2019 Teacher of the Year School Winner Profiles
Beginning on Nov. 9, 2018, each week we'll be adding a profile and photo of a school-level winner to this page!
Special thanks to our "Legacy Makers" Presenting Sponsors: Cherokee County Educational Foundation, Credit Union of Georgia, Northside Hospital Cherokee and Shottenkirk Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Canton!
ACE Academy 2019 Teacher of the Year: Pete Godfrey
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, ACE Academy 2019 Teacher of the Year Pete Godfrey and Assistant Principal Alan Diaz.
Pete Godfrey leads in the classroom as an excellent educator, but it’s on the basketball court where he makes what may be his greatest impact on students.
It’s there that the ACE Academy 2019 Teacher of the Year connects and engages with kids, coaching them with the care and respect that will influence their decision to stay in school and score future successes. Mr. Godfrey lobbied for the formation of the school youth recreational league basketball team, which began playing in 2015 and for which he serves as head coach.
“He’s making a difference in those boys’ lives as a coach, teacher and mentor,” a colleague said.
Mr. Godfrey’s passion for coaching is what led him to leave his career in the insurance industry 15 years ago to become a teacher and coach and earn his master’s and two specialist degrees in education. For the last seven years, he’s served as a special education teacher at ACE Academy.
In his own words: “The basketball team is instrumental in keeping some of these young men in school and assuring their graduation. It gives the students and the faculty a sense of pride in seeing their team and their students out on the court.”
Arnold Mill Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Brooke McMullen
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Arnold Mill Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year Brooke McMullen and Principal Dan Fuller.
Teacher Brooke McMullen’s second-graders master more than State academic performance standards during their year in her Arnold Mill Elementary School classroom.
They master social and emotional learning, too, and make a new friend for life in their teacher, who, for her dedication to each child, has earned her colleagues’ admiration and the title of Teacher of the Year.
Ms. McMullen, who has taught for 10 years at Arnold Mill – kindergarten, and now, second grade, calls her technique for connecting with students, “wayside teaching.” On the way into class, she greets them by name, a high-five and a question that shows she’s paying attention: “Did you lose that tooth yet?” “How was your football game last night?” And at the end of the day, the class holds an “afternoon meeting” to share problems – both academic and personal -- and help each other solve them.
“In her classroom, the students know that over anything, they are loved,” a colleague said. “This is what helps her students to thrive in her classroom. She provides them with a relationship.”
In her own words: “Along with the many roles teachers have to fill, one of the most important roles is to be each student’s champion – to believe in each and every student and make a positive impact each day in their lives.”
Avery Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Bonnie Smith
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Avery Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year Bonnie Smith and Principal Dr. Lisa Turner.
A special U.S. flag hangs in the main hallway of Avery Elementary School that symbolizes the impact of its Teacher of the Year, Bonnie Smith.
Ms. Smith’s first-graders each year “adopt” deployed service members as pen pals. Through the project, the students improve their writing skills, while also learning the importance of citizenship and service.
Each year, the lesson proves one of the most memorable for students, as they eagerly await responses from their pen pals and collect donations to send them care packages. The Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem, Veterans Day and Memorial Day… all became more meaningful.
Several years ago, one of the soldiers, whose aunt is a teacher at Avery, arranged a special thank-you. A U.S. flag flown over the soldiers’ barracks in Afghanistan was presented to the school during a ceremony in the cafeteria – where the students met their pen pals in person! It was, according to Ms. Smith, “nothing less than magical.”
The same could be said of Ms. Smith, a 25-year educator: “In addition to being a fantastic teacher,” one colleague said, “she’s shaping her class into caring individuals.”
In her own words: “My beliefs about teaching are demonstrated in this lesson because learning must be real, meaningful, valuable and pertinent to the students.”
Ball Ground ES STEM Academy 2019 Teacher of the Year: Lisa Nations
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Ball Ground ES STEM Academy Teacher of the Year Lisa Nations and Principal Dr. Christian Kirby.
Lisa Nations is a rock for Ball Ground Elementary School STEM Academy and her community.
A Cherokee County School District graduate and 35-year educator, Ms. Nations has fulfilled her childhood dream of being a teacher and making a positive impact on generations of Ball Ground children.
Today, she not only teaches the children of former students, she also teaches alongside former students, as four have chosen to work at Ball Ground ES STEM Academy with her.
“Lisa, in my opinion, is one of the chosen who was ‘called’ as a young girl in to the teaching career and has fulfilled her calling to the highest expectation,” one parent shared.
Ms. Nations’ legacy extends beyond the classroom, as she has taught many more children in basketball and softball as their coach, in Scouts as their leader, and in Sunday school and Vacation Bible School as their teacher. And she did all this for many years as a single mom to two after the tragic loss of her husband to cancer. As one parent shared: “There can’t be enough praise for Lisa.”
In her own words: “Teachers who feel their choice to be a teacher was a calling put in the long hours without complaining. They want to work with students to help them learn.”
Bascomb Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Leslie Kreiger
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Bascomb Elementary School Teacher of the Year Leslie Kreiger and Principal Kathleen Chandler.
When new kindergartners walk through the door of teacher Leslie Kreiger’s Bascomb Elementary School classroom, they find themselves eye-to-eye with her.
She kneels to connect with them at their level on their first day in a big new world of learning – one of many small details on her part that make a huge difference for students, according to parents.
