AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – WJBF NewsChannel 6 proudly presents the Golden Apple Awards. Recognizing teaching excellence, the Golden Apple Awards is made possible by WJBF News Channel 6, Kroger, Augusta Flooring, and Great Deals on Furniture. From Television Park Studios, here are your hosts, Brad Means and Jennie Montgomery.
Good evening, everybody, and thank you so much for joining us for this special night, a night that represents the culmination of the 2019-2020 Golden Apple season. It’s our annual celebration where we honor those who shape the future of the CSRA. Every week of the school year, our crew from News Channel 6 surprises an educator with the Golden Apple award, and tonight, we celebrate them all by revisiting their stories. So teachers, wherever you are in the CSRA, tonight is your night. And although not physically, our community is gathered here to celebrate you.
That’s right, Brad. We celebrate the job that you perform each day, no matter the circumstance. Everyone has changed their way of life, including teachers. Distance learning is the new normal. Within days, teachers redesigned the entire education system to accommodate remote schooling. Tonight’s stories allows us a glimpse into the not-so-distant past of traditional classroom instruction. What do they have in common? Teachers, doing whatever it takes to fit the needs of their students and making a positive impact day after day. Now more than ever, it is important for us to recognize the role of a teacher and the outstanding educators that go beyond that calling.
We sure did meet some amazing teachers during our Golden Apple season, like Annie Hinds. Now Annie Hinds made a connection with some children when she was a volunteer at her child’s kindergarten. She knew then and there she could help young people with special needs do their very best. She works hard, and that hard work pays off. She celebrates tons of success stories from her students at Grovetown High School. And then, there’s Erin Rosenthal, a lady who will never be forgotten, because she gets to be the very first teacher for many of her students, a responsibility she takes seriously, as she prepares her kindergartners for the rest of their academic careers, inspiring young minds and making a difference. Let’s meet them. Annie Hinds is like most teachers. She works hard to make sure the light bulb comes on for her students. Her light bulb moment came when she worked with special needs students as a volunteer in a kindergarten class.
I just fell in love with it, so I went to school to be a special ed teacher, ’cause I just loved working with these children.
[Brad] And they love her. Kids in a classroom, accomplishing great things.
The reward is every day. It’s little things in this classroom that are so big for these kids, and it’s amazing, just an amazing feeling for them and myself to be able to teach them and watch them grow, ’cause they’re with me, some of them, seven years. So they’re like my own children.
[Brad] Mrs. Hinds’ heart goes far beyond her school. She taught a student who was homebound, and made sure he was never left behind.
He had a traumatic brain injury, so he wasn’t able to come to school. He’d have seizures and things like that, so I helped him push along, push along, and made it happen where he had, was able to get his degree.
[Brad] And once her students graduate from Grovetown, the sky is the limit.
My goal is to make them, help them be productive citizens when they leave my classroom. So, and that’s what I try to model in my class is structure and those things that will help them when they leave here.
[Brad] Congratulations, Annie Hinds, and thank you for being a teacher, a parent, and such a positive force in so many lives.
They’re like my kids, so I think of them as if they’re my kids, and I just want what’s best for them and I wanna help their parents as much as I can, and we work together to get them to where they need to be.
[Brad] Erin Rosenthal, a name that will be forever etched in her students’ minds. For many, she is their first very first teacher.
‘Cause I like to start at the very beginning, and I wanna give them the best educational career I can possibly give them. I want them to be excited about school, I want them to feel safe about learning, and I just wanna give them a fun experience.
[Brad] Her kindergarteners get an outstanding experience at Evans Elementary School. That’s a credit to Mrs. Rosenthal and the entire team here.
I have an amazing principal. Our administrators let us use our passion and throw it into the mix with everything that we’re required to teach, so as long as it’s fun, they’re learning, they’re meeting all standards, we just go with the flow.
[Brad] When she’s not in the classroom, Mrs. Rosenthal is shaping future leaders through student council.
It’s just important to me that these students be role models, especially 4th and 5th graders be role models for these little ones, so that they’ll see what’s going on, they’ll see that they want to do well for their friends, want to do well for their community, their school community, their families, and I just want them to continue that tradition.
[Brad] Erin Rosenthal is closing in on two decades in the classroom, an accomplishment made possible by her supportive family, and her students, who keep her going.
