NOTE: Each week we'll be adding a profile and photo of a school-level Teacher of the Year winner here!
CCSD Celebrates 2021 Teachers of the Year at Legacy Makers Banquet
2021 CCSD Teacher of the Year Chelsea Leming, a fifth-grade teacher at Indian Knoll Elementary School, accepts the honor at the 2021 Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration.
NOTE: A gallery of photos from the event is online here.
The Cherokee County School District saluted educators Thursday night at the long-awaited 2021 Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration.
The annual banquet to recognize all of CCSD’s school Teachers of the Year and to announce the overall winner is usually held in the fall. This year’s program was delayed due to the pandemic, and additional safety measures were enacted for Thursday night including limiting guests.
“This evening is so special to me and our School Board, as we celebrate our most extraordinary teachers, especially this year of all years,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “In times of uncertainty, they have been a source of security and stability to the students and families of Cherokee County. They have adapted to all that was asked of them this past year, while maintaining the success of our students, and we are grateful.”
The Legacy Makers event held at the Northside Hospital Cherokee Conference Center in Canton honored the Teacher of the Year for every CCSD school, including four finalists who were announced in February. Dr. Hightower opened an envelope at the event’s conclusion to announce that Chelsea Leming, a fifth-grade teacher at Indian Knoll Elementary School, is the 2021 CCSD Teacher of the Year!
“Chelsea is a visionary who puts so much care into teaching and making connections,” Dr. Hightower said, noting her leadership in promoting social and emotional learning programs at her school. “She makes me proud to serve as her Superintendent.”
Ms. Leming, who is in her 12th year as an educator, will advance as CCSD’s nominee for the Georgia 2022-23 Teacher of the Year competition.
“I’ve never been more proud of my profession,” she said upon receiving the award, adding that she, like Dr. Hightower said in his remarks, sees teachers as “front-line heroes.” “It is my absolute honor to represent this army of courageous, passionate, hard-working teachers who represent the #CCSDfam.”
The dinner, and the long list of gifts presented to the honorees, all were made possible thanks to the generosity of sponsor donations including Presenting Sponsors: Cherokee County Educational Foundation, Credit Union of Georgia, Northside Hospital Cherokee and Shottenkirk Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram of Canton.
David Booth, general manager of Shottenkirk, announced at the event’s close that Ms. Leming, as CCSD Teacher of the Year, would enjoy a free one-year lease of the vehicle of her choice from Shottenkirk. She told him she already had picked it out in her mind, as her dream drive for many years has been a Jeep Wrangler like in the movie “Clueless.”
The Finalists and CCSD Teacher of the Year are selected by a panel of community leaders who evaluate applications from each school’s Teacher of the Year; school winners are selected by their peers. The three other Finalists, who received additional gifts and recognition at the event, are: Cherokee High School theatre teacher Dr. Jodi Burn, E.T. Booth Middle School sixth-grade social studies teacher Cathy Fernandez, and Boston Elementary School fourth-grade Digital Learning teacher Brenna Lloyd. You can see the list of all Teachers of the Year online here.
All school Teacher of the Year winners each received a $175 Visa gift card purchased with donations from sponsors; a $100 local restaurant gift certificate from Shottenkirk; a $25 gift certificate from Practically Perfect Day Spa in Canton; a portrait by Lifetouch National Schools Studio; an engraved plaque; and a tote bag filled with supplies and gifts from sponsors.
The finalists, in addition to these gifts, also each received: a $500 Visa gift card purchased with donations from sponsors; $100 gift cards and $50 gift baskets from Kroger; $100 from Grace Ed Technologies (GET) LLC; $50 from AngelTrax; $50 from Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE); and other gifts.