“This little gesture eased the anxiety of those kids and, right away, they felt more at ease,” one parent said. “As a parent, I loved seeing how friendly and kind she was welcoming our son to his new classroom. Now, at the beginning of each new school year, I am always excited to see which one of my friends gets to experience the joy it is to have Mrs. Kreiger as a teacher for their child.”
A 22-year teacher, Ms. Kreiger’s care for her students and colleagues and her own continued growth -- like her current studies to become certified as an English for Speakers of Other Languages teacher and her adoption of a social-emotional learning mindset -- led her colleagues to name her Teacher of the Year. It’s her third time to earn this title, having previously won at Boston and Little River Elementary Schools.
In her own words: “I have spent my career fostering a sense of family within my classroom.”
Boston Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Lori Moore
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Boston Elementary School Teacher of the Year Lori Moore and Principal Valerie Lowery.
Lori Moore headed to college with plans to become a broadcast journalist.
But she soon realized the headline she hoped would define her life story would be a different one: “Educator Makes Positive Impact on Students’ Lives.”
She changed her major to education, and for the past 15 years has excelled as a teacher. She went on to earn a master’s degree in the field, and currently serves as an Early Intervention Program teacher for third- through fifth-graders at Boston Elementary School. Her devotion to students who need extra help to succeed, and her willingness to share best practices with colleagues, led the school to honor her as its Teacher of the Year.
Described by her former Principal as a “gifted and talented teacher,” Ms. Moore is praised as a “strong advocate for students’ rights, listening and acting upon their concerns without rushing to judgment… and setting a classroom expectation that our differences make us unique and should not be feared, but celebrated.”
In her own words: “Though it is easier said than done, taking time to get to know, listen to, and implement student interests builds relationships and trust, and creates an excitement for learning.”
Carmel Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Melanie Phillips
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Carmel Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year Melanie Phillips and Principal Paula Crumbley.
Kindergarten teacher Melanie Phillips’ heart hurts when she hears her students described as “those kids.”
“Those kids” who, because of their parents’ language or immigration status, are blamed for low test scores and accused of using up too many resources. The 22-year educator seeks out children whose parents don’t speak English as a first language and who may have immigrated to the country illegally.
Her desire, not just willingness, to help students facing additional barriers and the care she shows for them, led her colleagues to name her Carmel Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year. It’s the third time for Ms. Phillips to earn this honor, having previously won at Tippens Elementary and Hasty Elementary.
“She never allows anyone to feel unsuccessful or discouraged,” a former colleague said, noting that Ms. Phillips combines a fluency in Spanish with knowledge gained from a career of dedication and continued education (she has earned a master’s and specialist degrees as well as multiple endorsements) to help her students compete alongside those with fewer disadvantages.
In her own words: “I don’t deny that there is a problem with people entering the country illegally, but I want other people to understand that educators are dealing with children. Children are entitled to a good education regardless of the language they speak and their cultural backgrounds.
CCSD Preschool Centers 2019 Teacher of the Year: Lauren Garcia
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, CCSD Preschool Centers 2019 Teacher of the Year Lauren Garcia and Principal Victoria Thom.
Teacher Lauren Garcia meets parents at the beginning of their own learning process: raising a child with special needs. She teaches them expertly, as she does their children at the Johnston Preschool Center, about the importance of setting goals, valuing progress, and celebrating every success.
“We are blessed that Mrs. Garcia was put in our family’s path,” shared a parent of one of her former students. “Her expertise, dedication and compassion were all key to our son’s success. He continues to excel now that he is in kindergarten, and we know that is because of her outstanding work as his preschool Special Education teacher.”
This love for the students she calls “my babies” and “my kids” and her devotion to mentoring fellow teachers led her colleagues to name the eight-year educator the Teacher of the Year for CCSD’s Preschool Centers.
She “empowers her students and their families with hope and possibility,” a colleague said, while also raising the bar for herself and her peers as the Center’s mentor teacher for new teachers.
In her own words: “We have the ability and responsibility to see our students for who they are and help them become the best they can be.”
Cherokee High School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Ben Sosebee
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Cherokee High School 2019 Teacher of the Year Ben Sosebee and Principal Todd Miller.
Ben Sosebee is such a popular educator at Cherokee High School that students want to be in any and every class he’s teaching.
Mr. Sosebee, an 11-year teacher who currently teaches Advanced Placement Psychology and U.S. History, serves as head baseball coach and chairs the social studies department, has earned students’ and colleagues’ respect through his dedication to the craft of teaching and engaging everyone in learning. “No one,” he said, “ever said that school cannot be fun.”
His focus on finding that fun, and his success in helping students and peers do the same, won him the school’s Teacher of the Year title.
“Students want to be around him because he allows them to be themselves and learn in their unique way,” a colleague said of Mr. Sosebee, who holds bachelor, master’s and specialist degrees in education. Another noted his role as a “model teacher,” who is called upon to instruct his fellow teachers. “He is always available to fellow teachers to bounce ideas off of him, and also to ‘steal’ needed materials from.”
In his own words: “Students do not need to be browbeaten with a daily reminder that a test is coming up. They need to know that their teacher cares for them, not only as a student, but as a person.”
