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Top teachers honored
Principals share stories about educators
Langston Chapel Middle School and Bulloch County Teacher of the Year Jemelleh Coes, far left, reacts to a story told by her principal, Evelyn Gamble-Hilton, during Tuesday's Statesboro Herald Teacher of the Year Dinner at RJ's Steakery. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Teachers recognized for outstanding work

The 15 teachers who earned Teacher of the Year honors are:

Julie Strickland, Brooklet Elementary
Nancy Wiggins, Julia P. Bryant Elementary
Kem Dennard, Langston Chapel Elementary
Jamelleh Coes, Langston Chapel Middle
Dianne Anderson, Mattie Lively Elementary
Judy Ware, Mill Creek Elementary
Michelle Rogers, Nevils Elementary
Autumn Mallard, Portal Elementary
Ann Anderson, Portal Middle High
Tonya Cooper, Sallie Zetterower Elementary
Michelle Highsmith, Southeast Bulloch Middle
Susan Boddiford, Southeast Bulloch High
Shannon Hinson, Statesboro High School
Nancy Miller, Stilson Elementary
Maria Oliver, William James Middle

    Several of Bulloch County’s finest teachers were honored Tuesday during the annual Teacher of the Year banquet hosted by the Statesboro Herald.
    Educators representing each of the county school system’s schools, principals and administrators gathered at RJ’s Steakery on a night when teachers were presented with plaques and dinner, as well as a healthy bit of doting from school leaders.
    “We appreciate the fact that you (teachers) are here. We appreciate what you do, and are glad you have this opportunity to get the recognition you deserve,” Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson said. “We all know that the single most important factor in student achievement is teacher quality. You guys are the example of what teacher quality can and should be.”
    As is standard practice for the event, principals took turns bragging about their school’s 2014 Teacher of the Year — an honor determined by a vote of peers — and swapping stories.
    Principals echoed sentiments about the distinguished teachers, praising them for being great leaders, having wonderful relationships with their students, and, most importantly, possessing a great love for teaching.
    “When I think about our teacher, I think about the word ‘calm,’” Nevils Elementary Principal Julie Blackmar said, about her school’s star teacher, Michelle Rogers. “It can be that the Titanic is sinking, Tommy is in the back eating his desk, or a fire alarm has just been pulled, (Rogers) is always calm, no-nonsense and handles everything on an even plane. Michelle is professionalism embodied.”
    In the case of Portal Elementary Teacher of the Year Autumn Mallard, students did some of the praising.
    “I asked the kindergarten kids to write a few things about why they appreciate Ms. Mallard, and she did not know this,” said Portal Elementary Principal Paul Hudson, revealing the surprise. “I wanted to share them today.”
    Some comments were sweet: “She’s funny and she is good to me. She is nice,” Hudson said. One student wrote, “Because I love her.”
    Others remarks drew big laughs: “Now, this one I’m a little concerned about,” the principal continued, joking. “She lets us have lots of parties!”
    It was not all boasting, however. Principals could not pass up the opportunity to share a funny story or two about their teachers.
    Langston Chapel Middle Principal Evelyn Gamble-Hilton spoke of a time when her  lively teacher, and 2014 Bulloch County Teacher of the Year, Jemelleh Coes, was nearly given more than she could handle from a pair of youngsters.
    “Jemelleh is very energetic, but has just recently had a baby. This summer, before we knew she was pregnant, she was keeping her niece and nephew, who were visiting from Atlanta,” Gamble-Hilton said. “One day, she came into summer school, and had pancake batter all over her pants and everywhere else. I asked what happened. She said, ‘I have the children. I can’t do it. I don’t how to cook!’”
    That day at school, Coes taught a class while caked in batter, she said.
    “But, that being said, Jemelleh is so energetic. And her No. 1 priority is always the boys and girls. She loves the children that she works with,” Gamble-Hilton said. “She does a lot, and is an outstanding special education teacher.”
    Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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