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Reading-driven Reagan honored as top Bulloch teacher
Mill Creek Elementary educator named Teacher of the Year
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Reagan and Carter for 2018: Susan Reagan, center left, and Vickki Carter, center right, are Bulloch County Teacher of the Year winner and runner-up, respectively, with Reagan potentially eligible for the 2018 national award. Superintendent Charles Wilson, left, and Foundation for Public Education Treasurer Billy Yawn presented prizes. - photo by AL HACKLE/Staff

Bulloch County Schools Teacher of the Year Susan Reagan expresses a strong belief in the power of reading.

Her fellow teachers at Mill Creek Elementary School had selected Reagan in May to be the school’s next Teacher of the Year. She specializes in teaching reading and currently works with children from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Thursday evening in the Statesboro High School media center, she sat with most of the other 14 school-level honorees for the big reveal of the countywide winner and runner-up. The runner-up is Vickki Carter, who teaches eighth-grade language arts at Southeast Bulloch Middle School.

To get this far, teachers completed applications that required writing essays in answer to seven questions. They also received supporting letters from principals and others.

Asked about her greatest contributions to education, Reagan quoted 19th century escaped slave-turned-abolitionist leader Frederick Douglas on literacy as the foundation of a free life: “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

“I believe that with every ounce of my being,” Reagan wrote. “I know that my students are stronger, more capable. That is what influences me to strive daily to be the best darn reading teacher you’ll ever meet.”

Reagan has taught 22 years thus far, all in the Bulloch County Schools. She is now in her third year as special education reading teacher at Mill Creek.

She previously taught reading and provided academic support at Transitions Learning Center and Statesboro High School from 2011 to 2013. She started her career at Nevils Elementary School as an English and math resource teacher and co-teacher, from 1994 to 2010, and served in a similar role at William James Middle School, 2010-11.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in literature and composition from Chapman University in California, Reagan attained a master’s degree in the same subjects from the University of Virginia and an Education Specialist in learning disabilities and assessment from the University of Georgia.

She is also certified as a reading specialist in the Wilson Reading System, an intervention program for people with language-based learning disabilities. With this certification, she has traveled all over the Southeast teaching other teachers how to teach reading, Transitions Learning Center Administrator Tim Rountree wrote in a supporting letter.

“She works tirelessly to show children how reading is related to so many aspects of life,” Rountree wrote. “Many hours are spent searching for reading materials that are of high interest to her students. It is rewarding to see a child’s eyes light up when they finally read and comprehend a passage for the first time.”

A panel of community leaders and retired educators scored the entries with identifying information removed.

Vickki Carter

Carter, the runner-up, has about 18 years teaching experience. She has taught at Southeast Bulloch Middle since 2014 and chairs the school’s English-language arts department. She previously taught in Pierce County, Georgia, and Clay County, Florida.

She attained her bachelor’s degree from Brewton-Parker College, her master’s degree in foundations of education from Troy University and her specialist degree in teaching and learning from Valdosta State University.

In his support letter, Southeast Bulloch Middle School Principal Dr. Torian White referred to Carter as a “teacher leader” who mentors less experienced teachers and leads in the school’s efforts at continuous improvement.

“She has a unique gift of eliciting the best from students because they know that she cares about them as human beings and as learners. ...,” White wrote. “She is consistently positive and looks for the best in all children.”

The other schools’ Teachers of the Year are Jennifer Cooper of Brooklet Elementary, Beth Cannon of Julia P. Bryant Elementary, Dr. Irina Bowen of Langston Chapel Elementary,  Talmeshia Parker of Langston Chapel Middle, Kristin Blythe of Mattie Lively Elementary, Carlee James of Nevils Elementary, Dr. Deborah Cartee of Portal Elementary,  Penny Aubrey of Portal Middle High, Susan Parrillo of Sallie Zetterower Elementary, Matt Olsen of Southeast Bulloch High, Jessica Elmore of Statesboro High, Carrie Fritch of Stilson Elementary and Charles Rockett of William James Middle.

Added prizes

This year, every honored teacher received a cash prize after the Parker’s Fueling the Community program, sponsored by the Parker’s convenience store company, gave $7,500 to Bulloch County’s schools, of which $4,000 was undesignated. School system officials chose to apply this to the Teacher of the Year program.  The $4,000 was added to $1,000 already allocated to the teacher recognition program by the Bulloch County Foundation for Public Education.

The foundation’s treasurer, Billy Yawn, joined Superintendent of Schools Charles Wilson in presenting the resulting checks for $2,000 to the county honoree, $500 to the runner-up and $200 each to the other school-level winners. Previously, only the countywide winner would have received a $1,000 award.

Hayley Greene, the school system’s public relations specialist and coordinator of the teacher recognition program, noted that school-level winners are featured separately in the Statesboro Herald each year.

Officially, Reagan becomes the Bulloch County Schools’ 2018 Teacher of the Year, because honorees are chosen for the year they could win the national honor, if first chosen as Georgia’s Teacher of the Year. The winner of the state-level competition will be announced in May 2017 and the national winner in January 2018.

Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.

 

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