I’m not gonna lie. I get very tired, but it’s funny, when you walk in the door, it’s like a switch goes off, and you just jump into it, and you keep going. You forget any aches and pains and tiredness. It sorta rolls away. So we just have fun, ’cause I love it.
Summer Salazar calls her kindergartners miracles. She knows that they are our future leaders. That’s why she makes a special effort to pay attention, listen to what they have to say, and make them realize that they have a voice in this world. Ronda Masters has strong relationships with her students. She says it’s important to know the kids. She uses their strengths to build on their weaknesses. The result is a successful child who is ready to tackle life after 3rd grade. They love what they do, and it truly shows. Here they are.
[Brad] These kindergarteners may be in school, but this classroom comes with the same love and warmth they feel at home.
I just want them to know that someone loves them, and I want them to love learning, and I want them to know they can be whatever they wanna be.
[Brad] Summer Salazar believes that children’s voices should be heard. They may be little, but she knows they’re headed for big things.
Because they’re miracles, they all are. They’re all special and unique, and they have something to say, and they’re our future. They are our future. They’re what our world will be.
[Brad] So how do you keep a classroom full of kids on task?
‘Cause at first, I focus on relationships. It’s not about learning curriculum at first. It’s about relationships, and when they know that I love them and I want them to learn and when they trust me, and they love me, then they can learn and they can focus.
[Brad] And that focus serves them for their entire academic careers, thanks to a teacher whose career chose her.
I had some great teachers growing up, I did, but it’s a calling, it’s not something I can explain. I was gonna be a nurse, but teaching just kinda pulled me.
[Brad] When we stopped by River Ridge, Ronda Masters was making sure her students took their reading skills to the next level.
They are learning to read for comprehension, and to really dig into what they’re reading, so that they understand everything that the story’s trying to teach them.
[Brad] Many of these students are very familiar with Mrs. Masters’ ways. They had her for 2nd grade, and she switched to 3rd grade this year.
We’re just taking baby steps, we’re just adding a little bit more every day, we’re pushing a little bit more every day, and we’re trying to have fun doing it, and that’s the most important thing.
[Brad] Mrs. Masters will be the first to tell you, it’s a team effort here. She leans on parents and caregivers to help her get the job done.
They help send things in, so we can make more fun and interesting lessons, they encourage their kids to do the homework, they encourage their kids to read, they encourage them to just love school.
[Brad] And even though she’s in charge of an entire class, she still takes time to build strong, individual relationships.
You have to get to know your kids quickly, and understand their strengths and their weaknesses, and use their strengths to build on their weaknesses, and you encourage them. Some kids need encouragement, some kids need pushing, some kids need, you just have to figure out what they need to get them where they need to be.
[Brad] Congratulations, Ronda Masters, a veteran teacher and such a positive force in these children’s lives.
Sometimes, the kids’ll say something that’ll say, ah, this is why I do this, or sometimes, you’ll look at the growth reports from the beginning of the year to the end of the year and you say, wow, we came this far. Or maybe it’s something a parent says to you, an email they send you, just different things. You get overwhelmed sometimes, so then, you have these nice things happen, and it just keeps you going.
When you walk into Nick Harville’s classroom, you really get to forget about the books, and just burn some serious energy. His classroom is the gym, and his students focus on their physical fitness. He makes sure, too, that they live happy, healthy lives. Kenesha Reddick says a prayer every morning. She asks God to let her light shine all day, and every day, those prayers are answered. Mrs. Reddick is a bright light at Burke County Middle School. Her students reflect that light, and reflect her love, as they grow and learn. Here are these wonderful teachers in action. No offense to the other classes here at Blakeney Elementary School, but this has to be the most fun place on campus. Physical education teacher Nick Harville wouldn’t have it any other way.
[Nick] PE is organized chaos.
[Brad] Make no mistake, though. They are learning a lot in this high-energy environment.
Put your hand in the air and–
[Brad] An environment that makes partnered touchdown so much more than just a little friendly competition.
What this game is teaching is how to catch, how to throw, and really important, teamwork, because these kids need to learn how to get along with others, how to solve problems that they might have going on in the game, and that brings over to the classroom and life.
[Brad] Coach Harville’s path to this place started early in life.
