Gibson: A ‘big deal’ and a ‘big honour’ to be named finalist for GA Pre-K Teacher of the Year

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Shannon Gibson was clearly caught off guard Monday when state education officials and local school administrators greeted her in front of her class. The pre-kindergarten teacher at Baldwin Elementary School was even more surprised when she learned why they were there. School principal Rodney Long broke the good news to Gibson that she is one of six state finalists for Georgia Pre-K Teacher of the Year.

Smiling broadly, Long capped off the announcement with a high-five.

The award, sponsored by the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, recognizes outstanding teachers in the field of early childhood education. DECAL commissioner Amy Jacobs was among special guests at Baldwin Elementary on May 16 to congratulate Gibson. The surprise announcement came with balloons and flowers and a check for $500 which Commissioner Jacobs presented to Gibson with explicit instructions to spend the money on herself, not her students.

Gibson was selected as Baldwin Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year for 2021-22. (Margie Williamson/Now Habersham)

Gibson was overwhelmed with the presentation. “It’s a big deal,” she exclaimed. “It’s a great honor to be a finalist. I really like what I do.

This isn’t the first time Gibson has been recognized by her peers; her colleagues named her BES Teacher of the Year for 2021-2022. Interestingly, Gibson para-pro Megan Peyton was named the school’s support person of the year. She then won at the district level. Together, the two make a formidable duo.

Baldwin Elementary Principal Rodney Long has worked with Gibson for 5 years and continues to marvel at the work she does with her students. (Margie Williamson/Now Habersham)

Principal Rodney Long praised profusely. He says Gibson is the most patient person in the world with four-year-olds who have never been to school. He points out, “She makes learning fun for them and keeps them engaged in the learning process. They are always doing something!

Gibson poses with her class, and (LR) Susan Adams, DECAL commissioner Amy Jacobs, and BES para-pro and Megan Peyton. (Margie Williamson/Now Haabersham

When asked what makes Gibson so special, Long said he couldn’t say enough good things about him. In the letter he wrote for her to be chosen as the Georgia Pre-K Program Teacher of the Year, he noted, “Ms. Gibson is loved by students, parents and staff. This love and respect is mainly due to this calm and friendly nature; something all families want in their children’s teachers.

Teachers must apply to be considered for the honor of State Teacher of the Year. According to Gibson, since she had already filled out the application for Baldwin’s Teacher of the Year, she decided to go ahead and send the paperwork to the state program as well. She never expected to hear about it.

Habersham County Elementary Schools Superintendent Rhonda Andrews explains that while this is a self-nomination process, “we at the county office approve of it. We also encourage outstanding teachers to apply.

Among other requirements, applicants for Georgia Pre-K Teacher of the Year must have been employed as a lead pre-K teacher in Georgia during the 2021-2022 school year, have taught as the lead teacher in a state pre-k classroom for at least three years and must plan to continue as the lead teacher in the program during the 2022-2023 school year.

Winners will serve as ambassadors for Georgia’s pre-K curriculum, including public speaking, representing Georgia’s pre-K at various meetings, and modeling effective classroom practices.

The number of senior state and county administrators who attended Monday’s surprise announcement reflects just how remarkable that distinction is. In addition to Jacobs and Andrews were Susan Adams, deputy commissioner for pre-K and institutional support at DECAL; Faith Duncan, Georgia Pre-K Director of Field Operations; Carrie Ashbee, executive director of the Georgia Foundation of Early Care + Learning; and Donna Marks, Georgia Pre-K Program Specialist for the Northeast Region.

Representatives from several Georgia educational agencies were on hand to congratulate Ms. Gibson. (photo provided by DECAL)

Gibson is one of five finalists named so far. The sixth and final runner-up will be announced later this week.

DECAL will select two statewide winners in September – one from a public school system and the other from a private daycare. In addition to the prestigious title, each will receive cash prizes. They will receive a check for $3,000 for themselves, $2,000 for a classroom renovation and supplies, and funds to cover substitute teachers while they attend teacher-related events. year.

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