Clark Creek ES STEM Academy 2019 Teacher of the Year: Jama McCartney
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Clark Creek ES STEM Academy 2019 Teacher of the Year Jama McCartney and Principal Joey Moss.
As an art teacher at Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy, 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 said, as to why Ms. McCartney’s colleagues were inspired to name her Teacher of the Year. “If you ask Ms. McCartney about her job, she will tell you she is ‘just an art teacher.’ However, the Clark Creek community knows her to be much more. She makes a positive impact on not only me, but also on anyone in her realm of influence.”
A founding teacher at the seven-year-old school, Ms. McCartney over her 15-year teaching career has made crafting outstanding school climate a personal mission. In addition to being named her school’s Teacher of the Year, Ms. McCartney was selected as one of four finalists for CCSD Teacher of the Year.
In her own words: “I see the whole child. 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.”
Clayton Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Jane Jarrett
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Clayton Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year Jane Jarrett and Principal Abbey Philpot.
Even as a young girl, Jane Jarrett knew her calling was teaching.
Growing up, she loved to her hear grandmother talk about her career as a Cherokee County teacher – “her adventures… and the students who made their way into her heart.” Not only was Ms. Jarrett’s grandmother a teacher, so was her father and her aunt. And, in addition to Ms. Jarrett, her sister and many of her cousins chose the path as well.
As Ms. Jarrett’s class changed from her childhood toys to rooms filled with students at Sixes, Buffington and, today, Clayton Elementary School, she learned how personal her calling was. One of Ms. Jarrett’s children struggled with dyslexia. Her bachelor’s degree was in middle school education, but her son’s special needs led her to pursue a master’s degree in reading education, a certificate in special education and a mind filled with instructional strategies, so she could help him… and hundreds more students.
This dedication to learning, which led one colleague to describe her as an “entrepreneur” teacher, and willingness to share that knowledge, led to her honor as Clayton Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year.
In her own words: “My greatest joy and contribution is working with struggling learners until they grasp a concept that they have been working toward for an extended period of time.”
Creekland Middle School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Laura Brown
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Creekland Middle School 2019 Teacher of the Year Laura Brown and Principal Dr. Sue Zinkil.
Creekland Middle School special education teacher Laura Brown’s eighth-graders complete a project each year called “The Power of One.” They study the positive impact a prominent person in history, such as Malala Yousafzai or Jesse Owens, has made in the lives of others.
While she would never suggest it, Ms. Brown could be the subject of that project, according to her students, their parents and her colleagues, who praise her incredible devotion to recognizing and encouraging the potential of every child -- no matter their differences. The dedication she has shown to students over her 13-year career, including 10 years leading the school’s special education department, led her colleagues to name her Teacher of the Year.
Her concern for every student is evident, shared a parent, who experienced that care even though her child is not in Ms. Brown’s class: “As the parent of a child with learning challenges, I cannot imagine the patience and skill required to work with these amazing students five days a week. Her response is always, ‘Just doing my job. Aren’t I lucky to have such a great job?’”
In her own words: “My greatest accomplishments appear each May when the official graduating class of Creekview High School is announced. Each one of those accomplishments has a name in my memory and a place in my heart.”
Creekview High School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Liana Howard
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Creekview High School 2019 Teacher of the Year Liana Howard and Principal Dr. Mark Merges.
Creekview High School teacher Liana Howard has a quote from “To Kill a Mockingbird” on her English classroom wall: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”
Ms. Howard hopes her students leave her class better readers and writers, but also better people. This dedication to teaching life lessons beyond the required standards and syllabus led her colleagues to name Ms. Howard their Teacher of the Year.
“In an increasingly divisive public sphere, the need for empathy – attempting to understand another’s viewpoint – has never been more important,” said Ms. Howard, who began her career in 2013 and is on track to earn her master’s degree this spring. The Harper Lee quote, she said, “serves as a constant reminder to practice empathy within the confines of our classroom.”
Principal Dr. Mark Merges says this spirit shines through all Ms. Howard does, from the classroom to co-sponsoring and coaching its State Champion Reading Bowl team to supporting colleagues. “When you walk into Liana’s classroom,” he said, “students know they are important, and they work with a purpose.”
In her own words: “My central message to fellow teachers, students and community stakeholders is to create a path to empathy.”
Dean Rusk Middle School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Bonnie Jackson
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Dean Rusk Middle School Teacher of the Year Bonnie Jackson and Principal Dawn Weinbaum.
Our teachers are amazing, which is why we share the story of a school’s Teacher of the Year every week... please help us celebrate Dean Rusk Middle School 2019 Teacher of the Year Bonnie Jackson!
Bonnie Jackson is a teacher’s teacher.
She earns the highest praise from colleagues: they want their own children in her language arts classes at Dean Rusk Middle School. Teachers also want to learn from her. And they name her Teacher of the Year.
“Bonnie is what all teachers strive for – an advocate for children, who will never settle for second-rate,” a colleague said. “She gives her best and insists upon that from all around her.”
For the past eight years as an educator, Ms. Jackson has not only honed her excellent instructional skills, but also an important point of view on how she should define and recognize success.
“Achievement is not always about the high marks,” she said. “Achievement looks like students coming back to visit on a random morning. Achievement looks like a group of 40-plus students huddled around a teacher on ‘The Hill’ at a Friday night football game because they know she cares about them and their success. Achievement is knowing you made a difference in the life of a child, regardless of what it looks like on paper.
