Biloxi teacher honored for turning tragic loss into life saving - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Biloxi teacher honored for turning tragic loss into life saving mission

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Pheon Chatman can turn any math problem into a fun challenge. Her strategy seems to be working. Every year, Chatman's students excel on their state math tests. Pheon Chatman can turn any math problem into a fun challenge. Her strategy seems to be working. Every year, Chatman's students excel on their state math tests.
To honor her dedication inside and outside the classroom, the Biloxi Rotary presented Chatman with the Beverly Briscoe Award. The award recognizes the academic and professional accomplishments of teachers. To honor her dedication inside and outside the classroom, the Biloxi Rotary presented Chatman with the Beverly Briscoe Award. The award recognizes the academic and professional accomplishments of teachers.
BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

A Biloxi teacher has only been teaching for five years. In that short time, she made such an impact on children that on Tuesday, the Biloxi Rotary Club honored her with the Beverly Briscoe Award. She was recognized for raising her students' math scores and for raising money to help save lives.

Pheon Chatman can turn any math problem into a fun challenge. Her strategy seems to be working. Every year, Chatman's students excel on their state math tests. It's hard to believe that teaching was not her first career choice.

"I always wanted to own my own foster home. As that dream got further and further away from me, I figured what better position could I be in than to be in a classroom with the kids?" said Chatman.

Chatman started teaching at Jeff Davis Elementary School five years ago. Then, tragedy struck.

Last year, her stepson, D'Iberville High student Fred Latrel Dunbar Jr., collapsed during a football game. Chatman said he had an undiagnosed heart condition. She decided to turn her tragic loss into a personal mission. 

"Didn't realize that so many schools were without defibrillators," said Chatman. "We lost our child, but we don't have to lose another one."

So Chatman and her husband helped organize a basketball game to raise money to buy defibrillators for area schools. To honor her dedication inside and outside the classroom, the Biloxi Rotary presented Chatman with the Beverly Briscoe Award. The award recognizes the academic and professional accomplishments of teachers.

"Her determination to reach out to others shows that she not only cares about the education of the children, but their health and well being, and that's truly remarkable," said Bill Briscoe, a Biloxi Rotary Club board member.

For the math teacher, the award wasn't about her. It was about the little ones who helped her on the long journey home.

"After I lost my son, I didn't know if I would be able to walk into that classroom again and do what I did," said a tearful Chatman. "But when I walked back, I had the support of my staff at Jeff Davis and all of my babies. I knew that I was in the right place."

Chatman received a bouquet of flowers and a $1,000 check. She dedicated the award to her students.

"We are going to take this award and engulf it together, because I share it with them. It's why I won the award and they were just as pleased as me being nominated for this award as I am," said Chatman.

Chatman is in the process of organizing a second benefit basketball game to purchase another defibrillator.

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