2022 Teacher of the Year
NOTE: Every week, we publish a tribute to a different CCSD school's 2022 Teacher of the Year on our website and social media. You can read all those that have been posted online here.
CCSD Celebrates Teachers of the Year at Legacy Makers Banquet
Cherokee High School teacher Jonathan Gustin reacts after the announcement Thursday night that he is the 2022 Cherokee County School District Teacher of the Year.
The Cherokee County School District saluted educators Thursday, March 31, 2022 at the 2022 Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration.
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. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower opened an envelope at the event’s conclusion to announce that Cherokee High School teacher Jonathan Gustin is the 2022 CCSD Teacher of the Year!
“Jon is an exceptional educator who pours so much into his kids -- in the classroom, through the clubs he sponsors, in the community,” Dr. Hightower said. “He exemplifies everything we look for in our teachers. We’re proud of Jon, and we’re grateful for him and all he does every day for our kids.”
Mr. Gustin, who teaches environmental science including AP classes and is in his 13th year as an educator, will advance as CCSD’s nominee for the Georgia Teacher of the Year competition.
“It’s humbling to be up here tonight surrounded by such greatness,” Mr. Gustin said, adding that he is so thankful to work in “a school and, more importantly, a county that has an outstanding reputation.”
He then spoke to his fellow teachers, encouraging them to continue their important work and living up to the idea that students “don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.” “You are making such a difference every day for your students, fellow teachers and community,” he said. “Please keep spreading the importance of how much you care.”
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 Mr. Gustin, as CCSD Teacher of the Year, would enjoy a free one-year lease of the vehicle of his choice from Shottenkirk.
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: Hickory Flat Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Gina Haggerty, Little River Elementary School art teacher Emily Mickel and Sequoyah High School math teacher Andrew Oberlies.
School Board Chair Kyla Cromer congratulated and thanked the honorees on behalf of the School Board. She shared a question that Inky Johnson, a motivational speaker and former college football player, shared this week during a training session for CCSD Special Education leaders: “When adversity happens, will I still believe in what I’m doing?”
“You all have proven that’s a resounding ‘yes,’” Ms. Cromer told the audience of Teachers of the Year. “The adversity you’ve faced because of the pandemic, the attacks against your profession … you’ve pushed to the next level. We appreciate you. Keep up the great work!”
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 free family portrait from Cady Studios; a $25 gift certificate from Practically Perfect Day Spa in Canton; an engraved plaque; a $10 gift certificate from Riverstone Corner Bistro; and a tote bag filled with supplies and gifts from sponsors.
The finalists, in addition to these gifts, also each received: a $1,299 eGlass Technology Device package from ProLogics ITS; $500 Visa gift card purchased with donations from sponsors; $100 gift card and gift basket from Kroger; $100 Visa gift card from HP, Inc.; $100 Amazon gift card from Roof Tech Partners; $100 gift card from Practically Perfect Day Spa; $50 Amazon gift card from Cady Studios; $50 Amazon gift card from Contour Engineering; $50 Visa gift card from Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE); a gift certificate from Chick-fil-A, Cherokee County; a $25 gift certificate from Riverstone Corner Bistro; a gift certificate from Marco’s Pizza; and a bag of fresh ground coffee from local coffee distributor, Alma Coffee.
Mr. Gustin in addition to the gifts already noted, also received:
• A Microsoft Surface Pro X valued at $1,000 from Southern Computer Warehouse;
• An additional $1,000 Visa gift card purchased with donations from sponsors;
• An additional $250 Visa gift card from HP, Inc.;
• An additional $200 gift card from Practically Perfect Day Spa;
• An additional $100 gift card from Kroger;
• An additional $100 Amazon gift card from Gold Sponsor Cady Studios;
• A $100 Visa gift card from Traditions Turf Management;
• An additional $100 gift card from Riverstone Corner Bistro;
• A $100 Target gift card from zSpace;
• An additional $50 Amazon gift card from Contour Engineering
• A $50 Visa gift card from AngelTrax;
• A $50 gift card from Buffalo’s Café;
• A compact laser printer from PAGE; and
• A five-pound bar of chocolate from World’s Finest Chocolate.