I love sports. Growing up, I played all kinda sports that you could name, so I wanted to give my love to these kids, and let them see how fun sports can be.
[Brad] And when they’re not burning energy in the gym, they’re learning the right habits for a better life.
I think we all kinda need to be reminded how important eating healthy is, you know? How maybe, drink water, eat the right way, you know, and they respond. We did a thing where they had to wear bracelets, and every fruit they ate, they got to move the bracelet to the other arm, and it helped to remind them throughout the day, hey, I need to eat more vegetables, more fruits. So all those things kinda helped them in their healthy journey.
[Brad] A journey that led them to Blakeney Elementary School and a coach who really cares.
Really and truly, I just enjoy affecting these kids’ lives and at the end of the day, watching them grow and develop and become better people and helping them out, I wanna help them out and help them succeed in life, and I think that’s what everybody here wants.
[Brad] Lots of letters in the lesson plan when we stopped by Kenesha Reddick’s math class. It was all about GCF and LCM.
Greatest common factor and least common multiple. So eventually, we will work into word problems, but before we did that, I wanted to make sure that they understood what the word problem was asking them before they worked with the numbers of the word problems.
[Brad] Mrs. Reddick’s classroom is a place to tackle problems as a team.
You cannot effectively learn in solitude. So allowing them to communicate and work together and let each other know that it’s okay to make mistakes, because we are all in this together, that’s what gets them engaged.
[Brad] As you can see, Mrs. Reddick has to teach a large group of students, but somehow, she’s still able to reach individuals, to make sure they succeed.
You have to be able to really see who needs the most help, and kinda separate who needs help and who can wait. With us working in groups, I can hear the group conversations and see if they’re on the right track. They may not need me, but if the whole group is silent or the whole group isn’t working, then they need a little bit more of my assistance.
[Brad] The person who nominated Mrs. Reddick used the word light several times to describe her. It’s easy to see why.
Every morning before I make way out of my car, I say a prayer, and the prayer’s always, let my prayer shine and I think I always say that around the building and to my school, and to my students.
[Brad] Kenesha Reddick isn’t just teaching. She’s making an investment in her school, her community, and herself.
I just know that I am molding the young minds of our future. To break it down into the easiest terms, they’re gonna have to take care of me, so it’s my job to take care of them while I have them.
Bailey Mobley is from Burke County, and she’s been shaping its future leaders for years. Her 1st graders are really going places, thanks to the great start they get in her classroom. Felicia Tuff teaches moderate self-contained students at Westside High School. Many of her students stay with her from their teenage years into their early 20s. She gets close to them during that time, and they become her family. She works hard to make sure they have the skills they need to make it in the real world. Now, let’s see what makes them great.
[Brad] Bailey Mobley is from Burke County, and when the opportunity presented itself here at S.G.A. Elementary, she knew she was destined to give back to her hometown.
I did my student teaching here at S.G.A., in 2nd grade, and then, the 1st grade position came open, and I have been here ever since, in 1st grade, in this classroom.
[Brad] We actually interrupted test time when we gave her the Golden Apple Award, but Mrs. Mobley didn’t let that distract her from keeping these bright young minds on task.
We’ve been studying about nouns, types of sentences, what sentences need, so we were finishing up after a little review game to take our assessment.
[Brad] Most of us can still name our 1st grade teacher. Knowing that she’ll never be forgotten comes with a lot of responsibility.
So I think you have to have a bond with your students. I love my kids, I hope they feel loved when they leave out of here. I’m always hugging on them, and trying to give them positive reinforcement as much as I can.
[Brad] When she’s not teaching, she’s parenting, or helping her husband run their restaurant, The Fish Eye Grill in Girard. It’s nonstop.
It can be hard. I try to get to work early. I can’t stay late, ’cause both of my girls are in sports, so I have to bring a lot of work home, work on the weekend. I’m just constantly working. I’m not hardly ever sitting at my desk.
[Brad] She’s also surrounded by a strong support system here at S.G.A.
We’re always encouraged here, and anything that we need, any help, they’re always here to give it to us.
[Brad] So what kind of rewards are there for this unforgettable 1st grade teacher? Mrs. Mobley will tell you, some of the most special rewards are the ones she gets 11 years after her students leave.
