The teaching profession draws many exceptional people into its ranks, and their best qualities thankfully are reflected in the students who come into their lives and into their classroom. That connection illustrates how important our teachers are both in our schools and in the community. The best teachers inspire students to view their world in terms of opportunity and to see things from a positive perspective. Mrs. Luci McNeely not only teaches children but also touches their hearts. She was chosen by Swainsboro High School as their Teacher of the Year and was selected to represent as Emanuel County Teacher of the Year. Each teacher communicates the importance of learning, loving, and leading their students. In a letter of support, a former student wrote, “Ms. McNeely is the teacher that will sit down and help a student with a project for another class, help them register for the SAT, assist them with Joshua’s Law so they can get their driver’s license, and even help them apply for college and FASFA. She not only coaches cheer at Swainsboro High, but she is always the biggest cheerleader in the school. She does not have to be asked to attend a sporting event. You can rest assured that she will be at each game, match, or tournament simply out of a desire to support the kids she is around each day. For those who need it, Mrs. McNeely has served as that steady support vital in a teenager’s life. She has provided a home for the homeless, food for those who needed it, and funded apparel for athletes who may not have otherwise been able to enjoy a sport they truly love. She truly is a once-in-a-lifetime educator.”
Luci is originally from Brooklet and is a 2000 graduate of Southeast Bulloch High School. She began her teaching career in 2006 at Swainsboro Middle School and has been teaching Visual Arts at Swainsboro High School for the past thirteen years. Before moving to the high school, she taught at Swainsboro Middle School in a special education capacity for five years. Luci obtained a Bachelor of Science in Art Education from Georgia Southern University in 2006, and obtained her Master of Education in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment in 2009 to better serve the diverse needs of her students. In 2017, she obtained her Education Specialist degree in Instructional Technology through Kennesaw State University and this summer, completed her Tier One Certification in Leadership. Luci has been the head football and competition cheerleading coach at SHS for 18 years. She has also coached soccer at SHS and is one of the prom coordinators. Interacting with students outside of the classroom is by far her biggest joy. Luci is very involved in cheerleading both within the state and the All-Star circuit. She enjoys spending time with her family while they travel and shop. Luci has one daughter, Lenox, who attends and cheers for Swainsboro Middle School.
In 2016, Mrs. McNeely was Swainsboro High School and Emanuel County’s STAR teacher. This year, she is proudly serving as teacher of the year for both SHS and Emanuel County. Luci comes from a family of educators who have served Emanuel County schools with great pride. However, she would have to say that her mother, Sheila Metz, was her greatest inspiration to enter this profession. As a student, Luci never saw herself being an educator. After taking an elective class in college where she had to do service hours within a school, she knew instantly that her heart belonged in a classroom. Throughout her career, degrees, and certifications were added so that she could keep up and stay with the current trends of education. Mrs. McNeely added certifications based on the needs of her students, school, and community so that she could provide the best support possible.
McNeely stated, “I was blessed with so many amazing educators along the way. Ironically, I would have to say that it was the teachers that maybe I didn’t do as well in their class that taught me the most. I feel like that is what inspires me to allow my students to experiment and be more of a facilitator at times. Learning through adapting makes for more meaningful learning.” Luci added, “Swainsboro High School is a true family. The support from the administration is second to none. The culture among the departments and the support that we give each other has cultivated a nurturing and loving student/faculty community of tigers. I am truly blessed to be a small part of Swainsboro High School.”
Now that you’ve met the teacher and read her story, read her Q/A’s below to further understand Luci McNeely’s incredible values of teaching and how she’s changing and inspiring young lives in our community.
What have you found most rewarding in your career?
McNeely: The smiles and hugs of affirmation that I get from students. I love the diversity that my elective style course affords. I have a love for inspiring others around me to create an environment of success. I thrive off the entire creative process, both the successes and the challenges. This is the very reason that I have not left the classroom for other opportunities, I still very much desire constant interactions with my students on a daily basis.
Do you feel that each of your students have left a lasting impression on you?
McNeely: Absolutely. Each and every student brings a different perspective to the classroom. They all touch my mind, heart, and soul in different ways. They also without knowing allow me to adapt my representation, delivery, and expectations of each project.
What advice would you like to give to new or upcoming educators?
McNeely: If you do the little things right, the big things will never feel heavy. Believe it or not, students like expectations and boundaries. Stay true to you. The good days will outnumber the bad days and you will never find another profession that is as rewarding as being an educator.
How does it make you feel to see the success that many of your previous students have become?
McNeely: Seeing my students and how I have had a small part in shaping the adults that they are now is the most rewarding part of this profession. I have lawyers, surgeons, pharmacists, stay-at-home mothers, military, business owners, PAs, and too many to mention that never went on to be in the art field but carry my classroom with them daily. The work ethic that I try to establish, the deadlines that I set.
If you could tell your past students or future students one thing that you hope will stick with them all throughout life, what would that be?
McNeely: Love and support no matter what. Sometimes the support through the struggle means more. In the classroom, work with a student until they finally grasp that concept, and with an athlete supporting them even when they do not get the win. Most important for my students is for me to be that supportive presence and not leave their side. I will allow you to make mistakes because that is how we learn, but I will never not support the journey.
What’s a favorite memory or some of your favorite memories that you have from your time as an educator?
McNeely: Any homecoming festivities, preparing for prom, and above all my favorite memory is everything involved with the state championship football game last year. Teachers with their classes were decorating hallways, making signs, and supporting each other. Being on the field as a coach and looking up into the stands full of all Emanuel County’s supporters was an amazing feeling. My purpose as an educator was solidified that day and my heart was completely full. Making lifetime memories with the students of Emanuel County Schools is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.