Each year, Emanuel County School faculties have the opportunity to recognize and celebrate the accomplished teachers in our schools by selecting their school’s Teacher of the Year. During the district convocation to kick off the new school year, ECS recognized the 2023 Teachers of the Year for Swainsboro and Twin City schools.
The teachers recognized were Cindy Riner, a math teacher at Swainsboro High School; Katie Cowart, a math teacher at Emanuel County Institute; Bob McNeely, business teacher at Swainsboro Middle School; Joan Turner, fifth grade teacher at Swainsboro Elementary School; Mandi Johnson, fifth grade teacher at Twin City Elementary School; Kristie Brantley, kindergarten teacher at Swainsboro Primary School. Meet these shining examples of excellence by reading some of the information submitted as part of their applications.
In a letter of support for Mrs. Riner, a colleague discussed not only her reputation for engaging and motivating students but also the countless hours she spends outside the classroom helping her students understand their role in making our schools and community a better place to live. Her colleague wrote, "It is not uncommon for former students to contact her seeking help in their post-secondary classes because they know she cares and is cheering for their success." In discussing Mrs. Riner's impact on her life, a student referred not only to the mathematical lesson but also to the many invaluable life lessons Mrs. Riner teaches. The student said, “She taught me to never stop working for the things you want and to view adversity not as a stumbling block but as a stepping stone to greatness. Mrs. Riner never gave up on her students, and in return, we never gave up on ourselves."
In her application, Mrs. Cowart discusses the importance of teacher commitment. She states, "We committed teachers are dedicated to our students in whatever capacity they may need. We are their biggest cheerleaders most times, and other times we are their biggest critics, but both are solely for their benefit and growth. One major quality of a committed teacher is that he or she never stops thinking about their students or things that may benefit them. Those teachers who are committed also support their students outside the classroom. They attend ballgames, concerts, and celebrations in support of their students. Finally, teachers who are committed realize that their own learning doesn't stop when they get their own classroom. Committed teachers continually push themselves to learn new things and gain new perspectives, modeling that learning for their students. Those teachers are encouragers to students and believe that no matter what academic level the student is on, that student can always achieve more."
In a letter of support of Mr. McNeely, a former student described him as a role model for many that need one and a driving force for others who aspire to be more. In her letter, the student discussed the changes and challenges that occur in a student's middle school experience and how each and every morning, Mr. McNeely would greet each and every student with a smile and a truly heartfelt personalized manner. She went on to discuss how as a classroom teacher, he encouraged students to think for themselves and then gave them a platform for sharing their thoughts and ideas. In expressing her pride for him, she also mentioned how some weeks, he could be found at the school seven days a week because he wants and expects the best of each and every person with whom he comes in contact.
In her application, Mrs. Turner discussed the importance of building relationships with students and co-workers in order to have a positive school culture where students can perform. Regarding her students, Mrs. Turner said, "I want them to know that I believe in them, I am always available for them, and that I love them no matter what they do or say. I remind my students that they are all unique and special and learn in different ways and at different rates. I strive to make my classroom a safe place for them where they feel comfortable to step out of their comfort zones and take chances on themselves." She went on to say, "Just as teachers need to build relationships with students, teachers also need to build relationships with one another. A school should have a sense of community where everyone is working together for the good of all students."
Mrs. Mandi Johnson
In a letter of support for Ms. Johnson a parent wrote, "As my child's kindergarten teacher this past year, I witnessed Mandi lead with enthusiasm, patience, and love. I also witnessed Mandi instruct twenty young students, leading them to master the required kindergarten skills and achieve more advanced skills, both inside and outside of the classroom. Throughout the school year, Mandi fostered a love for learning in and among her students. She created a space for them to show love one to one another, exhibit kindness and compassion, and develop the ability to accept others. Mandi also created opportunities for personal development by allowing her students to explore their interests and embrace their unique interests and personalities.”
In support of Mrs. Brantley's Teacher of the year selection, a grandmother wrote, "This young lady was influential in the life of my granddaughter, during one of the most difficult times imaginable." She discussed how after losing her mother, her granddaughter was learning how to go through life without her mom and found guidance and compassion in Mrs. Brantley. She stated that when her granddaughter needed a little more nurturing than other children, Mrs. Brantley stepped up, even while balancing a room full of young students. To their family, Mrs. Brantley became more than a teacher; she became part of the family. The grandmother shared how Mrs. Brantley not only gave 110 percent during normal school hours but also after the doors closed. One particular example she shared was when her granddaughter, nervous and missing her mom, invited her teachers to Church to watch her in a program she was in. The grandmother stated, "I will never forget the look on my granddaughter's face when Kristie and Kristie's husband entered those Church doors, and I will never forget the impact it had on me!”
Emanuel County Schools is proud to have these deserving teachers representing their respective schools. Judges selected one teacher from this group of finalists to represent the district as the 2023 ECS Teacher of the Year.