In her own words: “Connecting students globally starts with connecting students personally."
E.T. Booth Middle School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Kara Reeder
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, E.T. Booth Middle School 2019 Teacher of the Year Kara Reeder and Principal Dr. Michael Manzella.
E.T. Booth Middle School seventh-grade science teacher Kara Reeder does more than ensure students master STEM knowledge – she “truly changes the trajectory of students’ lives.”
One parent shared how, before Ms. Reeder’s class, her son didn’t like science class much. But after Ms. Reeder’s hands-on lessons connected to real-life experiences, that all changed. Now, she said, he’s a STEM Pathway student at Etowah High School focused on a career in engineering.
“The passion for science that she shares with her students is inspiring,” the parent said of Ms. Reeder, a 16-year educator, whose dedication to education earned her the school’s Teacher of the Year honor.
One such inspiring lesson: to teach her students about bio-medical engineering, Ms. Reeder tasked them with designing a prosthetic device for a person. The lesson began with a guest expert speaker from a bio-medical firm, continued with students developing a “back story” for their device’s recipient, and then designing the device. The lesson ended with even more impact: a guest speaker who is an amputee and lives every day with a prosthetic came into class to share his own story.
In her own words: “Challenging students to see the relevance in what they are learning allows them to make real-world connections. Finding the spark that will ignite their curiosity is the goal.”
Etowah High School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Tabatha Box
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Etowah High School Teacher of the Year Tabatha Box and Principal Robert Horn.
Our teachers are amazing, which is why we share the story of a school’s Teacher of the Year every week... please help us celebrate Etowah High School 2019 Teacher of the Year Tabatha Box!
Etowah High School math teacher 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.
The 11-year educator, 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, and in addition to earning her school’s Teacher of the Year title, was named a CCSD finalist.
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.
“Mrs. Box always makes sure patience and compassion form the foundation for her classroom,” a former student said. “It’s no easy task to make sure 30 students all understand a topic… but she makes sure they understand the concept before moving on and produces academic excellence from all of those that walk through her classroom door.”
In her own words: “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. These are core values I instill in my lessons day to day.”
Free Home Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Keith Furstenberg
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Free Home Elementary School Teacher of the Year Keith Furstenberg and Principal Kim Hagood.
Physical Education teacher Keith Furstenberg’s selection as Free Home Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year by his peers is not only an honor, but also is especially remarkable, according to the Principal.
The reason? He’s only in his second year of teaching at the school.
“That is a strong statement of his outstanding character,” Principal Kim Hagood said. “This, and his strong knowledge of content, passion for teaching and wonderful sense of teamwork are just a few of the reasons he was chosen for this award.”
While Coach Furstenberg is relatively new to Free Home ES, he’s a veteran PE, art and Special Education teacher with 20 years of experience and has earned Teacher of the Year honors from a previous school, as well as twice being named Forsyth County’s Environmental Educator of the Year.
But this comment from a Free Home student speaks even more to his abilities to make a positive difference in the lives of the children he teaches: “He will never know how much we love him.”
In his own words: “When there is a positive relationship between the students and teacher, it is feasible to reach all educational goals.”
Freedom Middle School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Kate Morris
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Freedom Middle School Teacher of the Year Kate Morris and Principal Sheila Grimes.
A defining lesson that Kate Morris teaches her reading and language arts special education students at Freedom Middle School is the preparation and delivery of a speech to the class.
Public speaking is dreaded by many middle school students, but often especially by special education students, who Ms. Morris said frequently believe the negative stereotypes about special education that she works to combat.
“They think they are ‘stupid’ because they are in special education and/or because they are in small group classes,” said Ms. Morris, a Woodstock HS graduate who began her career six years ago at Freedom MS. “By the end of the school year, I end up changing their minds because I instill confidence in them.”
And one way, she said, is the speech assignment. She tells the story a student with autism, and how her anxiety and self-doubt melted away as her speech, “How My Best Brings Out the Best in Others” was met with a standing ovation at its end – by the entire class of both regular and special education students.
“Ms. Morris,” one of her students shared, “has cared for me like no other teacher has.”
In her own words: “I love helping students reach their full potential even if they cannot see it in themselves.”
Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy 2019 Teacher of the Year: Sarah Munroe
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy Teacher of the Year Sarah Munroe and Principal Rodney Larrotta.
Hasty Elementary School Fine Arts Academy’s Teacher of the Year Sarah Munroe is a writing teacher, so what better praise than in the form of a letter written by one of her second-grade students.
“I think Ms. Munroe should be Teacher of the Year because she is a great teacher. Another reason is she has a room that feels like home. She explains how to write good. Mrs. Munroe makes writing fun. Finally, she deserves to be Teacher of the Year because she helps us write better and loves us.”
That combination of expertise, skill and care comes up again and again in the praise for Ms. Munroe from students, parents and colleagues, who say the 11-year educator makes writing exciting… even for those students who have the greatest challenges to overcome.
“She has created a safe environment for students to become comfortable with the writing process and motivated to become better writers,” a fellow teacher said. “Because of her caring and approachable demeanor, as well as her belief in the students, she has been able to foster a love of writing within her students, which has improved their writing levels and abilities. This is no easy feat when working with students who speak other languages and come from impoverished homes.”
In her own words: “Through relationships, a teacher can build educational foundations that last a lifetime.”