Ms. Leming, in addition to the gifts already noted, also received:
• A $1,399 Microsoft Surface Duo (128 GB) from Southern Computer Warehouse;
• A $1,000 Visa gift card purchased with donations from sponsors;
• A $275 Day Spa Package from Practically Perfect Day Spa;
• A $200 gift card and a gift basket from Kroger;
• A $200 Amazon gift card from Ecolab; and,
• A compact laser printer and $50 Visa gift card from Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE).
Sponsors who made all of the gifts possible are:
• Presenting Sponsors: Cherokee County Educational Foundation, Credit Union of Georgia, Northside Hospital Cherokee and Shottenkirk Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Canton;
• Gold Sponsors: Kroger, Lifetouch National Schools Studios, Practically Perfect Day Spa and Southern Computer Warehouse;
• Silver Sponsors: AngelTrax, Cobb EMC, Ecolab, Grace Ed Technologies (GET) LLC and Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE);
• Bronze Sponsors: Alma Coffee, Chick-fil-A of Cherokee County, Double V Restaurants Inc. McDonald’s, HP Inc., Mosyle Corporation, NOVA Engineering & Environmental and Walden University.
School Board Chair Kyla Cromer congratulated and thanked the honorees on behalf of the School Board. She quoted poet Amanda Gorman: “There is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
“Thank you to each and every one of you for being brave enough to see it and brave enough to be it – to the 42,000 students we serve in this District,” she said. “There is a lot of light in this room tonight.”
2021 CCSD Teacher of the Year Chelsea Leming listens as David Booth, general manager of Shottenkirk, announces she will receive a free one-year lease of the vehicle of her choice from the Canton dealership.
CCSD Surprises District's Teacher of the Year Finalists
Four Cherokee County School District teachers learned today that they will advance as finalists for the CCSD Teacher of the Year award!
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower visited their classrooms to make the surprise announcement that they are the top four teachers of all CCSD schools’ and centers’ Teachers of the Year.
The finalists are: Cherokee High School theatre teacher Dr. Jodi Burn, E.T. Booth Middle School sixth-grade social studies teacher Cathy Fernandez, Indian Knoll Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Chelsea Leming and Boston Elementary School fourth-grade Digital Learning teacher Brenna Lloyd.
“We appreciate every one of our outstanding teachers, who all have worked harder over the past year than ever before, and these four are the best of our best” Dr. Hightower said. “Each of our finalists shows extraordinary dedication to their profession, their colleagues and, most importantly, to each child in their care. Congratulations and thank you for all that you do!”
The CCSD Teacher of the Year, who is one of these four finalists, will be announced during the Legacy Makers celebration this spring. The CCSD winner will represent the School District in the Georgia Teacher of the Year competition. The Legacy Makers banquet, and the prizes to be awarded to all of the honorees, are made possible by presenting sponsors: Cherokee County Educational Foundation, Credit Union of Georgia, Northside Hospital Cherokee and Shottenkirk Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Canton.
The four finalists – two selected from all elementary school-level winners and two from all middle, high and centers honorees – were chosen by a committee of retired educators and community leaders. Their selection was based on essay answers to questions about their careers and their views on teaching and education, and letters of recommendation from Principals, colleagues, students and parents.
Superintendent Dr. Brian V. Hightower presents flowers to Dr. Jodi Burn, Cherokee HS.
Cherokee High School theatre teacher Dr. Jodi Burn
Theatre teacher Dr. Jodi Burn teaches drama exceptionally well, but that is not her greatest talent, according to colleagues and students’ parents.
The Cherokee High School Teacher of the Year’s greatest talent is recognizing the star power in every student and developing ways for them to shine – whether onstage, backstage or offstage.
“Jodi is one of those teachers that draws the students in, making them want to be better,” one parent shared. “Better students, better friends – more importantly, better people.”
A 24-year educator, Dr. Burn took on her current role seven years ago and has grown the program’s participation and activities, expanded its community service, and adopted new ideas to better serve students. The program’s annual holiday play that stars students from the school’s Special Education program is renowned and inspiring to all involved, with many drama students seeking careers as Special Education teachers due to the experience working with their special “stage buddy.”
