KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — When you hear about a director of schools, what comes to mind is someone at the top in the central office making tough decisions.

That is true for Director of Alcoa City Schools Becky Stone, with one big exception. She makes it a priority to get out of her office and into the schools to spend valuable one-on-one time with students and teachers.

It’s what sets her apart and makes her a truly remarkable woman.

She comforts children having a tough day with a hug and encouraging words. She celebrates children having a good day by singing “if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.”

Every day, Stone makes it her mission to be there for the kids and their hardworking teachers.

“And you do have to be very intentional about it,” she said. “Because your day starts with putting out fires and you could make that your day, all day long. That’s where my heart is. I’m not a business person, I’m not a political person, and so many times this job requires more of that than anything else. So, I have to be very intentional about where to keep my heart and my priorities and I’m able to do that here very easily because we’re here on the same campus.”

She continued, “As I have evolved in this journey, it’s become more clear to me why God sent me on this journey. I’ll never forget, I started as a middle school teacher and then went into school counseling and I was a school counselor for many years at the middle school level and then went into… I was a middle school principal and high school principal and now director of schools.”

Stone believed she could become an educator, and is proud of the work she has to get to her current position.

“I always knew I wanted to be that educator in the room that could talk to anybody,” she said. “No matter where you were in your life, no matter the socio-economic, I was that person for you. Because I love the fact that those people were that person for my dad and didn’t make him feel less than.”

Like more education fields, there are challenges.

“Right now, and I tell my people this, yeah test scores are important, I mean we’re held accountable by that, unfortunately, they are. Attendance is important, all those things are important but [remember to] love our kids. If our kids can’t feel loved and safe, they’re not going to learn,” she said.

With emotion, Stone said, “We have people come all the time wanting to talk about a book that’s in our library, that’s been in our library for 20 years with no problems, and they will come and they will battle us all day about that but we don’t really get that support we needed, even though these are people who haven’t been in a public school since they were in school.”

She continued, “And they don’t see the teacher that sits and holds a kid for an hour because this kid comes to school hungry and comes to school sick. They don’t see the teacher that is carrying a kid on their hip while pushing another one in a wheelchair. The teaching assistant over here teaching this child how to read and they’re ten years old and they’ve never seen letters.”

Wiping away a tear, she said, “They don’t see a teacher going to a kid’s home to hug that kid that has vomit on them because they have tried to resuscitate their mother who they found who has OD’d and the teacher who holds the kid? Those are remarkable people.”

Longtime teacher and friend Lisa Henry nominated Stone for our Remarkable Women contest.

“You became Director of Alcoa City Schools during the COVID pandemic, you led us through the pandemic with grace and care, you were the first school district in the United States to open and you’ve paved our way for other districts to follow. You’re a fighter, you’re not afraid of anything, you’re a good soul and that’s why I nominated you, friend.”

Stone as our local Remarkable Women winner heads to Los Angeles this weekend to join other local winners, where Nexstar will announce the national Remarkable Woman of the Year.

Stone also receives a $1,000 donation to the charity of her choice. It’s not surprising that she chose Alcoa Schools Education Foundation, a nonprofit that gives 100% back to the teachers Stone serves.