VALDOSTA — Sara Wilder of Dewar Elementary was named Lowndes County Teacher of the Year and Cody Moncrief of Valdosta Middle School was named Valdosta City School Teacher of the Year at the 2015 Teacher of the Year Banquet. 

Valdosta North Rotary President Jan Brice said the event, in its third year, is designed to celebrate, honor and support public school educators in Lowndes County and Valdosta school systems.

Guests ate dinner while watching a video of how teacher of the year funds from last year were put to use in the classroom. Lowndes County School Superintendent Wes Taylor and Valdosta School Superintendent Todd Cason recognized all of the teachers of the year.

As the honored teachers took the stage, each was presented with prizes courtesy of the Rotary Club and various sponsors.

The two system teachers of the year remained on stage and received another prize from Steel’s Jewelry along with a free car for one year, courtesy of Langdale Honda Kia and field trip from Wild Adventures.

Checks were also presented to the school systems. Lowndes Education Improvement Foundation received $4,500 and the Valdosta City School Foundation received $3,500 from the Valdosta North Rotary Club.

Keynote speaker Kim Bearden inspired the crowd with stories from her life and experiences within the profession.

She is the co-founder of the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta that is known for employing unique classroom styles and teaching methods.

As a demonstration school, many teachers from Valdosta and Lowndes were able to visit the academy to observe the school’s practices and participate in hands-on workshops.

Bearden was also chosen from more than 70,000 nominations for the honor of Disney American Teacher Awards Outstanding Middle School Humanities Teacher.

Along with other accolades, she was named one of Georgia’s Most Powerful and Influential Women by Women Works Media Group.

She is the author of the bestselling book “Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me” and autographed copies for teachers in attendance.

“Your purpose is to encourage and uplift,” Bearden said. “You have been given a voice, so now it is up to you what you say.”

She shared her years of hardships along with how she managed to overcome and learned to not carry her issues into her classrooms.

“It’s really hard for broken adults to help broken children,” said Bearden. “All of these bad things happening didn’t define me. It is not what happens that defines who you are, but what happens through you.”

Valdosta North Rotary Club hosted the event with all net proceeds being donated to the school systems to help fund various projects.

Desiree Carver is Lifestyles Editor at the Valdosta Daily Times. She can be reached at (229) 375-5777.

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