Three days after she was named the 2014 Georgia Teacher of the Year, Bulloch County’s Jemelleh Coes was happy to discuss the honor Monday at Langston Chapel Middle School.
Coes, a special education English language arts and reading teacher at Langston Chapel Middle, talked with reporters about the new title and her upcoming role as an ambassador for Georgia’s schools.
She was named the winner of the award at the annual Georgia Teacher of the Year banquet held Friday night at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta.
As the state’s top teacher, Coes will serve as an advocate for public education in Georgia.
“(Friday) evening was absolutely magical. The celebration was so exciting,” she said. “I was overwhelmed, I was shocked, I was happy and I was excited. I am truly honored and humbled.
“To be named the Georgia Teacher of the Year really means a lot, because I feel like I have a voice, and can use that voice for those here in South Georgia,” she added.
Coes, a Georgia Southern University graduate, is the youngest member of LCMS’s staff. She has spent all five years of her career at the school.
Coes is the site coordinator for the 21st Century Community Learning Center, an after-school program that serves 100 of the school’s at-risk students and was funded by a three-year, $350,000 federal grant.
She also mentors 30 local middle school girls outside of class to encourage their interest in science, technology, engineering and math, as part of the Delta Academy program.
Coes has worked with Ordered Steps Mentoring, which assists a girls’ home in Bulloch County, and supported with the Statesboro Kiwanis and Toastmasters clubs.
“Mrs. Coes not only teaches in the classroom, but in the community. She works 24/7 and is concerned about students’ academics and personal growth. She wants all students to be equipped to be productive citizens,” Langston Chapel Middle School Principal Dr. Evelyn Gamble-Hilton said. “She is a role model for many of us. She is diligent and energetic and strives every day to be her best. She is indeed a teacher leader — one who strives to be successful no matter what the obstacles may be. I am delighted to have her as a teacher here at Langston Chapel.”
Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson, who was on hand for the press event, said Coes exemplifies what it means to be a good teacher.
“Mrs. Coes represents what we really want to see in all of our teachers. She helps students become successful and feel good about themselves,” Wilson said. “Mrs. Coes is the kind of teacher that figures out how to make it happen. She doesn’t back down from a challenge. She is absolutely deserving of this award. It is quite an honor to have her here, as a part of Bulloch County schools.”
Along with the award comes new responsibility for Coes. She will embark on a yearlong sabbatical (beginning July 1) from the classroom to represent Georgia teachers by speaking to the public about the teaching profession and possibly conducting workshops and programs for educators. She will also compete for the 2014 National Teacher of the Year.
“What I love about this opportunity is that I can give South Georgia a chance to shine. A lot of time, Atlanta gets the focus,” Coes said. “We have excellent students and excellent teachers here. To be able to share that with the rest of the state and nation is going to be a great experience for me. I just hope to be a voice for the teachers and help make decisions for our state as we move forward. We are all in this together. If we are going to excel nationally and internationally, we need everyone on-board.”
The new role comes with one drawback, Coes said.
Many of my students have already told me that I’m not allowed to leave the classroom,” she joked. “I’m going to really miss the students. They are what I am here for. I’m just hoping that they can understand that me leaving the classroom is going to make things better for them in the years to come.”
Coes is Bulloch County’s second Georgia Teacher of the Year. Julie Lanier won the honor in 1985.
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.