The newest group of Teachers of the Year for Emanuel County Schools were recently selected. These educators include Keri Claxton at Swainsboro Primary School, Charlean Love at Swainsboro High School, Michelle Fondren of Swainsboro Middle School, Joey Korwin of Emanuel County Institute, Jennifer Best of Twin City Elementary, and Cam Holloway of Swainsboro Elementary School. The Crossroads Chronicle will feature profiles of each teacher over the next few weeks. This week’s featured teacher is Michelle Fondren.
Michelle Fondren is Swainsboro Middle School’s Teacher of the Year for 2020-2021. She has 25 years teaching experience, 18 of which have been spent at Swainsboro Middle School. She has held positions such as special education teacher for grades six through eight, special education lead teacher, sixth grade ELA teacher, sixth grade lead teacher, Beta Club sponsor, school instructional and management leadership team member, and Georgia TAPP mentor teacher. This is Fondren’s third time being voted Teacher of the Year. She was honored in 2006 and 2014 as well.
Fondren was born and raised in Montgomery County. She has worked in Liberty and Treutlen counties and also taught three years in Radcliff, Kentucky. She graduated from Montgomery County High School in Mount Vernon and went on to Georgia College & State University, where she earned her Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) and Mental Retardation certification. She later earned her M.Ed. in Special Education from University of Louisville in Kentucky and her Ed.S. in Reading and Literacy from Capella University in Minnesota.
Fondren’s initial degree was in business administration, but she decided to return to school to obtain her certification in special education because of her youngest sister. She said, “Although my sister was born with a disability, my parents always had high expectations for all of their children. I remember teaching her some functional skills. I learned things from her as well. She was a driving force behind my desire to teach and help all students have access to the best education possible.”
Fondren plans to continue her work as an educator. She explained, “I am a lifelong learner. I plan to continue to learn strategies and skills that promote my belief that all students can learn and prepare them to become productive individuals.”
Her favorite part of the job is when students express how much they enjoy her class and how they are able to express what she taught in their own words. She also finds joy in collaborating with other educators as they work to find creative ways to engage their students. Fondren’s main priority, she says, is always to communicate her expectations for all of her students and their role as important and valuable members of her class. She tries to remain a supportive and contributing member of the SMS family as they work together to help the students achieve success.
About being named Teacher of the Year, she said, “When I found out I was SMS Teacher of the Year, I was surprised and elated that my colleagues chose me for this honor. A quote by one of my favorite authors, Maya Angelou, is, ‘You can only become truly accomplished at something you love.’ Teacher of the Year is an honor that reveals my love and appreciation for being able to be a powerful positive influence in the education of my students.”
She continued, “After such a challenging year that yielded many obstacles that education has never encountered before, teachers continued to work hard educating students while providing support for each other. Many classrooms had their own ‘Teacher of the Year’ providing effective and engaging instruction in spite of the obstacles. I share this honor with all of them.”
Fondren would like to acknowledge God as the center of her life. She is an active member of Saint Mary Missionary Baptist Church in Ailey for most of her life. She would like to thank Swainsboro Middle School administration and staff for all of their support. Fondren would also like to thank her family, especially her mother and son, for all of their love and support along the way.
“I have also been blessed with wonderful friends who provide words of encouragement, sometimes laced with a little humor to keep me going even during the most challenging times. Thank you all!”