Dr. Burn, who while running the drama program also earned her doctorate and became a foster parent with her husband, measures the program’s successes by more than applause and awards.
“My greatest accomplishment in teaching is not what happens in the classroom or on the stage, but the relationships I foster with and among my students,” she said. “Our theatre program is a family, and I consistently remind my students that the program can only grow and get better with the peer-to-peer support and encouragement … and they want to be a part of the family they have created together.”
Dr. Hightower asks Cathy Fernandez's class what makes her a great teacher.
E.T. Booth Middle School sixth-grade social studies teacher Cathy Fernandez
Social studies expands to much more than history in the lesson plans of teacher Cathy Fernandez.
The E.T. Booth Middle School Teacher of the Year dedicates herself to ensuring her students see real-world applications of their lessons and learn life skills.
One innovative way the 14-year educator accomplishes this is through integrating STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts gained by volunteering two years ago to serve as one of the school’s Discovery Education cohort members. The eight-teacher team works with Discovery Education experts to develop ways to increase STEM instruction at the school and further develop a STEM learning culture schoolwide.
“While her subject area of social studies is not one that immediately comes to mind when thinking about STEM, Ms. Fernandez has shown time and time again the cross-curricular alignment that all content areas have in STEM education,” Principal Todd Sharrock said.
As a result of her STEM learning, Ms. Fernandez has transformed her classroom into a “learning lab” with student-centered lessons that incorporate skills they will need for future success. One example is the “For the Record” podcast project beginning this spring funded by a grant and planned in collaboration with the school’s media center. Through the project, her social studies students will conduct research and interviews and then use their technology skills to create podcasts about how their classroom lessons connect to their lives and their community.
“I don’t want my students to rely on rote memorization, but rather to know what happened in the past, why it happened, how it connected with other events, how the events relate to their personal lives, and accomplish all of those things using 21st-Century skills,” she said.
An emotional Chelsea Leming accepts flowers from Dr. Hightower
Indian Knoll Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Chelsea Leming
Former students of fifth-grade teacher Chelsea Leming describe her as the “amazing teacher you will never forget.”
The Indian Knoll Elementary School Teacher of the Year sees her students the same way – as amazing young people who can change her life for the better.
She remembers standing on the shores of Tybee Island with a student during a class field trip. It was a moment that “forever changed her teaching.”
“Wow,” one student said. “I’ve never seen this before.”
"Never seen what?” Ms. Leming asked.
Ms. Leming, who now is in her 12th year as an educator, said it was a deep “aha” moment. “I realized what a privilege it was to share such experiences with young people, and what a responsibility I bore to show my students the world.”
Connecting her students to the world now is a major component of both her social studies and English language arts lessons, showcased not only in the variety of what they read and watch, but also in how they together transform her classroom visually and connect with authors and experts from around the world through technology.
“Sometimes, I wish I could go back to her class, so that she could make everything I am learning now interesting and fun,” said a former student, who now is a 10th-grader. “She is a phenomenal teacher … but what she does best is spark her students’ interests and help them grow into themselves.”
Dr. Hightower surprised Brenna Lloyd and her digital learners with news she is a finalist for CCSD Teacher of the Year.
Boston Elementary School fourth-grade Digital Learning teacher Brenna Lloyd
Fourth-grade teacher Brenna Lloyd loves engaging with students in person -- morning meetings are a must, as is regularly eating lunch alongside them. She even makes it a priority to visit each student in her class at their home.
The Boston Elementary School Teacher of the Year, like all her fellow educators, had to give up that in-person experience when CCSD families sheltered in place in the spring.
But the 18-year teacher took an “all in” approach to teaching online and her successes led CCSD’s Office of Curriculum & Instruction to ask her to serve on the team of teachers that spent the summer helping to develop the Digital Learning program.