Sponsors who made all of the gifts possible are:
Presenting Sponsors: Cherokee County Educational Foundation (CCEF); Credit Union of Georgia; Northside Hospital Cherokee; Shottenkirk Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram
Gold Sponsors: Cady Studios; Cobb EMC; HP, Inc.; The Kroger Co.; Poole’s Insulation Company; Practically Perfect Day Spa; ProLogic ITS; Roof Tech Partners; Southern Computer Warehouse (SCW)
Silver Sponsors: Buffalo's Café; Center Cut Catering; Chick-fil-A, Cherokee County; Contour Engineering; Professional Association of Georgia (PAGE); Nova Engineering & Environmental, LLC; Riverstone Corner Bistro
Bronze Sponsors: Alma Coffee; AngelTrax; BrainPOP; Cherokee Lanes; Double V Restaurants, McDonald’s; Ecolab; Marco's Pizza; Menchie's Frozen Yogurt, Riverstone; Modern Woodmen of America; Mosyle; Traditions Turf Management; Walden University; World's Finest Chocolate; zSpace
David Booth, left, general manager of Shottenkirk, announces at the event’s close that Mr. Gustin, as CCSD Teacher of the Year, would enjoy a free one-year lease of the vehicle of his choice from Shottenkirk.
CCSD Surprises District's Teacher of the Year Four Finalists
The Cherokee County School District on Feb. 16, 2022 surprised four outstanding teachers with the news they are finalists for the 2022 CCSD Teacher of the Year award!
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower visited their classrooms with balloons, flowers and the announcement that they were selected by the judging committee as the top four teachers of all CCSD schools’ and centers’ Teachers of the Year.
The finalists are: Cherokee High School science teacher Jon Gustin, Hickory Flat Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Gina Haggerty, Little River Elementary School art teacher Emily Mickel and Sequoyah High School math teacher Andrew Oberlies.
“Congratulations to our finalists, and thank you to all of our teachers for their continued dedication to excellence,” Dr. Hightower said. “The four finalists we celebrate today are the best of our best. I’ve read their applications and letters of recommendation, and there are common threads: deep subject knowledge, outstanding instruction, willingness to take on new challenges, mentoring peers, and, above all, how much they truly care about their students. As one student wrote in her letter, her teacher ‘is always there to help me.’ Thank you for being the helpers we all look for in life.”
The four finalists – two selected from all elementary school-level winners and two from all middle, high and centers honorees – were selected by a committee of retired educators, community leaders and the current CCSD Teacher of the Year. 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.
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. Additional financial and in-kind sponsorship opportunities are available; interested businesses and organizations are encouraged to please contact Penny Dempsey at email@example.com or 770.479.1871.
From left, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Cherokee HS Principal Rodney Larrotta, Cherokee HS Teacher of the Year and 2022 CCSD Teacher of the Year Finalist Jon Gustin, and CCSD Chief Operations Officer Dr. Debra Murdock.
Cherokee High School science teacher Jon Gustin
“Am I just teaching students the standards, or am I teaching them to be valuable participants in the community?” is the question Cherokee High School Teacher of the Year Jon Gustin poses to the teachers he mentors.
For Mr. Gustin, his constant mission is the latter. The 13-year educator, who teaches environmental science classes including the Advanced Placement (AP) course, has earned the respect of his students, their parents, his colleagues and educators districtwide through his dedication to elevate learning beyond expectations.
His instructional skill led to his appointment to assist the school district’s Office of Curriculum & Instruction in developing argument-driven inquiry lessons. These challenging lessons hone critical thinking skills and give students the opportunity to lead in their own learning.
“These investigations really define who I am as a teacher, by allowing students to reach their true potential,” said Mr. Gustin, who now trains colleagues in developing these lessons. “I truly believe that by having high expectations and appropriate supports, the students will always rise to the occasion and flourish.”
Mr. Gustin, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in science education, not only teaches students in the classroom, but he also leads them through the environmental action club, diversity club and conversation club to engage in their school and community.
“He has been a key factor in accelerating the way we help students here at CHS,” an administrator shared. “He does not blink when we have tough choices to make, yet he is always the first to give of his time and lead by example. He is one of the truest Warriors among us.”
