If any teacher could have brought a chorus of children’s voices to celebrate with her, 2020 Bulloch County Teacher of the Year Tasheina Canty White could have.
Named to the countywide honor during Tuesday evening’s Teacher of the Year Reveal Banquet, White is the music teacher at Brooklet Elementary School, where she has built a chorus of more than 60 fourth- and fifth-graders.
“Elated, surprised,” White said when asked how she felt about the award. “You know, the work that we do as teachers, as educators for our children, we don’t do it for recognition. This is a part of my purpose, and I’m driven by my purpose. I feel like I have a calling to reach children through the realm of music, and so to be recognized by my peers is just icing on the cake.”
A county runner-up was also named during the banquet, which the Statesboro Herald hosted at Uncle Shug’s on Main to honor school-level Teacher of the Year honorees from all 15 Bulloch County Schools campuses. White will now represent the county in the competition to become the 2020 Georgia Teacher of the Year.
The school chorus wasn’t actually there to perform, but White had other supporters present, including another school’s principal. Her husband, Dr. Torian White, principal of Southeast Bulloch Middle School, would have been there anyway to announce his own school’s teacher of the year. Tasheina White’s mother, Cynthia Canty, also teaches at Brooklet Elementary, in a second-grade classroom, so this is a family of educators.
White attained her bachelor’s degree in music therapy from the University of Georgia in 2005 and her Master of Arts in Teaching from Piedmont College in 2012. She has taught for more than 10 years, including four years in Bulloch County.
White was nominated by other teachers and staff members at her school for the Teacher of the Year honor. Then, like other school-level honorees, she completed an application for the county competition, which includes answering some essay questions. A panel scores the applications without seeing the names of applicants and their schools.
Bulloch County Teacher of the Year runner-up recognition went to Paige L. Rountree, who now teaches STEM, or hands-on science, technology, engineering and math, to prekindergarten through fifth-grade students at Mill Creek Elementary School. Doing so, she is part of the school system’s recent crop of STEM-specialist teachers and has obtained several specific qualifications such as 2016–21 STEM Foundations certification.
But Rountree has taught for 21 years, including 18 years with Bulloch County Schools, and so has teaching experience predating the STEM focus.
“I took a leap of faith four years ago and left the general education classroom to pursue this relatively new area,” she wrote in one of her essay responses. “It could have been a flop, which was a scary thought, but I choose to make it mine and a meaningful learning place for students. The response from students has been a great blessing.”
Rountree attained her Bachelor of Science in Education from Georgia Southern University in 1997, her master’s degree in curriculum in instruction from Central Michigan University in 2003 and her Education Specialist in administration and supervision from Lincoln Memorial University in 2004.
She is not the only educator in her family, either. Her husband, Tim Rountree, is administrator of both the Transitions Learning Center alternative program and the district’s Graduation Performance Academy.
Additionally, Stacey Cowart, from the prekindergarten program based at Southeast Bulloch High School, was named 2018–19 Bulloch County Prekindergarten Teacher of the Year. She will represent the school district in the separate Pre-K Teacher of the Year competition sponsored by the Georgia Department of Early Care & Learning.
Meanwhile, the Georgia Department of Education sponsors the statewide kindergarten through 12th-grade Teacher of the Year program. Its local honorees are chosen more than 12 months in advance so that the statewide winner can go on to national competition in the named calendar year.
These are Bulloch County’s other 2020 Teachers of the Year, receiving top honors at their schools:
Julia P. Bryant Elementary School’s Daisy Lewis, Langston Chapel Elementary School’s Marci Cochran, Langston Chapel Middle School’s Trianna Favors, Mattie Lively Elementary School’s Kem Dennard, Nevils Elementary School’s Nicole Riggs, Portal Elementary School’s Samantha Motes, Portal Middle High School’s Valarie Thompson, Sallie Zetterower Elementary School’s Diana Hendricks, Southeast Bulloch Middle School’s Courtney Alligood, Southeast Bulloch High School’s Steven Bonnette, Statesboro High School’s Meredith Simmons, Stilson Elementary School’s Anna Swint and William James Middle School’s Kimberly Wagoner.
From January through May, a series of half-page features, produced by the school system, about each honoree will appear in the Statesboro Herald.
Tuesday evening, Superintendent of Schools Charles Wilson announced Dennard, Swint and Wagoner as finalists along with Rountree and White before the runner-up and honoree were revealed.
The Bulloch County Schools, the Bulloch County Foundation for Public Education, Parker’s Fueling the Community, ShawHankins LLC and the Statesboro Herald are all sponsors of the local teacher recognition program.
Hayley Greene, the school system’s public relations and marketing specialist, announced the cash awards as “grants” for the teachers but added that they can spend them on anything they like. White received a $2,000 total award, Rountree a $500 award and all of the other school-level honorees $250 each. Each year the Foundation for Public Education supplies a $1,000 grant for the county recipient, and ShawHankins sponsored that portion of the award this year. Parker’s Fueling the Community, a program of the Parker’s convenience store chain, funds the rest of the grants.
The Georgia Teacher of the Year will be selected in May 2019 and will be expected to compete for National Teacher of the Year honors in January 2020.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.