“It’s safe to say that we have all experienced at least one inspirational teacher who helped us understand their subject more and taught us to become a better person. The best teachers pass on this burning enthusiasm to their students, inspiring students to view the subject through refreshed lenses and to see things from a different perspective.”
Mrs. Megan Simmons was chosen by Emanuel County Institute as their 2024 Teacher of the Year. In a letter of support for Mrs. Simmons, a colleague wrote, “When I think of all the words that describe a model teacher, I immediately think of how Megan Simmons embodies all those traits. She is one of a kind. She is motivated and loyal. She is invested and enthusiastic. Simply being a teacher is only the starting point in her classroom. She is a mentor, a counselor, a nurse, a coach, a leader, and a mother figure to every child that crosses the threshold of her classroom door. If there is a hat to be worn, she has worn it and will continue to wear it proudly. She is truly in the profession for all the right reasons. Mrs. Simmons accomplishes more than content mastery with her students. She molds the hearts and lives of each individual with her servant mindset day in and day out.
“My name is Megan Simmons. I grew up “across the river” as most like to say, in Jenkins County. I graduated from Jenkins County High School 2007 and lived there until I became a resident of Emanuel County when I married my husband, Heath Simmons, in June of 2010. We have been married for 13 years and have three children. Liam is our oldest and only boy. He is 11 and is in 6th grade at ECI. Livi is our oldest daughter and she is eight and in the 3rd grade at TCE. The baby of the bunch, Leila Faye, is four and attends Twin City Methodist Church preschool”, says Simmons.
Outside of teaching, Mrs. Simmons enjoys spending time with her family. Their three children keep them extra busy and most of their free time is spent following them to and from all their activities. She also loves their church home, El Bethel Baptist Church, and enjoys spending time with her church family at their church worship services and activities. Her husband, Heath, also teaches and coaches at ECI. So she enjoys spending time with their Bulldog Family, cheering on the Bulldogs. If there is ever much time left after all of that, you can find her curled up with a cup of coffee and a good book.
After working as a cosmetologist for several years, Mrs. Simmons began working at Emanuel County Institute in the Fall of 2015 as a paraprofessional. While working, she started back attending college and worked to obtain her bachelor’s degree. Simmons graduated from Georgia Southern University in May of 2019 with her bachelor’s in interdisciplinary studies. She began her teaching career that Fall at Emanuel County Institute as a 7th grade Math teacher and later obtained her Master of Arts in Education from Walden University in December of 2022. This is Mrs. Simmons’ 5th year teaching. During this time, she has been awarded with the FAMILY award from the Emanuel County Board of Education in December 2022 and received the Teacher of the Year Award for Emanuel County Institute for the 2023-2024 school year. “I have been blessed to be able to spend my entire career in education right here in Emanuel County at Emanuel County Institute. I began working at ECI in the Fall of 2019 as a Special Education Paraprofessional. In the Fall of 2017, I changed locations in the school and began working as the Attendance Clerk. After graduating Georgia Southern in May of 2019, I was hired to teach 7th grade Math and continue to teach 7th grade math here at ECI today”, stated Simmons.
While it took Simmons a little longer to actually get into the profession than most, she can’t remember a time when she didn’t want to be a teacher. As she got older, a lot of people talked her out of becoming a teacher for various reasons and she took different routes in her professional career but always knew that the Lord was calling her to be a teacher. “There are so many children, no matter their home life, that need to know that they have someone in their corner. The desire to not only be the light of Jesus but to also be someone that is going to be there to support them, to push them and to offer a smile and hug when their parents/guardians aren’t around is what inspired her to become a teacher”, Simmons added.
Mrs. Simmons stated that she fondly recalls several teachers that have left a lasting impression on her and they are Mrs. Angie Brantley, Mrs. Laurie Fleming, Mrs. Monica Broxton and Mrs. Cindi Drake. She can’t recall a whole lot of singular standout moments from her time in their classroom, however she does remember that each of them was always waiting at the door with a smile on their face and a hug. “They found ways to bring laughter and happiness into their classrooms and into learning. Even now what leaves a lasting impression, is that after being gone so long from their classrooms, they still greet me with a smile and a hug. They always check in on me, ask how teaching is going, and when I walk away from them, they leave me feeling like I have somehow made them proud by what I have accomplished. I only hope that my students today feel the same way when they walk off from me”, says Simmons.
“There are so many things that I could say about our little school and the people that work here. But what sticks out to me is the family atmosphere that fills this building. It’s not just everybody knowing everybody, everybody genuinely cares and loves each other. I know no matter what, the people in this building have my back and are going to love and support me no matter what. So many other places are so large that this simply cannot be achieved. But here at ECI, the staff members I work with and the students that make up our school are not just staff members and students, they have truly become family”, added Simmons.
Now that you’ve met the teacher and read her story, read her Q/A’s below to further understand Megan Simmons’ 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?
Simmons: Like so many other teachers, I love the lightbulb moments, where my students finally grasp a
concept they were struggling with. I live for those moments. However, the most rewarding thing in my career has been watching my students grow into amazing people outside of my classroom. I love watching them transform from timid and shy 7th graders into outgoing and hardworking people. I love to watch their dreams become accomplishments as they become amazing athletes. Watch them become responsible and hardworking young adults as they work at the local grocery store and drug store. And simply getting to be on the sidelines as they accomplish so many amazing things academically, socially and personally, and knowing that I
get to help play a small role in that is what is so rewarding for me.
Do you feel that each of your students have left a lasting impression on you?
Simmons: Yes, as cliché as it sounds, once they are my students, they are always mine. The relationships that you develop are something that no words can express. I wish that all my students could see themselves through my eyes. I have learned far more from them than they could ever learn from me. They have motivated me to work harder, teach harder, and find ways to be an all-around better person for my family, for them and any future students I may have.
What advice would you like to give to new or upcoming educators?
Simmons: I would like to encourage new and upcoming educators to continue on in the field. Yes, it’s hard
work, yes some days are long, yes our plates are full. But the rewards that come from educating and loving our students far outweigh any and all of the negative that you may hear. Don’t let anyone talk you out of becoming an educator, if your calling is to be a teacher, answer that calling. We need you and the children of Emanuel County need you. We need hardworking and loving educators to support, love on and teach our students. Education truly is the future our of world and it is scary to think of what our world would be like without good
educators in it.
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?
Simmons: I would want them to know that they always have Mrs. Megan in their corner, praying for them, cheering them on, pushing them to do better, or even a shoulder to cry on if they need it. Some of our students already have a lot of people in their corner, some only have a few, and some don’t have many at all, but they all need to know that there’s someone extra out there. I don’t want them to ever forget that.
What’s a favorite memory or some of your favorite memories that you have from your time as an educator?
Simmons: While I have only been in the classroom for 5 years, I already have so many memories, way to many to pinpoint only one as my favorite. But one of my favorite reoccurring memories is watching students open up each year. At the beginning of the year, they enter my room as strangers. But I love watching those relationships unfold year after year. Watching them open up and watching as our classes become little families is one of my favorite things. They may not remember much of the math that I thought them or all of the songs that I sang to help them remember certain concepts, but I hope they always remember the little families that we form while in room 311.