Hickory Flat Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Corinne Snow
Hickory Flat Elementary School Teacher of the Year Corinne Snow is not only a positive strong influence in the lives of her students, she also is one of the most positive people her colleagues have ever known.
“Shhhh,” one colleague shared, “don’t tell anyone, but I really think she is Superwoman.”
After the sudden death of her husband, renowned Cobb County PE teacher Coach Jay Ingram, Ms. Snow moved to Cherokee County and joined Hickory Flat ES as a special education teacher. Two years later, she realized she was being called to instead teach PE as her late husband did.
While this new path was inspired by his legacy, Principal Whitney Nolan said Coach Snow’s “quiet strength and caring heart for others” is why children beg to go to the gym for her classes and why her colleagues turn to her for a pep talk, a shoulder to cry on, and a true friend.
“Upon her introduction,” a colleague said, “I remember our administrators telling our staff about the positivity that she exhibited during her interview. It seemed strange that someone who had experienced such loss could actually have enough light about them that others would take notice of it. It didn’t take me long to see that their words were spoken in truth.”
In her own words: “Kids need to learn it is OK to fail and try again. They need to learn that academics are important, but so is their health. I’m always available to listen to a student tell a story or give a hug. Kids need to know we care.”
Holly Springs ES STEM Academy 2019 Teacher of the Year: Sonja Chapman
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Holly Springs Elementary School STEM Academy 2019 Teacher of the Year Sonja Chapman and Principal Donna Bertram.
A second-generation educator, Holly Springs Elementary School STEM Academy Teacher of the Year Sonja Chapman knew as a young girl that her calling was to be a superhero in the form of a teacher.
For her childhood teachers, she said, appeared as superheroes to her in the way they were both supportive and caring, while also in control of every situation and able to solve any problem before them.
“I attribute my love and success as an educator to my past teachers and mother because they made my dream of becoming someone’s superhero a reality,” said Ms. Chapman, who now is in her 22nd year of teaching and 16th at Holly Springs, where she currently teaches English language arts and social studies.
Ms. Chapman has fulfilled her heroic dream, according to parents and colleagues, who praise her focus on the individual whole child and willingness to support and mentor fellow educators.
“While in Ms. Chapman’s class,” one parent shared, “my daughter was not just taught the curriculum required for third grade, but Ms. Chapman also taught her new ways to deal with her anxiety and invested her time in letting her know how amazing she truly is.”
In her own words: “With the honor of teaching comes great responsibility.”
Indian Knoll Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Patti Nations
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Indian Knoll Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year Patti Nations and Principal Kim Cerasoli.
Indian Knoll Elementary School Teacher of the Year Patti Nations felt called to her profession as a young girl, transforming everywhere she went into a classroom for her siblings or stuffed animals.
That calling was reinforced by the outstanding teachers she had as a child, who made school special and showed her the positive influence of an educator for generations.
“Many times, I will dream of my old classrooms and teachers, as if it was meant for me to have those memories because I would one day use some of the same implementations in my own classroom,” she said.
Ms. Nations, over her 20 years as a kindergarten teacher, has not only carried on her former teachers’ best practices, she’s also expanded her own education and adopted new strategies and instructional technology.
One parent shares a sweet story of her very shy child’s first week in Ms. Nations’ class: “I was worried about him, so I asked, ‘Do you like Ms. Nations?’ He quickly replied, ‘No, Mommy… I love her!’ She made him feel safe and gave him the foundation he needed to be successful in school.”
In her own words: “If we teach with a servant’s heart to help others, we will not only educate students, but we also will change the lives of our fellow humans.”
Johnston Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Brittany Stalling
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Johnston ES 2019 Teacher of the Year Brittany Stalling and Principal Laura Akers.
Johnston Elementary School Teacher of the Year Brittany Stalling remembers when she realized her life’s calling.
Growing up, she would join her grandmother on running errands in town. There would always be at least one person in their path who would come up and say to her grandmother, a retired teacher, “Do you remember me?” She would remember each one and delight in the reunion.
“No matter the student,” Ms. Stalling said, “they would always end the conversation by saying thank you to my grandmother for making a difference in their lives. These moments influenced me to become a teacher to help turn a child’s dream into reality so that they can make a positive difference in the world.”
That is just what Ms. Stalling has done for the last five years since earning her education degree from Reinhardt University. Her commitment to combining new instructional practices with what she learned from watching her grandmother – deeply caring for each child you teach, has made her a school leader, according to her Principal: “She believes in true teamwork, and she has a genuine love for all people.”
In her own words: “Once we, as educators, students, parents and guardians, rise up to the call of action and use our powerful weapon of education, we can change the world in as positive way that can not only change humanity, but also help all press through the challenges in life.”
Knox ES STEM Academy 2019 Teacher of the Year: Nicole Waldrep
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Knox Elementary School STEM Academy 2019 Teacher of the Year Nicole Waldrep and recently retired Principal Tammy Sandell.
Knox Elementary School STEM Academy first-grade teacher Nicole Waldrep is praised by colleagues as an advocate, a saint, a friend -- and their 2019 Teacher of the Year.
A colleague describes the care with which Ms. Waldrep teaches her inclusion classes, which are classes made up of both regular and special education students.
