Coweta County TOTY finalists

by Celia Shortt

This week ends the three part series highlighting the 2014 Coweta County Teachers of the Year.

All the finalists will be honored on May 1 at the Coweta County Teacher of the Program. It will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the Centre for Performing and Visual Arts. The Coweta County Board of Education presents this program each year with the Newnan Pilot Club.

Brooks Elementary School Teacher of the Year Ashley Wilkes has been teaching at Brooks since 2009. She earned her bachelor of science degree in early childhood education from the University of West Georgia in 2010 and her masters in 2011. In 2013, she earned her specialist in education certification from UWG. Currently, she teaches fifth grade at Brooks. “To continue to enhance our profession, we must support those who are in the trenches,” said Wilkes. “Professional development on any level: whether it be within a school, county, or at a state level, gives teachers the tools to be successful, and the confidence to use them.”

Canongate Elementary School Teacher of the Year Pamela Barfield has been teaching at Canongate since 2002. She went back to school after being married for 20 years and earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia and her master’s degree from American College of Education in Chicago. She is also gifted certified. “One of the areas that a great deal of emphasis is placed on in education today is the use of technology,” said Barfield. “This is an admirable goal for education; but more often than not, the problem in reaching this goal is that so many schools do not have the resources to properly equip their buildings with computers. Budget cuts have hurt education across the state and nation. We must find other resources for equipping our schools with the latest technology.”

Moreland Elementary School Teacher of the Year Pamela Smith has been teaching since 2006. She earned her undergraduate degree and masters degree in early childhood education from UWG in 2006 and 2010. She also earned ESOL endorsement from UWG in 2010. Currently, she teaches at Moreland Elementary School as the early intervention teacher. “The first step to building a better educational system is to involve everyone,” said Smith. “Parents and community members are vital to making a school system program effective and making a difference in the lives of our children. In my classroom, parents remain involved in their child’s education. I encourage parents to volunteer in the classroom as often as possible to help offer opportunities that teachers cannot accomplish alone.”

Poplar Road Elementary School Teacher of the Year Dwight McDaniel has been teaching since 1998. He earned his undergraduate degree in family and child sciences from Florida State University in 1998 and his masters in elementary education from Old Dominion University in 2005. Currently, he teaches fifth grade math and science at Poplar Road. “I believe that my classroom is one of the more unique environments that I have seen in elementary education,” said McDaniel. “My goal is to want the kids thirsting to come to my class because not only do they feel loved and respected, but they will be challenged and will experience successes . . . I don’t want them to think that my class is just something they have to do; I want them to know that each lesson is a means to get to a goal whatever that might be.”

Western Elementary School Teacher of the Year Samiha Alexander has been teaching since 2006. She earned both her bachelor of science in elementary education and her master of science in special education from Valdosta State University. Currently, she teaches fifth grade, all subjects at Western Elementary School. “For the past seven years, I have learned that each day is not as the last,” said Alexander. “Each day I leave school having learned something new about myself and my students … As an educator, get to know your students, as you may need to modify your approach to motivate and engage your students.”

Maggie Brown School Teacher of the Year Jennifer S. Bailey has been teaching since 2004. She earned her undergraduate degree from LaGrange College in 1990 and earned her teaching certification from UWG in 2007. Currently, she teaches middle school math at Maggie Brown. “Educators have to be searching for and willing to try new strategies and methods in their classroom to keep students engaged and interested, leading to increased performance and mastery of the content,” said Bailey. “It is obvious that our world is constantly changing and all of us must be flexible, willing to try new things and have a positive outlook on the changes that are taking place in our education system.”

Evans Middle School Teacher of the Year Amy Addison has been teaching since 2000. She earned her bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Concord College in 1996 and her masters of education in curriculum and instruction from LaGrange College in 2011. She also earned her education specialist certification in curriculum and instruction from Lincoln Memorial University in 2012. Currently, she teaches eighth grade language arts and literature at Evans. “I firmly believe a desire to learn is one of those things that lie innately within each of us,” said Addison. “As humans, we possess an inner learning lamp that houses the joy of learning. One of the keys to a successful life is finding the spark that ignites that joy of learning and managing the flame over the course of a lifetime.”

Winston Dowdell Academy Alternative High School Teacher of the Year Wendy Rivers Arnold has been teaching since 1998. She earned her undergraduate degree in early childhood/special education from UWG in 1998, her masters degree in interrelated special education from UWG in 2003 and is working on her Ed.D in exceptional students/leadership from Northcentral University. Currently, she teaches a variety of classes for students in grades nine through 12 at Winston Dowdell Academy. “Teachers are asked to juggle many roles in our society, but I believe that those among us that are called to this profession are up to the demands,” said Arnold. “It is our job to create meaningful learning, to create a positive learning environment and to create successful young people to send out into the world.”

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