by the time they get to us in fifth grade since you've watched them bloom so much. Every year, you get to watch them grow a little bit more and turn into their own individual selves, and by the time they're ready to leave you in fifth grade, you've watched their entire education (so far)."

Making that journey with her students is part of what stands out to Owen about working at Westside.

"This year, I've had so many students come and say, 'I don't want to leave Westside next year ... I wish I could stay,'" Owen said. "All the little moments make the whole time I've been there memorable. I hope they take with them that we love them. They'll always be students of ours that can come back to us for whatever they need."

Owen says that a typical day in her classroom is a busy yet positive experience for her. In addition to teaching students their material, she leads them in conversation to keep each one active and involved.

"There is a genuine love for what she does that I see on a daily basis," Marshall said. "She is a very important part of the foundation of our school, even after only four years."

Moving forward, Owen plans to continue looking for ways to improve herself as a teacher. She credits her co-workers for her success so far.

"I've been blessed to work around the people I've been around these past four years," Owen said. "If it weren't for them, I would not be where I am today."