Valdosta Daily Times

October 30, 2013

And ‘Teacher of the Year’ goes to ...

Valdosta North Rotary celebrates excellence in education

Kristin Finney
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Honoring teachers for their successes is one of the greatest gifts that a school system can give to their employees. Throughout the school year, Valdosta City and Lowndes County school systems have been honoring their teachers of the year through dinners, special gifts and public presentations.

On Tuesday evening, Valdosta North Rotary continued that tradition with their inaugural Teacher of the Year banquet. Hundreds of friends, family, board members, teachers and administrators gathered together from both school systems to honor each of the school's teachers of the year as well as the system wide teachers of the year.

"We are here to show our support for our public school educators in the Lowndes County and Valdosta City School systems. I have said this before, and I will say it again, teachers have one of the most important jobs in the world. They are helping educate the future leaders in this community," said Eric Johnson, member of the Valdosta North Rotary Club and organizer for the banquet.

Every school's teacher of the year was brought forward to be celebrated.

Lowndes County teachers that were recognized included Amber Harris, Clyattville Elementary School; Lauren Rutledge, Dewar Elementary School; Heather Dailey, Hahira Elementary School; Karen Dasher, Lake Park Elementary; Shirley Young, Moulton-Branch Elementary;  Ellen Hess, Westside Elementary; Larry Green, Hahira Middle School; Scott Wildes, Lowndes Middle School; Shelia Cook, Pinegrove Middle School; John Newton, Lowndes High School; Loran Brooks, Horizon Academy and Heather Epley, Pine Grove Elementary School, who was also named the system wide teacher of the year.

Valdosta City teachers that were recognized included Alicia Clarke, J.L. Lomax Elementary; Amy McDade, W.G. Nunn Elementary; Mary Beth Sebring, S.L. Mason Elementary; Johnnie L. Marshall Jr., Valdosta Early College Academy; Paris Darby, Pinevale Learning Center; James L. White, Valdosta High School; Melanie Chastang, J.L. Newbern Middle School; Ashley D. Berry, Valdosta Middle School; Marguerite Tullos, Southeast Elementary and Billie Page, Sallas Mahone, was named the system wide teacher of the year.

Both of the system wide teachers of the year were presented with cash gifts from Valdosta North Rotary as well as a diamond pendent and $250 gift card from Steele's Jewelry.

Chris Thomas and Leslie Parker from the Valdosta and Lowndes County Educational Foundations came forward, and both school systems were presented with checks from the Valdosta North Rotary. Both systems received $1,000 per school in the district, to be used by the Teacher of the Year in the classroom. Lowndes County received $12,000 and Valdosta City received $10,000.

The key note speaker for the event was Ron Clark, two time New York Times bestselling author, Disney American Teacher of the Year and founder of the Ron Clark Academy. Clark, often referred to as "America's Educator", spoke about the importance of not slowing down as an educator. He encouraged the teachers to try different tactics when teaching and to continue to be excited to help their students.

"Schools are like buses. You have runners, joggers, walkers and riders. You are all runners. Thank you for not slowing down. You have to find ways to continue to put passion into the kids. Look at the power of what you have; it's incredible. Don't be afraid, you have to go for it," said Clark.

He continued, "It's great to see such a connected commu