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Fun teacher may be tops in Georgia
SEBs Tiffany Todd a Teacher of the Year finalist
021109 SEB TEACHER TODD 02 web
Southeast Bulloch High School history teacher Tiffany Todd, center, reinforces a point to her class during a lesson on the events leading up the Civil War Wednesday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    Teaching her 11th grade U.S. history class at Southeast Bulloch High School on Tuesday, Tiffany Todd doesn’t stand in one place for very long. She’s always moving around the classroom, navigating between rows of desks as she keeps her students focused on the lesson with sing alongs and constant interaction.
    “I’ve heard it so many times that people call history boring,” Todd said. “That drives me crazy because history is so vibrant and full of life if you just look at it the right way.”
    Todd’s “fun” teaching methods not only were recently recognized at Southeast Bulloch and Bulloch County, where she was selected as Teacher of the Year for both, but also around the state. Todd found out Monday she is one of 10 finalists for the 2010 Georgia Teacher of the Year. The top teacher will be named at a dinner in Atlanta in May.
    “I was called to the office, so I was afraid one of my students had acted up,” Todd said. “But it was the state school superintendent’s office with the news. I was surprised and so happy. And also very humbled.”
Todd’s boss, SEB principal Joni Walker-Seier, however, wasn’t surprised.
    “Tiffany has a calling to be a teacher,” Seier said. “Mrs. Todd has a marvelous sense of humor, indeed her classroom is always filled with the sounds of laughter. Despite the fact that her courses are rigorous and the content demanding, it is obvious that everyone is having lots of fun.”
    Todd first came to SEB for her student teaching assignment in 1999. After graduation, she went to Claxton to teach for a few years and has been at Southeast for the past four years.
    When she was a student in the Georgia Southern University teachers program, Todd worked at SEB with now retired history teacher Bruce Wadley. He was so impressed with her love for her students and her command of her subject that when he retired he asked the school principal to hire her in his place.
    Wadley said, “Tiffany was without a doubt one of if not the most remarkable student teachers I ever saw in my 35 years in the public schools. What set her apart was the way she got the information across to her students. She always found the most unexpected and innovative means to engage the class, and they loved her for it.”
    Missy Bennett, Ed.D, is the coordinator of the Secondary Education Program at GSU. She was Todd’s mentor in college.
    “Tiffany works tirelessly (and) strives to model the best practices in her classroom,” she said. “(Her) high school students learn history by ‘doing’ history, not simply by hearing someone tell about it. I think so much of her teaching skills that I have placed many of my pre-service teachers in her classroom (because) Tiffany always seems to figure out what the student (teacher) needs most to develop into the best teacher they can become.”
    Todd is modest about her teaching, saying “I’m really still trying to find my ‘voice.’ But what I really want to do is serve as an example of what someone who had a broken childhood can do. I lost my mom at the age of 10, which absolutely altered the path that I was on”.
    Lewis Holloway, Bulloch’s superintendent of schools, said he thinks he knows why Todd is such a good teacher.
    “What has set Mrs. Todd apart from the rest of the teachers in our system is that not only is she a remarkable teacher, of whom we have many, but the fact that she has fought against such tremendous odds to get to where she is today is truly inspiring.”
    Todd talked about losing her father.
    “While I was student teaching at SEB my father was killed in a work-related accident. At the funeral home I was overwhelmed by the support of the SEB community: Dr. Tom Bigwood (SEB principal at the time) was there, as were many of the teachers and even a good number of my students..
    Taking a moment to gather herself, she said in a quiet voice: “At that moment I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I wanted to live here and teach at SEB. I don’t know if I actually asked God to replace the family that I had lost, but he was listening, nonetheless, and definitely answered my prayers.”
    Back in her classroom, Todd is teaching her students about Manifest Destiny, which guided the expansion of United States territory from the east to the Pacific Ocean in the 1800s.
    “It is from sea to shining sea,” she said, and leads the class in song. There are two more sing alongs in class Tuesday and Seier said that’s pretty typical.
    “One day I walked in and she was dressed like a character which the class was studying, and the next time I came by, she was leading the class in singing a rap song she had written about a specific event.”
    Statesboro Herald editor James Healy contributed to this report.
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