One of the favorite things is the graduation walk that our county does, and you get to see the kids you taught in 1st grade, and they remember you, and come and hug you, and you get to see, yes, you made it, you graduated. I’m so proud of you.
[Brad] Felicia Tuff really gets to know her students during their time in her classroom, time that’s a bit longer than the typical high school career.
Most students, they stay with me for seven years, and it is a pleasure to work with them. You really get to know them, you get to see how they grow from 9th grade all the way up to 12+.
[Brad] Ms. Tuff says she loves her students as if they were her own.
Well, I had my daughter about six years ago, and these were my children before I had my actual daughter, so I have always had this mother type figure with them. I do the same for these kids that I do for my daughter, and I just love working with these, this is my calling, special education.
[Brad] A calling that has some deep family ties.
My aunt Betty Jackson, she had foster children, and one of her girls was Downs Syndrome, and so, nobody really talked to her or whatever, and I used to go to visit, and I started talking to Tina, that was her name, and we just clicked, and she gave me that big smile, that big hug, and I think she helped me more than I helped her that day, and from then on, I knew special ed was what I wanted to do.
[Brad] Ms. Tuff doesn’t depend on report cards to let her know how her kids are doing.
We have progress reports, and to me, progress reports mean just a tad bit more than a report card in this setting, because I get to write actual detailed comments to let the parents know the actual progress that they have made instead of a number grade.
[Brad] I asked her to break out her crystal ball, and tell me where she sees these students in a few years. She says she just wants them to be able to do well in the world outside of Westside High School.
I want them to be as independent as possible. That is my goal in here every day, because I always tell them that Ms. Tuff nor your parents, we’re not gonna be here forever, so that’s why I try to teach them to be independent as possible.
Tomeka Few isn’t just teaching in her classroom. No, she’s making an investment in her future. Her students study healthcare, and Mrs. Few knows that they’re gonna be taking care of her one day. They’re off to an outstanding start thanks to her hard work. David Bartlett is a hard worker, as well, at the Academy of Richmond County, trying to get today’s children to appreciate yesterday’s big events, and he does that by relating historic happenings to modern-day life. His students love that approach. Two extraordinary high school teachers. Let’s see what makes them valuable to the Richmond County School System. These students are getting fitted for their uniforms, so they’ll be fit to go take care of patients all over town.
[Tomeka] We have contracts with AU, University Hospital, the Health Department, Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home, Mullins Lab.
[Brad] They’re on the dental science pathway at A.R. Johnson.
We practice with mannequins first, and practice on each other first, and then, they go out in the clinical field, and work on real people.
[Brad] That’s the kind of hands-on training you’d never get from a textbook. When they leave A.R. Johnson, they are way ahead of the game.
Several of them will have multiple certifications that our adults are going to get, but they get them in their junior and senior year, so they’ll be certified healthcare professionals, they will go to college, ’cause I make them, so, they’re gonna go to college and further that. The certifications are just a stepping stone to help them get to where they wanna go.
[Brad] Students say Mrs. Few is more like a mom than a teacher.
Well, I treat children how I want people to treat my children. I’m here because I want to be impactful, I wanna make a difference, so I do that by showing them love. Sometimes, it’s tough love, but that’s what moms do. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t do it.
[Brad] She also realizes that one day, these future healthcare workers could have her health in her hands.
And that’s why we train them and we do the tough love so that when I’m on the bed, or my daughter or my husband or family member, I can take confidence in knowing that we trained these students. They started with us.
[Brad] Thank you for answering the call, Tomeka Few. Because of you, our future and our health is in great hands.
I was supposed to do this for one year, ’cause I’m a dental hygienist. I was supposed to teach for one year back in 2009, and I’m just starting my 11th year, so yeah, I think I made the right choice. It’s definitely a God-led choice.
[Brad] David Bartlett’s students are learning about the Renaissance, and the Protestant Reformation, important social studies lessons, for sure, but how do you help modern-day kids relate?
Well, we try to use a little humor. Humor goes a long way in making something a little bit more interesting, and when possible, I draw a parallel between then and now.
[Brad] Mr. Bartlett has a real knack, a gift, really, for connecting the past and the present.