Hickory Flat ES Teacher of the Year Gina Haggerty listens as Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Hightower tells her class she has been selected as a finalist for 2022 CCSD Teacher of the Year.
Hickory Flat Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Gina Haggerty
Over her 23 years as a teacher, Hickory Flat Elementary School Teacher of the Year Gina Haggerty has taught many lessons to her fourth-graders.
Like the Westward Expansion lesson, during which students learn about the struggles of the homesteaders … and reflect upon their own challenges, like moving and being the new kid at school. Through her dedication to advance students’ critical thinking, the lesson has evolved to include content mapping, problem-solving and Adobe Spark presentations of persuasive arguments, in the mindset of that time, as to why (or why not) they should go West.
“This unit best describes me as a teacher because I pride myself on creating a culture in my classroom where students show empathy, face adversity with confidence and compromise,” she said.
Ms. Haggerty has learned lessons from her students as she has developed this classroom culture. The morning meeting, or as she calls them “family meetings,” are where classmates, by sharing from their own lives, learn compassion, empathy, grit, perspective and resilience.
“Our days begin with building relationships and making meaningful connections,” she said. “If you’ve made connections with students and parents, they are more likely to be open and talk about adversities. This connection helps me better understand what’s driving students’ behavior and find strategies to help.”
Parents value the care she takes to connect with their children. “She helped my daughter gain her independence, gave her a drive for self-improvement and was 100% engaged in the process of learning,” one mom shared. “Mrs. Haggerty is committed to making sure they all succeed.”
Little River ES Teacher of the Year Emily Mickel reacts with surprise when Principal Matt Freedman and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Hightower interrupt art class with the news that she is one of four finalists for CCSD Teacher of the Year.
Little River Elementary School art teacher Emily Mickel
Cherokee County School District art teachers craft lessons that cross curriculum, blending history and literature with techniques that span time and culture. And Little River Elementary School Teacher of the Year Emily Mickel is a master.
One such lesson is based on a book by a contemporary African American artist, connecting art, literature and imagination through story quilts. After listening to the artist’s book, students discuss its meaning and then design a quilt reflecting their own dreams. Within that square, students use pastels, paint, crayon, marker, colored pencil to share their dream in full color.
Some draw their future selves, while others choose designs -- like gears to illustrate the dream of becoming an engineer. Ms. Mickel assembles the squares into a class quilt.
“Students see the finished product of putting each quilt square together to make a beautiful, collaborative piece of artwork,” said Ms. Mickel, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in her field. “There are so many valuable life lessons that students learn with this project.”
Ms. Mickel brings art to the entire community by organizing a school art show for which she frames a piece of artwork by each of the school’s nearly 1,400 students. Her efforts in and out of the classroom have earned the respect of colleagues and parents and the adoration of her students.
She recognizes students for excellence with plastic rainbow pieces to display on their desk, a colorful reminder of how much she values them. “She is truly kind,” one student shared, “She is highly creative and talented .. she is always there to help me.”
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Hightower shares the news that Sequoyah High School Teacher of the Year Andrew Oberlies is one of four finalists for 2022 CCSD Teacher of the Year.
Sequoyah High School math teacher Andrew Oberlies
Sequoyah High School Teacher of the Year Andrew Oberlies teaches brilliant students incredibly challenging lessons.
Example: his favorite lesson is “the derivative in calculus is the rate of change of a function.”
The 17-year teacher has mastered the science of teaching the rigorous -- Advanced Placement calculus, pre-calculus and multi-variable calculus – to gifted learners who will, in turn, challenge him. And he’s refined the art of reaching through the equations to build relationships with students. For these relationships, Mr. Oberlies realized early on, lead to greater student success.
“Students need to know that I am always willing to help them in math, but, more importantly, in life,” said Mr. Oberlies, who is frequently named by STAR Students, valedictorians and salutatorians as the most influential teacher in their time as students. “I believe education must include social emotional learning along with dialogue regarding character education and a respect for others. Beyond mathematics, it is the life skills I have taught that will help students beyond the classroom.”
His belief it not just theory, as students back it up with the evidence of their lives. One past salutatorian shared that Mr. Oberlies cared so much for each of them as students that he noticed their struggles, academic and personal – and always reached out to them. It’s common to see his classroom filled during his planning period with students looking for help -- with math and with life.
