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Gues Column: Makers of contemporary black history: Part I Jemelleh Coes
W charles bonds

The following is the first of a four-part series on local African-Americans who are making positive contributions to their community. Part 2 will be published in Sunday's Viewpoints page.

Delving into history books and other sources reveals the extraordinary achievements of black Americans.

Research discovers that Madame C.J. Walker created hair products especially designed to enhance the hair of black women. Harriet Tubman was conductor of the Underground Railroad and led more than 100 slaves to freedom. Thurgood Marshall was the first black Supreme Court justice. Dr. Mary McCleod Bethune, the founder of the school that today is known as Bethune-Cookman University, became an important leader in higher education in Florida.

We relish and are proud of their achievements and the impact they have had on the American people.

The development of events and opportunities that impact a society begins when individuals commence their journey through life touching the lives of people in their society. In Bulloch County, there are several individuals in the community who have begun to have their impact on society. They are not only significant achievers because of their "firstness," but because of the importance of their contributions.

Jemelleh Coes, selected as the Georgia Teacher of the Year, has distinguished herself from among more than 160 teachers in Georgia. Her journey as State Teacher of the Year began with being selected by her peer teachers at Langston Chapel Middle School and from the system selection committee to receive the coveted honor in Bulloch County. Upon the recommendation of the superintendent of Bulloch County Schools, her name was submitted to the State Teacher of the Year committee. Thus, she joined the ranks achieved by another Bulloch County Teacher of the Year, Julie Lanier, to become a distinguished teacher in Georgia.

As Georgia Teacher of the Year, Coes has many responsibilities as an ambassador and spokesperson for public education in Georgia. She provides keynote addresses, facilitates workshops and serves on several committees of the state Department of Education and Professional Standards Commission. Representing Georgia in the National Teacher of the Year program, she has been invited to the White House to meet President Barack Obama.

Raised in Decatur, Ga., she is a product of the public schools of DeKalb County. At Langston Chapel Middle, she is a special education teacher of English and language arts.

Her teaching style seeks to capitalize on the strengths of her students. She endeavors to provide a relevant education by establishing high standards of achievement and expectations for her students. She believes that students should be taught how to make appropriate choices to improve their quality of life.

The work of an educator does not limit itself to the classroom. Mrs. Coes extends her dedication and love of teaching to a program called Delta Academy. This program fosters a love of science, technology, engineering and mathematics for middle school girls. Devoting her time to working with students in a local group home further consumes her weekends. She is an exemplary teacher and tireless educator for young people.

Coes notes that she has always wanted to become a teacher. Receiving her bachelor's degree in education from Georgia Southern University, she realized her dream of becoming an educator.

Dr. Charles W. Bonds is a former Bulloch County school board member and retired Georgia Southern University professor.


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