And she took it a step further by volunteering to be a Digital Learning teacher this school year, swapping in-person engagement for the best possible online engagement she could create through her dedication and care. Her successes have led other teachers to call upon Ms. Lloyd to improve their own online teaching.
“She makes me feel smart and important,” a current student shared, with her mother adding that the patience and love Ms. Lloyd pushes through the screen has made all the difference. “I can honestly say this year has been the most successful year for my child in many ways, and I owe it all to Ms. Lloyd.”
Ms. Lloyd sees making these connections, no matter where the classroom exists, as her most important contribution to education. “Strong connections are the key to a successful child … to feel empowered that, regardless of their skill set or their background, they can accomplish whatever is set before them.”
Congratulations to CCSD's 2020 School Teachers of the Year
Pictured above are just a few of CCSD's 2021 School Teachers of the Year winners.
Congratulations to the Cherokee County School District’s 2021 School Teachers of the Year winners!
Every fall, each CCSD school is asked to select its own Teacher of the Year. These school-level winners now are eligible for the honor of Cherokee County School District 2021 Teacher of the Year.
The Districtwide competition will be judged by a panel of retired educators and community partners based on applications submitted by the school-level winners. Four CCSD Finalists then will be announced by the Superintendent of Schools. They, along with all school winners, will be honored at the Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration in the spring ... at which the CCSD 2021 Teacher of the Year will be announced. The overall CCSD winner will be entered into the Georgia Teacher of the Year competition.
“We’re so excited to celebrate these outstanding teachers,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “This award program allows our educators to recognize the peers who they most admire for their skills as teachers, mentors and leaders. While the pandemic has postponed our traditional in-person awards event to the spring, the School Board and I look forward to thanking these exceptional educators then and joining with our CCSD Partners to present them with gifts of appreciation.”
CCSD 2021 School Teachers of the Year
ACE Academy: Jeffrey Hutto
Arnold Mill ES: Debbie Baluch
Avery ES: Alicia Thrower
Ball Ground ES STEM Academy: Jennie Allen
Bascomb ES: Suzy Gebhart
Boston ES: Brenna Lloyd
Carmel ES: Bill Barsh
CCSD Preschool Centers: Megan Vogel
Cherokee HS: Dr. Jodi Burn
Clark Creek ES STEM Academy: Rebecca Coleman
Clayton ES: Jada Hanson
Creekland MS: Liesl New
Creekview HS: Morgan Hudson
Dean Rusk MS: Laura Herrera
E.T. Booth MS: Cathy Fernandez
Etowah HS: Joshua Saye
Free Home ES: Katie Garrison
Freedom MS: Dr. Chad Barner
Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy: Cristin Bell
Hickory Flat ES: Rebecca Wooten
Holly Springs ES STEM Academy: Paula Neubert
Indian Knoll ES: Chelsea Leming
Johnston ES: Meredith Dayoub
Knox ES STEM Academy: Jill Oliver
Liberty ES: Tracy Wagoner
Little River ES: Stephanie Telaro
Macedonia ES: Robin Ballew
Mill Creek MS : Ryan Brumbelow
Mountain Road ES: Jenny Sullivan
Oak Grove ES Fine Arts Academy: Christy Cook
R.M. Moore ES STEM Academy: Patty Corneillie
River Ridge HS: Autumn Hamilton
Sequoyah HS: Travis King
Sixes ES: Jessica Jones
Teasley MS: Beth P. DuLong
Tippens Education Center: Maggie Power
Woodstock ES: Laurie McArthur
Woodstock HS: Stacy Ambles
Woodstock MS: Amanda Williams
2020 Teacher of the Year
2019 Teacher of the Year
2018 Teacher of the Year
2017 Teacher of the Year
2016 Teacher of the Year
2015 Teacher of the Year
2014 Teacher of the Year
2013 Teacher of the Year
2012 Teacher of the Year
2011 Teacher of the Year