“When I lost my way, he would carefully remind me of the person I had told him a thousand times that I wanted to be,” she said. “The care and support that he provided me helped put me on the track to success.”
Above: CCSD Teacher of the Year Finalist Jon Gustin of Cherokee HS shares a laugh with his principal, Rodney Larrotta. Below: Dr. Hightower asks students in Mr. Gustin's environmental science class what they like most about their teacher.
Above: From left, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Hickory Flat ES Principal Kerry Estep, 2022 CCSD Teacher of the Year Finalist Gina Haggerty, and CCSD Chief Operations Officer Dr. Debra Murdock. Below: Ms. Haggerty is surrounded by her students offering congratulations and hugs for being selected as a finalist for 2022 CCSD Teacher of the Year.
Above: From left, CCSD Chief Operations Officer Dr. Debra Murdock, Little River ES Principal Matt Freedman, 2022 CCSD Teacher of the Year Finalist Emily Mickel, and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Hightower. Below: Students in Emily Mickel's art class applaud the news she is a finalist for 2022 CCSD Teacher of the Year.
Above: From left, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Sequoyah HS Principal Bob Van Alstyne, 2022 CCSD Teacher of the Year Finalist Andrew Oberlies, and CCSD Chief Operations Officer Dr. Debra Murdock. Below: Students in Mr. Oberlies' AP Calculus class share what they admire most about their teacher.
CCSD Announces 2022 School Teacher of the Year Winners
12/16/2021: Congratulations to the Cherokee County School District’s 2022 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 2022 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 2022 Teacher of the Year will be announced. The overall CCSD winner will be entered into the Georgia Teacher of the Year competition.
“Each one of these honorees has been selected by his or her peers in recognition of their excellence as educators – they are the best of the best,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “The School Board joins me in thanking them for the dedication, innovation and care they show every day in the classroom and throughout our community that earned them this award. We appreciate you and look forward to celebrating you in the spring!”
The annual Legacy Makers celebration, and gifts presented to the honorees, are sponsored by Presenting Sponsors: Cherokee County Educational Foundation, Credit Union of Georgia, Northside Hospital Cherokee and Shottenkirk Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram of Canton. Additional financial and in-kind sponsorship opportunities are available; interested businesses and organizations are encouraged to please contact Penny Dempsey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 770.479.1871.
CCSD 2021-22 School Teachers of the Year
ACTIVE Academies: Whitney Robinson
Arnold Mill ES: Alisha Talley
Avery ES: Heather Massey
Ball Ground ES STEM Academy: Julie Miles
Bascomb ES: Rhonda Ryder
Boston ES: Debbie Howell
Carmel ES: Jessica Million
CCSD Preschool Centers: Catrina Wilson
Cherokee HS: Jonathan Gustin
Clark Creek ES STEM Academy: Kim Harrison
Clayton ES: Jennifer O'Connell
Creekland MS: Jennifer Camp
Creekview HS: Janet Baggett
Dean Rusk MS: DeLaney Campbell
E.T. Booth MS: Lori Salvino
Etowah HS: Margo Kemmerer
Free Home ES: Kristin Davis
Freedom MS: Kim Hester
Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy: Allison Hawkins
Hickory Flat ES: Gina Haggerty
Holly Springs ES STEM Academy: Karen Schnell
Indian Knoll ES: Tara Costello
Johnston ES: Paige Chandler
Knox ES STEM Academy: Christina Parker
Liberty ES: Heather Juras
Little River ES: Emily Mickel
Macedonia ES: Barbara Scharich
Mill Creek MS: Amanda Carter
Mountain Road ES: Kristin Covington
Oak Grove ES STEAM Academy: Ally Potter
R.M. Moore ES STEM Academy: Lesley Carmichael
River Ridge HS: Tara Dugan
Sequoyah HS: Andrew Oberlies
Sixes ES: Lauren Grimsley
Teasley MS: Kerry Voytek
Tippens Education Center: Margie Pullen
Woodstock ES: Danielle Cosey
Woodstock HS: Henry Oglesby Jr.
Woodstock MS: Justin Brown