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The Cherokee County School District began a new tradition today by surprising four teachers with the news they are CCSD Teacher of the Year Finalists!
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower visited the four teachers’ classrooms to announce their selection, from the field of all CCSD schools’ and centers’ Teachers of the Year, to vie for the top honor.
“Our School District truly is defined by the quality of our teachers, both their classroom instruction and the culture they create as role models and leaders,” Dr. Hightower said. “With as many schools and teachers as we have, we certainly were ready to create another level of Teacher of the Year recognition. We’re so proud of these finalists; they’re not just great educators -- they’re great people.”
The finalists are: Tabatha Box, math teacher at Etowah High School; Jama McCartney, art teacher at Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy; Karen Reynolds, first-grade teacher at Little River Elementary School; and Dana Townsend, PE teacher at Mill Creek Middle School.
The CCSD Teacher of the Year, who is one of these four finalists, will be announced during the Legacy Makers celebration ?on Thursday, Nov. 1. 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 from the pool of all elementary school-level winners and two from the group of middle, high and centers honorees – were selected by a committee of retired educators and community leaders. The finalist selection was based on teachers’ answers to questions about themselves and their views on teaching and education, and letters of recommendation from Principals, colleagues, students and parents.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower gives Etowah HS math teacher Tabatha Box a congratulatory hug after surprising her with the announcement that she is one of four finalists for CCSD Teacher of the Year.
Tabatha Box, Etowah High School Teacher of the Year
Tabatha Box loves teaching math, so much so that the way to her heart on Valentine’s Day was a gift of a skirt patterned with equations.
She was wearing this skirt today, as Dr. Hightower surprised her and an Etowah High School classroom full of Advanced Placement Calculus students.
The 11-year teacher said she was rendered speechless by the news she’s a CCSD Teacher of the Year Finalist, but her students were quick with praise.
“She’s not only really fun, but she really knows what she’s doing,” junior Jesse Sebring said. “She’s fair, and she helps us learn.”
Ms. Box, who teaches math classes ranging from geometry to AP Calculus, earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Kennesaw State University. She began teaching in 2007, joining CCSD in 2014.
She survived a very challenging childhood, and, as a college student fighting for custody and then raising her younger brother, Ms. Box found her calling to help children through teaching.
“I hope to inspire the desire to learn for the sake of learning, to be hard-working even when times are tough and stressful, and to respect and be kind to those around you,” she said. “These are core values I instill in my lessons day to day.”
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower surprises Clark Creek ES STEM Academy art teacher Jama McCartney with the news that she is one of four finalists for CCSD Teacher of the Year, as Principal Joey Moss looks on.
Jama McCartney, Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy
As an art teacher, Jama McCartney teaches children to shape clay into pottery. Her colleagues say she’s just as gifted at shaping students into better people and her school into a better place.
“She loves what she does,” Principal Joey Moss told Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, as he surprised Ms. McCartney and her students today with the news she’s a CCSD Teacher of the Year Finalist. “She bleeds and cries RedHawk Nation.”
A founding teacher at the school that opened seven years ago, Ms. McCartney over her 15-year teaching career has made crafting outstanding school climate a personal mission.
“I see the whole child,” said Ms. McCartney, who earned two bachelor of science degrees from Bowling Green State University and was honored as Teacher of the Year for Oak Grove Elementary School in 2009. “I believe my greatest accomplishment in education is providing a safe place for students to explore art, but, more importantly, feel loved and valued for who they are.”
Fourth-grader Kaiden Cribbs said she’s done just that.
“I love her,” Kaiden said, after giving Ms. McCartney a big congratulations hug. “She teaches me technique, she explains, and she encourages me.”
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower surprises first-grade teacher Karen Reynolds with the news that she is one of four District finalists for CCSD Teacher of the Year.
Karen Reynolds, Little River Elementary School
Every day is different in Karen Reynolds’ classroom at Little River Elementary School, and not just because she’s taught curious kindergartners, and now first-graders, for 24 years.
It’s different because Ms. Reynolds puts so much creativity and care in her lessons and classroom, which when Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower came to visit today had been transformed into a campsite. As he announced Ms. Reynolds is a CCSD Teacher of the Year finalist, children peeked out of a reading tent, and adjusted their plaid flannel shirts (she wore a matching one) for photos.
“I’m very honored,” Ms. Reynolds said, and then gestured to her students, “This is why I do what I do.”
Principal Karen Carl said she wishes her children had experienced a year in Ms. Reynolds’ class, adding that when she visits the classroom for an evaluation, she “never wants to leave.”
“Her classroom is like magic, and she is the magician,” Ms. Carl said of Ms. Reynolds, who earned her education degree at the University of Tennessee and also has taught in DeKalb and Marietta.
First-grader Kate Ham clasped her hands and beamed, as she watched the presentation. “She’s a good teacher.”
Mill Creek MS Teacher of the Year and now CCSD TOTY Finalist Dana Townsend gets congratulatory hugs from students Jaiden Boyd, left, and Syriah Conerly.
Dana Townsend, Mill Creek Middle School
Mill Creek Middle School’s gym is not just a place for physical and health education when teacher Dana Townsend starts class.
The 22-year educator uses her experience leading reading, writing, science and social studies classes to teach across the curriculum, developing creative lessons in collaboration with colleagues that can engage students with varied interests in PE activities.
If that were not impressive enough, she’s added counselor to her job description as well, culminating with the creation this school year of a mentor program to ensure all students feel supported. “Every student,” she said, “deserves a community that supports their physical, mental and emotional health.”
“You mean the world to me,” the 22-year educator, who holds specialist and master’s degrees from Brenau University, told a gym full of students today upon learning she’s a CCSD Teacher of the Year Finalist.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower shared in announcing the news that Ms. Townsend is one of his former middle school students, which made the presentation even more special.
Eighth-grader Syriah Conerly was not surprised by the honor.
“She’s so caring,” she said of Ms. Townsend. “She can be goofy, but when it’s time to get to work, she’s serious. It’s tough love.”