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Douglas County 2016-2017 Teacher of the Year Semi-Finalists Announced

Superintendent Dr. Gordon Pritz and the Douglas County School System are pleased to announce the eight semi-finalists for 2016-2017 Teacher of the Year. From 34 school level Teachers of the Year, these eight candidates were selected by a panel of judges based on letters of support and an application with extensive questions including factors that influenced the candidate to become a teacher, professional learning, community involvement, philosophy of teaching, education issues and trends, opinions on how the teaching profession can be strengthened, and the message the candidate would spread to educators across the state if chosen as Georgia Teacher of the Year.

At the elementary level, four semi-finalists were chosen. Dorsett Shoals Elementary teacher Quita Cole is beginning her 10th year teaching in Douglas County. After 10 years with first grade, she is excited to embark upon a new journey teaching 4th graders this year. Ms. Cole has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Alabama A& M University and a total of 15 years of experience in education. “My mission is to build relationships. It is essential in developing confidence, advancing risk taking, and growing hearts and minds who care for others.”

Robert Jackson, Eastside Elementary, teaches special education. After earning a bachelor’s degree in business and serving over 20 years in the U.S. Army, he obtained his teaching certificate in special education from the University of West Georgia. He taught six years at Yeager Middle School in a self-contained emotional behavior disorder class before moving to Eastside Elementary where he has taught special education reading and math for the past six years. “I wanted to become a teacher based on the ongoing principle that I enjoy serving others and that every child needs and deserves a quality education. I feel that this is my purpose in life.”

Fourth grade teacher Carmilla Hilton was chosen as a semi-finalist from Factory Shoals Elementary. Ms. Hilton has been a teacher since 1994 and taught for nine years at Eastside Elementary and for the last three years at Factory Shoals. Ms. Hilton has a master’s degree as well as a specialist’s degree and is currently working on her doctorate at Lincoln Memorial University. Ms. Hilton said, “To me, teaching is a “natural high” in life. I love to see children learn about themselves and others. There is no other place I would rather be than in a classroom waiting for learning to begin.” 

Ginny Head began her teaching career in 1997 at Bright Star Elementary. After eight years as a classroom teacher, she earned an ESOL endorsement from the University of West Georgia and a master’s in reading instruction. She has taught English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) at several Douglas County schools and at Winston Elementary since 2007. “The ESOL program is designed to equip students with the necessary language skills to be successful in the regular classroom.  My goal is to help move students through various proficiency levels until they are considered English language proficient. It is an amazing honor to represent my school as Teacher of the Year for 2016 – 2017.”

Two Teacher of the Year semi-finalists were chosen at the middle school level. Kelli Rowsey, 7th grade science teacher at Chestnut Log Middle School, is entering her 22nd year of teaching. She has been at Chestnut Log since 2013 and taught previously at Stewart Middle School. She has served in many capacities such as grade level chairperson, spelling bee coordinator, Learning Focused Schools facilitator, Relay for Life team member, and Junior Beta Club sponsor. “Although my classroom has four walls, I always strive to take students on a journey far beyond the walls by challenging, pushing and pulling them to think outside of the box through various inquiry-based, free-thinking, and innovative methods.”

Dr. Sherry Sutton from Stewart Middle School is entering her 21st year of teaching. She holds a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees, and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction. She has experience teaching in both private and public settings as well as undergraduate and graduate school. Dr. Sutton teaches ESOL and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) at Stewart and also serves as a volleyball and soccer coach for the school system. “I love my job and the students that I serve!”

Two teachers at the high school level were named semi-finalists. Alexander High School’s Karen Thornton comes from a long line of teachers. She earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Samford University and later became certified in special education and English in addition to P.E. She now has a master’s degree in English Education from the University of West Alabama. She just began her 9th year as an English teacher at Alexander. “I revel in my time spent teaching English, and I am satisfied in knowing I make a difference in someone’s life every day.” 

Rachel Rogers, science teacher at New Manchester High School, started her journey as a biology/pre-med major and had every intention of going to medical school. She used to volunteer to teach concepts to her college classmates and felt an inner sense of satisfaction whenever she saw the “a-ha” moment in the eyes of her colleagues. “After much thought and prayers, I entered a non-traditional master’s of education program and accepted my true calling.” Ms. Rogers has been educating and empowering young people for the past 20 years. 

The eight Teacher of the Year semi-finalists will be observed in the classroom and go through an interview process with a panel of judges. All community members are invited to the Teacher of the Year Celebration on September 29, 4:30 p.m., at Central Baptist Church. At this event, all 34 school level Teachers of the Year will be honored. The three finalists will be named – one each for elementary, middle, and high school levels. The event will conclude with the naming of the 2016-2017 Douglas County Teacher of the Year. This teacher will enter competition for 2018 Georgia Teacher of the Year. Last year’s Douglas County Teacher of the Year, Casey Bethel, was named 2017 Georgia Teacher of the Year and is currently traveling the state speaking to educators and community leaders about issues and opportunities in the field of education.

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