Ashleigh Brooks Wright knew she was Teacher of the Year at Southeast Bulloch High School but didn't know she would also be the 2023–2024 Bulloch County Schools district Teacher of the Year until that honor was announced during a banquet Tuesday evening.
"I can truly be described as a lifelong lover of learning," Wright wrote in an essay for the county Teacher of the Year competition. "With an innate curiosity and from an early age, I've found joy in seeking knowledge."
Currently Southeast Bulloch High's teacher of American government and Advanced Placement U.S. government and politics courses, she has been a teacher for 18 years, including 15 at Southeast Bulloch High and therefore in the Bulloch County Schools. Now she will represent Bulloch County in the Georgia Teacher of the Year competition in May 2024 and could advance to the 2025 National Teacher of the Year competition.
The Statesboro Herald, in cooperation with Bulloch County Schools, hosted the county banquet Oct. 10 in the Julian Room at Uncle Shug's BBQ Place on South Main Street. Most of the 15 school-level teachers of the year from the Bulloch County Schools attended, as did spouses and other guests and the principals and assistant principals who introduced and praised each of the 15 honorees.
Finalists & school winners
After a brief welcome by Herald Operations Manager Jim Healy, Superintendent of Schools Charles Wilson announced the top five finalists and then the winner.
Christina Grant, Mattie Lively Elementary School's Teacher of the Year, is first runner-up for the countywide honor. Kyle Rehm, Sallie Zetterower Elementary School's Teacher of the Year, was announced as district second runner-up. Statesboro High School's Teacher of the Year, Josh Hall, was named as third runner-up. Stefanie Harrelson, the Brooklet Elementary School Teacher of the year, was fourth runner-up.
Other school-level teachers of the year are Julia P. Bryant Elementary's Alecia Wiggins, Langston Chapel Elementary's Suzanne Wubbena, Langston Chapel Middle's Joni Chavers, Mill Creek Elementary's Naketris Hall, Nevils Elementary's Deborah Conner, Portal Elementary's Jennifer Bailey, Portal Middle-High's Dee Dee Thompson, Southeast Bulloch Middle's Jessica Elmore, Stilson Elementary's Nikki Simmons and William James Middle's Vernetta Staten.
Selected by their peers, school-level honorees completed applications with information about themselves and answers to essay questions. With identifying information removed, these were scored by a panel of community residents and retired educators.
Her mother a role model
This is the first county school district-wide win for Wright, but not her first time as a teacher of the year honoree. She was also chosen as Southeast Bulloch High Teacher of the Year back in 2014–2015. She was also a WTOC News Top Teacher, featured in January 2010.
Before arriving at Southeast Bulloch in August 2008, she had also served as a social studies teacher at Bryan County High School, in neighboring Bryan County, from August 2005 until May 2008. During that time, she was third runner-up in the Bryan County High Teacher of the Year competition in 2007 and its second runner-up in 2008.
One of the essay questions in the 2023–2024 Bulloch County Teacher of the Year application asked nominees what led them to become teachers and what they like most about being a teacher. Wright wrote with special fondness for the teacher she knew best as a child, her mother, who had a 46-year teaching career.
"Throughout my educational journey, I've encountered numerous teachers who inspired me, most notably my mother," she continued. "As my fourth-grade teacher, she was one of the toughest I've had, holding high expectations for me."
Wright said she can still recite a list of prepositions and a speech in the persona of Helen Keller, both of which she memorized for her mother's class.
"More than that, I remember her being recognized everywhere we went for the significant impact she had on her students' lives," Wright wrote.
She holds three college degrees, all from Georgia Southern University: a Bachelor of Science of Education in political science education, attained in 2004; Master of Science of Education in social science education, 2006; and Education Specialist in teaching and learning, 2009.
Wright has served in teacher leadership positions and on committees since early in her career.
Since 2018 she has headed Southeast Bulloch High's Social Sciences Department and been a member of the school's leadership team. She served on the Bulloch County Schools Grading Practices District committee for 2022–2023 and is a professional development training presenter for the district. She has been a Georgia Southern clinical supervisor and clinical associate for College of Education students' classroom experiences and student teaching since 2006.
Wright currently is an instructional video presenter for the Georgia Department of Education's "Let's Learn GA!" series
She was one of the founders of the local Ferst Readers effort. Operating in Bulloch County since 2012, the Ferst Foundation program provides a book each month, to keep, to children from infancy to 5 years old.
"She was one of the first teachers to sound the illiteracy alarm, and this lady took action," Wilson said.
Ashleigh Brooks Wright and her husband, Alan Wright, have two children, Brooks and Shelby Lou, both students in the Bulloch County Schools.
As district winner, Wright received a $2,000 prize, supplied by the Bulloch County Foundation for Public Education with a donation from insurance brokerage NFP and by Parker's Fueling the Community program.
Grant, as first runner-up, received a $500 cash award, and all of the 13 other school-level winners received $250 each.