Max Beigh winners share commitment to bringing out best in Madison County students

Two winners of the Anderson Noon Exchange Club’s annual Max Beigh Enriching Education Awards share a belief that they’re a small part of a larger community committed to bringing out the best in their students.

Chelsea Roller, a sixth-grade language arts and social studies teacher at Anderson Intermediate School, and Paula Simmons, the director of music at Elwood Junior/Senior High School, were honored in separate ceremonies recently. Both educators were lauded for their commitment to improving the educational experiences of their students.

“I was so humbled and overwhelmed,” Simmons said. “All I could think was, God, thank you for allowing me to be a part of these people’s lives.”

Roller said learning she had been chosen from among 17 elementary school nominees across the county was a humbling experience.

“I was completely shocked,” she said. “I was not expecting the nomination. I said at the award ceremony that I would love to try to make it as easy as possible for everybody.

"If I can help a student, I’m going to help them. If I can help a teacher, I’m going to help them. Whatever makes it easier for everybody else.”

The Max Beigh Awards, established in 2015, are named in honor of longtime Noon Exchange Club member Max Beigh, who was a teacher and counselor at Anderson High School for many years. He died at the age of 100 shortly before the first award was presented. Per his wishes, this award recognizes the significant role of every school employee in educating students.

Simmons, who has taught at Elwood for 48 years, said she views music as a vehicle to reach students who may not have previously inspired confidence in others.

“We want to try to touch one kid, one day at a time, whatever it takes to make them look forward to their future,” she said.

“What can they become? What can they share? What can they do? I’ve been blessed that I’ve had so many cool kids, and great parents that I’ve worked with all these years.”

Roller said she considers her award a collective honor because of the relationships she’s forged with other faculty members at Anderson Intermediate, which became an exclusively sixth-grade building this year.

“I love the people that I work with,” she said. “We’ve developed this close-knit friendship in the school but then also outside of school. It’s just really cool to see how our dynamic kind of came together.”