Bell Shoals Academy had three finalists, including Tara Simmons, Tasha Miller and D.J. Evers (not pictured).

Fourth grade teacher Tara Simmons from Bell Shoals Academy was awarded this year’s Shining Light Award, sponsored by Christian Business Connections.

“She actually does a really good job with connecting with the kids, which is really how the most effective way to teach kids is how to show them that you care for them and that you love them,” said Head of School Daniel Padron.

The Shining Light awards were started in 2017 to recognize outstanding private school teachers that exemplify Titus 2:7-8.

“The goal is basically to bless teachers,” said Christian Business Connection’s president, Ryan Hughes.

Christian Business Connections reached out to 12 private schools and asked them to nominate teachers who were deserving of the award. Each nominee was judged based on stories from students and parents, their success as a teacher and their involvement in the community outside of their work.

“Basically, it’s her body of work — including how she cares for them and how she invests in them and how she teaches the subject area and really is dedicated to what she does — is what makes her special,” Padron said about the math teacher.

Each finalist was given a gift basket of items and gift cards donated by local businesses.

This year, there were four finalists for the Shining Light Award: Foundation Christian Academy’s Tracy Olding and Bell Shoals Academy’s D.J. Evers, Tasha Miller and Simmons.

“Obviously, to say thanks to teachers that are willing to be Christian teachers in general I think is meaningful,” said Hughes. “They really do serve a big need.”

Padron is looking forward to spreading the news of Simmons’ recognition to shine light on her and highlight the work she does for her students and the community.

Simmons is the second Bell Shoals Academy teacher to win the award, joining 2017 winner Lisa Aune.

“There’s so much pride in having one of our teachers win that award,” said Padron.

Last year’s Shining Light Award was given to Foundation Christian Academy’s Terry and Margaret Reeves. Each year, the committee reaches out to around a dozen schools to request nominations for their outstanding teachers.

To learn more about the awards or the nomination process, visit

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Lily Belcher is a writer for The Osprey Observer and Christian Voice Monthly. She started as an intern in the summer of 2020 and has continued to write for the Osprey since completing her internship. Lily plans to attend the University of South Florida and major in Communications while writing for The Oracle.