“You would never know which students in her room are special needs students. She always includes everyone, and goes above and beyond to accommodate everyone’s needs,” she said. “Most people consider this class too challenging. Mrs. Waldrep never backs down from this class or any student.”
A 13-year educator, Ms. Waldrep began teaching as a second career after working in brokerages. After starting her family, she subbed in her children’s preschool and discovered her true calling. She went back to school to earn her bachelor’s degree in education, began teaching for CCSD and since has earned a master’s degree, too.
In her own words: “My greatest accomplishment in education is creating a safe and nurturing classroom where children know they are all special and treated equally. Every student deserves the opportunity to thrive in a challenging classroom, make friends, and be accepted.”
Liberty Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Angie Nalls
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Liberty Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year Angie Nalls and Principal Doug Knott.
Liberty Elementary School is renowned for its emphasis on service learning and promoting kindness, resulting in the achievement of National School of Character status.
And according to parents, fellow educators and her current and past administrators alike, first-grade teacher Angie Nalls is an amazing example of excellent character, which she models daily in her classroom.
“She recognizes the good in each and every one of the students who pass through her classroom door, and her students can feel that acceptance,” said a colleague, whose daughter also was a student of Ms. Nalls. “Now a fourth-grader, she still talks about the activities she did in first grade and the special days they celebrated together. She is the teacher that students remember, and other teachers aspire to be.”
A 21-year educator, Ms. Nalls has taught for the last nine years at Liberty, where she has been a leader in developing service-learning projects and engagement efforts, such as the establishment of an annual Grandparents’ Day celebration.
In her own words: “I hope that in doing service-learning projects each year, students learn to intrinsically think of others, help those around them in a tangible manner on a regular basis, and receive the positive feeling that comes when they have helped their community and others in a special way.”
Little River Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Karen Reynolds
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Little River Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year Karen Reynolds and Principal Karen Carl.
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 25 years.
It’s different because Ms. Reynolds puts so much creativity and care in her lessons and classroom. When Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower came to visit to announce her selection as one of CCSD’s Teacher of the Year four finalists, it had been transformed into a campsite, where children peeked out of a reading tent wearing plaid flannel shirts matching their teacher’s own.
Principal Karen Carl said she wishes her children had experienced a year in Ms. Reynolds’ class.
“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 is a two-time Teacher of the Year.
The parents of her students agree: “She has a way,” one shared, “of making school the best place to be, and her classroom one big circle of learning and friendship. That’s the Mrs. Reynolds magic.”
In her own words: “My greatest accomplishments lie in the relationships I have built with my students. While my students are only with me a short time, they leave my classroom knowing they are loved and special. They are my students for life.”
Macedonia Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Leah Parrott
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Macedonia Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year Leah Parrott and Principal Dr. Carolyn Daugherty.
Macedonia Elementary School Teacher of the Year Leah Parrott loves students who hate school.
She loves the ones who love school, too, but the ones who don’t are the challenge she looks forward to overcoming each new school year in her fifth-grade classroom.
“Once they walk through my classroom door, they become mine,” the 17-year educator said. “I love on them, I work with them during the day and also before and after school for extra help.”
That extra care pays off, for not only has it earned her high admiration from colleagues, administrators and parents, it also wins over all of her students.
“You’ve shown me that a great teacher is never just a teacher,” said a former student, who overcame his shyness during Ms. Parrott’s class and now is a college freshman. “A great teacher is also a great friend, a great mentor and a role model. Each and every one of my successes can be accredited to you.”
In her own words: “Often times, by the time students get to fifth grade, they don’t feel smart and will sit back and let others do the work for them. I want all of my students to feel safe to learn and try things out without fear of being wrong.”
Mill Creek Middle School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Dana Townsend - She is CCSD Teacher of the Year; please see profile on the previous page
Mountain Road Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Amy Kerwood
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Mountain Road ES 2019 Teacher of the Year Amy Kerwood and Principal Melinda Roulier.
Amy Kerwood is a third-generation teacher in her family, but she’s created her own legacy as an outstanding teacher for students facing special challenges.
As an early intervention program and English for Speakers of Other Languages teacher at Mountain Road Elementary School, the 19-year educator is known for her exceptional abilities to guide third- through fifth-graders who need extra help on their path to success.
“She works to meet the needs of each student in a caring, yet challenging environment,” one of her colleagues said. “I don’t think you will find a more dedicated teacher.”
In her classroom, connections make the difference – strong and positive connections with her students and their parents and her co-teachers, but also connections between classroom lessons and the “real world.” A favorite lesson for fifth-graders is the “resort project,” through which they use math skills mastered during the year to design and furnish a resort and then make a presentation to a “board of directors.”
In her own words: “Good teachers make connections to the world in so many ways that it almost becomes second nature. These connections can help students learn about the world around them and relate to it.”
Oak Grove ES Fine Arts Academy 2019 Teacher of the Year: Amy McCravy
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Oak Grove Elementary School Fine Arts Academy 2019 Teacher of the Year Amy McCravy and Principal Penny Valle.
Amy McCravy is a “top draft pick” teacher – when she’s interested in a job, there’s no one a Principal wants more.
The 12-year educator, who has served as a fourth-grade English Language Arts and social studies teacher at Oak Grove Elementary School Fine Arts Academy for the last seven years and who this school year joined Clayton ES, has earned that MVP status for her dedication to improving her craft for the benefit of both her students and her colleagues.
