Meet the Teachers of the Year: Rachel Burkhalter

In this ongoing series, you’ll find profiles on Teachers of the Year from Emanuel County Schools presented alphabetically by last name. This group was actually selected for the 2019-2020 school year. Per Georgia’s School Superintendent Richard Woods, the 2020 Georgia Teacher of the Year Program was suspended to adapt to the realities of COVID-19. As a result, the conference and gala planned for May 2020 were postponed to 2021, and there were no applications due to the state in December 2020. The next application due date is set for December 2021. The current 2021 Teacher of the Year cohort (the application that was due in December 2019) will become the 2022 cohort in an effort to ensure these teachers are recognized fully. Thus, the cohort being recognized by The Crossroads Chronicle is as follows: Dawn Boddiford, Rachel Burkhalter, Gene Hundley, Mary Hundley, Alexandria Walden, and Frank Wimberly.

Rachel Burkhalter, the second teacher featured in this series, teaches fifth grade reading and English/Language Arts at Swainsboro Elementary School. She earned her B.S. and M.Ed. from Georgia Southern University.

It took Burkhalter experiences she had during three summers of working as a 4-H camp counselor to convince her that teaching was her calling. As she taught archery, coached campers through high ropes, and taught swimming, she felt a sense of pride and accomplishment when a camper hit the bullseye, overcame his or her fear of heights, or learned the life-saving skill of how to swim.

“Helping others learn new skills and reach beyond their comfort zone to become their best self was fulfilling and still is,” Burkhalter said. She has been teaching at Swainsboro Elementary since she graduated college in 2011.

“My favorite subject to teach is reading. Teaching kids to love reading is essential,” she said. On that note, Burkhalter adds there is nothing more satisfying than watching a once reluctant reader sit down and enjoy a good book.

Burkhalter says teaching is a passion and one of the greatest jobs available because she has the opportunity to influence a child’s life unlike other professions. “It is both rewarding and challenging at times. However, there is no way to express the rush of excitement that occurs when a child exhibits that moment of understanding and you can tell the light bulb has come on, so to speak.”

Burkhalter is proud to represent Swainsboro Elementary as Teacher of the Year. She describes it as both humbling and uplifting to be TOTY because it’s a peer-driven process. “My colleagues believed that I am doing an outstanding job and cast their vote for me. That means the world.”

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