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Rogers Named 2016-2017 Douglas County Teacher of the Year

 Rachel Rogers
Rachel Rogers
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In a sanctuary packed with the “best of the best” teachers in Douglas County and their supporters, Rachel Rogers from New Manchester High School was named 2016-2017 Douglas County Teacher of the Year. Superintendent Dr. Gordon Pritz announced the winner during the Teacher of the Year Celebration on September 29 at Central Baptist Church.

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 would 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. 

Ms. Rogers currently serves as science department chair at her school and holds the position of lead mentor to provide support for beginning teachers. During the 2015-2016 school year, Ms. Rogers was part of a team of teachers at New Manchester who instituted the First Annual REAL Forum at the school in an effort to encourage young ladies to a higher standard of excellence and offer sound direction and guidance. She emceed the event and spoke openly and honestly on the importance of young ladies valuing themselves. The event had standing room only.

“This is a stellar teacher who goes the extra mile to both motivate and engage her students. She is a proponent of making the curriculum relevant to the lives of her students and works diligently with her subject peers to create lessons that accomplish that goal,” remarked Connie Craft, principal of New Manchester until her retirement in May of 2016. “Ms. Rogers’ true gift lies in her ability to build strong, impactful relationships with her students by breaking down the walls of distrust and apathy in order to galvanize her students into action.”

The selection committee for Teacher of the Year observed Ms. Rogers in action in her classroom in August. Several members of the committee were so impressed with her high energy and motivational style of teaching that they were reluctant to leave her forensic science classroom after the observation period.

In addition to Ms. Rogers being named High School Teacher of the Year and overall Teacher of the Year for Douglas County, Carmilla Hilton from Factory Shoals Elementary was named Elementary Teacher of the Year, and Kelli Rowsey from Chestnut Log Middle School was named Middle School Teacher of the Year.

Ms. Hilton teaches fourth grade at Factory Shoals. She 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.” 

As a seventh grade science teacher at Chestnut Log Middle School, Ms. Rowsey is in 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.”

In addition to the teachers above, the other five semi-finalists for Teacher of the Year were honored at the Teacher of the Year Celebration. Dorsett Shoals Elementary teacher Quita Cole is beginning her 10th year teaching in Douglas County. After 10 years with first grade, she is excited in her 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.”

Semi-finalist 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.”

Another semi-finalist at the elementary level, 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.”

Dr. Sherry Sutton from Stewart Middle School was a semi-finalist for middle school. She is entering her 21st year of teaching. Dr. Sutton 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!”

A semi-finalist at the high school level, 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 is in 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.” 

All 34 Teachers of the Year were showered with gifts from over 70 local businesses. Major donations include the use of a new car for a year by the Douglas County Teacher of the Year from John Thornton Chevrolet; $1,000 to the Douglas County Teacher of the Year from Foxhall Resort and Sporting Club; $100 gift card for each of the 34 Teachers of the Year from GreyStone Power; iPad Air for each of the eight semi-finalists donated by Assured Comfort Heating, Air, Plumbing; Dell Tablets for each finalist from Dell Technologies; gift baskets and generous gift cards for the three finalists from Kroger Corporate; gift cards from MembersFirst Credit Union for all 34 Teachers of the Year; and $100 to each Teacher of the Year from Public Education Trust.

The 34 school level Teachers of the Year were selected by the faculty at each school in the spring of 2016. The selection committee chose eight semi-finalists from extensive applications submitted by all 34 Teachers of the Year. The eight Teacher of the Year semi-finalists were observed in the classroom and went through an interview process with a panel of judges. Douglas County Teacher of the Year Rachel Rogers will now 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.

In addition to the semi-finalists and level winners, the following school level winners were honored: Lisa Alexander, Arbor Station Elementary; Linda Rogers, Annette Winn Elementary; Tina Harris, Bill Arp Elementary; Tyler Hubbard, Beulah Elementary; Kelli Smith, Bright Star Elementary; Juanita McLendon, Burnett Elementary; Melissa Witcher, Chapel Hill Elementary; Zac Cooper, Chapel Hill High School; Toby Otts, Chapel Hill Middle School; Miranda Stanley, Douglas County High School; Noelle Belaski, Fairplay Middle School; Charisse Ramey-Ford, Factory Shoals Middle School; Sheri Moore, Holly Springs Elementary; Anay Barajas, Lithia Springs Elementary; Michael Bruner, Lithia Springs High School; Danielle Jiles, Mason Creek Elementary; Randy Pruitt, Mason Creek Middle School; Dr. Laurie MacDonald, Mt. Carmel Elementary School; Allison Piepmeier, Mirror Lake Elementary; Brandy Kirby, North Douglas Elementary; Ashley Dopson Thomas, New Manchester Elementary; Brett Robertson, Performance Learning Center; Stephanie Sanders, South Douglas Elementary; Pam Bryant, Sweetwater Elementary; Christopher Willis, Turner Middle School; and Stephanie Cox, Yeager Middle School.






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