She’s especially gifted, colleagues said, at creating integrated arts lessons that bring history to life for her students, such as her Ellis Island unit focused on immigration in the 1920s. Students live the experience of an immigrant from that era – researching their lives and their experiences, creating fictional characters for themselves based on that research and chronicling their stories in journals, and then spending a day in a reenactment of Ellis Island at their school. They “truly connect,” she said, to the story of immigrants.
In her own words: “Students not only master their understanding of a major event in United States history, but also develop a connection to something bigger than them, and this is what will stay on their hearts and at the forefront of their minds as they go on to become our future. This is the part that is impactful, the part that is lasting, the part that makes a difference.”
R.M. Moore ES STEM Academy 2019 Teacher of the Year 2019 Teacher of the Year: Alison Hughes
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, R.M. Moore ES STEM Academy 2019 Teacher of the Year Alison Hughes and Principal Dr. Abby May.
R.M. Moore Elementary School STEM Academy special education teacher Alison Hughes is known as “a problem-solver,” “an innovator” and “an overcomer.”
Her colleagues, who describe her with those positive titles and who gave her the official title of Teacher of the Year, say her spirit to overcome every obstacle in her path influences her work to teach children with special needs to do the same.
“From the beginning of the school year, I tell my students: ‘Be confident in your answers and responses. It is OK to be wrong. It is not OK to not try. You can learn from your mistakes,’” said the 12-year teacher, who has earned bachelor’s, master’s and specialist degrees in education and whose knowledge and experience leads colleagues to turn to her for help with challenges they need to overcome themselves.
“Her commitment to growth and her students’ well-being makes her an outstanding educator,” a past administrator said. “She teaches her students to strive for excellence, to love learning and to respect each other.”
In her own words: “Not everyone learns the same process at the same pace as others, and that is OK. If everyone was the same, the world would be boring.”
River Ridge High School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Katie Freeman
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, River Ridge High School 2019 Teacher of the Year Katie Freeman and Principal Dr. Kerry Martin.
River Ridge High School teacher Katie Freeman specializes in a subject that many students may find intimidating: Honors and AP Chemistry.
But Ms. Freeman is just the right teacher for those students, as she overcame learning disabilities as a child and worked hard to succeed in school and then at college, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in secondary science education.
“One of my favorite experiences is finding those students who want to be challenged but are unsure of themselves; the ones who are not the stereotypical Honors or AP-level students, but who are willing to work and are wanting to learn,” the nine-year teacher said. “I love being able to fuel my students’ passion for science and watch them realize they are capable of so much more than they realize.”
Her former students praise her for creating a classroom where they could try, fail and try again: “Her classroom serves as a ‘safe space’ for all her students, and she seeks out students who seem to struggle… she still serves as a valuable resource and mentor for those of us who have graduated.”
In her own words: “My students are encouraged to follow their dreams. They learn they are capable of the hard work necessary to be successful, and many go on to not only follow their dreams but reach their dreams.”
Sequoyah High School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Paul Peacock
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Sequoyah High School 2019 Teacher of the Year Paul Peacock and Principal Bob Van Alstyne.
Sequoyah High School teacher Paul Peacock definitely wants his students to leave his class at the end of the year more knowledgeable about U.S. history.
But, according to his colleagues, Mr. Peacock’s second objective, which he also succeeds in achieving each year, shows why he’s revered by students, parents and fellow educators alike.
“He wants students to walk out of his classroom with the ability to think critically and to be prepared to be successful college students,” one colleague said. “I’ve heard from several of his former students, who always comment on how successful they’ve been in college thanks to Mr. Peacock’s class.”
A 20-year teacher, Mr. Peacock began his career as a museum education director and uses the creative skills honed there in his classroom to create multimedia, interactive lessons that impress even the brightest Advanced Placement students.
In his own words: “The true job and goal for me as an educator is and always will be to let the students explore and formulate their own conclusions intelligently through careful research and creative application. My job is not only to help them think and draw intellectual conclusions intelligently for themselves… but also to understand others’ positions that they may not agree with.”
Sixes Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year: LaTonya McGruder
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Sixes Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year LaTonya McGruder and recently retired Principal Cindy Crews.
LaTonya McGruder’s Sixes Elementary School students leave her math, science and social studies classroom knowing more than their lesson material.
For while this Teacher of the Year is an excellent educator with 26 years of experience and master’s and specialist degrees, she sees her No. 1 role as making sure each third- and fourth-grader knows she is “their No. 1 fan.”
She does this by learning their interests and what makes them laugh. She does this by showing up at their sporting events, recitals and birthday parties. She does this by putting in the research, thoughtfulness and hard work that creates memorable lessons and practices. Like how at the end of each day, students, while listening to the song “Shining Star,” circle the classroom with her to compliment every classmate.
It may be why each of her students thinks he or she is “her favorite” and why, as her Principal said, no matter how high a bar Ms. McGruder sets (and she sets it high) – “they always rise to her expectations.”
In her own words: “I love knowing that my students feel loved, respected and supported in my classroom and know that such a culture keeps them coming back for more.”
Teasley Middle School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Nicholas Garcia
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Teasley Middle School 2019 Teacher of the Year Nicholas Garcia and Principal Dr. Ben Lester.
