By Bree Collar, Fannin Sentinel Writer
Since 1989 the Fannin County School System has highlighted the foundation of its educational approach to select and honor a county- wide Teacher Of The Year (TOTY).
Fannin County High School (FCHS) Jill Dyer took the 2021 win. Runner- up was Ashley Coffinger from Blue Ridge Elementary School (BRES) at the annual banquet Sept. 24 at Willow Creek Falls.
Each school in the system started the process by nominating and voting for their 2021 representative who attended last Tuesday’s event. The Teacher of The Year nominees chosen by their peers included: Coffinger from BRES, Dana Harper from East Fannin Elementary School, Kimberly Brannon from West Fannin Elementary School, David Queen from Fannin County Middle School and Dyer from FCHS.
A team from Pioneer Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA) focused on interviewing each Fannin nominee based on professional learning strategies in Georgia that guide teacher performance standards as the Board of Education and administration expressed the critical importance of strong and loving educators.
Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney said, “In a broader sense your work ensures the continuity of our great nation.
Our government which is for the people and by the people cannot exist without an informed system and our education system is a significant component.”
During a celebratory time for the teaching profession, he elevated the banquet, stating education is about people. Philosopher Sidney Hook said it best, “‘Everyone who remembers his own education remembers teachers, not methods and techniques. The teacher is the heart of the educational system,” Gwatney said.
Dyer, the 2021 TOTY, identified teaching as a profession that requires every part of you including the mind, body and soul.
“Knowing every student is different,” she said, “finding out their needs is essential.”
While it can be difficult at times, she said she relies on prayer and guidance from God to have the wisdom needed for helping each child.
“There are going to be those days when you’re not always successful. There are going to be those days when kids break your heart because sometimes you realize you want it for them more than they want it for themselves,” Dyer said.
Continuing to pray for guidance and strength can help you face each day. From every element of her teaching principles she said, “What I do is for the kids.”
Board of Education member Mike Cole reflected on the memories of those teachers who really made an impact on him during his early childhood education. Joyce Mitchell, 1991 Teacher of the Year, taught Cole at Morganton Elementary the year he lost two uncles. He said the comfort she gave him provided a love and comfort he will never forget.
At a recent board meeting he told everyone that Albert Einstein once said, “‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’” Looking deeper at his thought Tuesday, Cole said, “The reason he said that is your imagination will cause you to find the people that have the knowledge to get you there and I believe you are those people.”
Director of School Nutrition Candy Sisson organizes the Teacher of the Year process and banquet annually.
She presented Partnership Accommodation Certificates to sponsors including: Charlie Edmonson State Farm Insurance, Kevin Panter Insurance, Sisson Log Homes, TDS Telecom, United Community Bank, UNG Blue Ridge campus, Wilson Hamilton LLC and Willow Creek Falls.
Board Chairman Lewis DeWeese said a monumental year in the system developed with a charter system renewal, high rankings in accreditation, as well as preschool classes in each elementary school shows crucial devotion. A moment of eureka is something teachers can provide in helping a child’s mind open to learning at a new level where they may have previously struggled, DeWeese said.
Each teacher faces new challenges and experiences every day. To be chosen first by fellow peers to represent their school and then by their district to move on to state, the Teacher of The Year embraces education from the students needs. No other profession can enjoy the ability to influence and mold the next generation like teachers.
You change lives one day at a time, one student at a time,” Board Member Terry Bramlett said.