Teasley Middle School seventh-grade social studies teacher Nicholas Garcia sees the world as a place full of stories. Many of them are bad: selfishness, exclusion, entitlement.
Through his work, the 10-year educator wants to teach students to write a new and better story for themselves and their world: stories of selflessness, inclusion and empowerment.
This commitment to teach children not only the standards for his subject, but also about their potential and possibilities, has earned him their respect, as well as his colleagues’, who named him Teacher of the Year.
“He comes in every day with the attitude ‘It’s a new day,’” one colleague said. “He displays this behavior with students. There are no grudges held about situations that happened the day before. His students feel that they can share whatever is on their minds with him. Our children need more teachers like Mr. Garcia.”
Mr. Garcia, who taught in Taiwan and Alpharetta before joining CCSD four years ago, also is praised for his knowledge of research-based instructional strategies and how to make lessons interactive … and fun!
In his own words: “I tell my students, ‘Don’t let fear rob you of your story. Don’t let fear turn your blockbuster life into a boring one. And remember, the great stories go to those who don’t live in fear.”
Tippens Education Center 2019 Teacher of the Year: April Popham
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Tippens Education Center 2019 Teacher of the Year April Popham and recently retired Principal Kelly Strickland.
One parent describes the students who Tippens Education Center Teacher of the Year April Popham serves as “star-shaped pegs in a world of square-shaped holes.”
What makes Ms. Popham such an extraordinary educator for these students, whose star shape often is officially diagnosed as autism, behavioral disorders or other special needs, is that she truly sees them as shining stars and helps them see themselves that same way.
“As a parent who for many years did not know for sure if college and career would be an option for my son, I can attest I see a very real and bright future for him,” a parent shared. “She goes far beyond teaching academics and meeting standards by challenging her students and finding ways to teach them where and how they need, so they can be successful and take pride in their accomplishments.”
A six-year teacher, Ms. Popham worked first as a school secretary, then media clerk and then paraprofessional, as she earned her teaching degree -- and high regard from her colleagues.
In her own words: “I believe my greatest contribution to Tippens is my bond with students. I am always there to give my kids hugs, fist bumps and high-fives. I work to provide a sense of security and stability to those who may not have that elsewhere. To this day, I believe I was sent to Tippens.”
Woodstock Elementary School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Katie Grooms
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Woodstock ES 2019 Teacher of the Year Katie Grooms and Principal Matt Freedman.
Woodstock Elementary School Teacher of the Year Katie Grooms makes magic happen for the littles in her classroom every day.
But she doesn’t stop there.
“We all feel a natural desire to do things for Katie like cook meals and buy coffee, simply because she strives to make the school a magical place to be,” one colleague said of the six-year teacher. “She deserves this award and many more.”
That magic, another colleague said, is created by Katie’s “contagious energy and positive spirit” shared with students, teachers, staff and parents. She excels in her roles as lead kindergarten teacher, student technology club sponsor, and unofficial technology “go-to” expert for her colleagues. “Her attitude is a blessing to all who cross paths with her,” a fellow teacher said.
In her own words: “Every child is capable of infinite possibilities. Educators have the most wonderful opportunity to influence and guide students into roles in society that they might not have even thought would be possible. Being a teacher is in no way an easy task, but it is by far one of the most rewarding professions.”
Woodstock High School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Dr. Derek Engram
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Woodstock High School 2019 Teacher of the Year Derek Engram and Principal Mark Smith.
Woodstock High School history teacher Dr. Derek Engram has seen many successes over his career.
The 21-year teacher, who holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in education, has taught many Advanced Placement students who have earned perfect scores. He’s coached golfers to State tournaments and earned Coach of the Year honors. He takes on challenges like forming a school debate team and guiding students to serve as mentors. And his colleagues named him their Teacher of the Year.
But the biggest honor, according to Dr. Engram and the colleagues who admire him for it, is being named – year after year – as Woodstock High School students’ favorite teacher.
“This,” one colleague said, “shows his commitment to creating a positive classroom environment that fosters community and mutual respect for every student.”
As one former student, who describes herself as “lucky” to be in his class, said: “He cares about every student who walks through his door, only wanting to make them succeed, not just in his class, but in life.”
In his own words: “The student connections that I have made over my career are my greatest accomplishments in education.”
Woodstock Middle School 2019 Teacher of the Year: Heidi Bentle
Celebrating at “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” are Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, left, Woodstock MS 2019 Teacher of the Year Heidi Bentle and recently retired Principal David Childress.
As a child, Heidi Bentle dreamed of becoming an inventor – learning how things work, taking them apart and reassembling them to make them better.
After a presentation in the eighth grade, Ms. Bentle’s teacher asked if she planned to become a teacher because “when you teach, people learn.”
As a seven-year Woodstock Middle School teacher, she does both. Ms. Bentle teaches, but she also invents opportunities, with a focus on students who need school to work better for them.
Because of this mindset, the former science and social studies teacher is now the school’s first drama teacher and drama club advisor … opportunities created to better serve students.
“Through Heidi’s efforts,” a colleague shared, “she has created a dedicated community of students, who now feel like they belong and are valued. They get to shine, whether it is onstage, creating the sets, publicizing the performance or working the lighting sequences. She’s bringing students together in a way that they enjoy and thrive.”
In her own words: “School culture is one of the most important aspects in education … and school culture begins in the classroom.”