Well, the Roman Empire, it spread out all over the place, it had a huge bureaucratic government, it was, it had a large population. It had some of the same political problems we have now, immigration, defense, all kinds of other matters, and so, we can relate the Roman Empire to the modern-day world.
[Brad] The Academy of Richmond County is a big high school, but Mr. Bartlett still finds time to focus on each child, to make sure they have what they need to succeed.
They deserve it, and I don’t have any children of my own, so by the time I retire, I will have had thousands and thousands of children, boys and girls, and some of them will be doctors and lawyers and they can take care of me. Just kidding.
[Brad] No, it’s true. He’s having an impact on generations, future leaders who will take care of him.
I’ve encountered several of my past students who now have children of their own, and they’ve all gone, “Mr. B., you gotta stay long enough to teach my children.” I said, well, I’ll do that, but I refuse to teach your grandchildren. And that’s just all there is to it.
[Brad] Thank you, David Bartlett, for choosing this career, for choosing these children, those before them, and those still to come. You’re such a positive force in so many lives.
I really enjoy sharing what I know with other people. I wasn’t always a teacher. I came to it fairly late in life, and when I was a substitute teacher, I discovered that I really like sharing what I knew with people and so, I became a teacher late in life, and it’s been very rewarding. Now, it’s had its ups and downs, but overall, I love what I do, and I can’t imagine doing anything else at this time.
Torri Williams says her mother inspired her to do her best. That’s why she’s dedicated her career to helping her students do their best. They excel in her math class. She connects the classroom lessons to situations the students will encounter outside of school. Missy Johnson says she knew she wanted to become a teacher when she started teaching her stuffed animals. These days, she’s shaping the lives of her students at Harlem Middle School. She says she loves the relationships she’s able to form with the children. She treats every day as a new challenge, and a new learning experience. Two extraordinary teachers, let’s see them in action.
[Brad] Math is not everybody’s cup of tea. For some students, it’s a tough subject, and that’s just fine in Torri Williams’ math class.
[Torri] Just let them know that it’s okay to make a mistake. We all, I try to create an environment where it’s okay to make a mistake, because we all, it is intimidating.
[Brad] Ms. Williams lets her students work in groups. There’s strength in numbers, and she loves watching them succeed together, because if they can crunch the numbers in here, they’ll do just fine when they leave campus.
We start off with something simple. I’ll say, even if you’re just grocery shopping, and we’re talking about how much money you have to spend, what you wanna purchase, and we was doing systems of equations, and how does that relate to everyday type of situations.
[Brad] Ms. Williams is also known as someone who cares about her kids’ well-being. She has a heart for them. She gets that from her mother.
Just something that was taught at a young age. She always pushed forward, no matter what. It was, no matter how tough the struggle got, she always pushed forward, so I always kinda put myself in those kids’ places. I had some significant role models in my school, my church, and so, I always hope to be a positive role model to kids that may not have had that anywhere else.
[Brad] And at the end of the day, Torri Williams knows she’s made a difference. She knows that she’s contributed to a solid foundation for her students at Glenn Hills High School.
Just to see kids move forward, we hear a lot of negative things about our students, and to really get that good feedback and to feel that I had an impact at all.
[Brad] Missy Johnson had an early interest, a very early interest in her career.
Teaching to my stuffed animals at three and four years old. I started teaching from the time I could talk and walk. My mom bought me a little chalkboard easel.
[Brad] Ms. Johnson loves her job at Harlem Middle School.
I never know what to expect. Every day is a new challenge and learning experience for me, and these kids truly keep me young, and keep my mind active, and I keep engaged with them, and they engage with me, and I just love the relationship aspect of this age.
[Brad] So how do you keep 6th graders focused? There are so many distractions at this age.
Through the technology, through reading great books, learning how to analyze literature and write about it, and understand who I am as a person, and I’m growing during this tumultuous time, it makes it a whole lotta fun for all of us.
[Brad] And Missy Johnson makes sure she has a strong connection with each child.
Climate is everything. Building a relationship with these wonderful students right here is why I’m here every day. I love talking to them, learning about them, I’m a people person in general, so just the aspect of teaching where I get to talk and engage with my students is one of the most wonderful.
[Brad] Ms. Johnson makes sure the middle school years are some of the very best for her students, and she loves every minute of it.
Watching them grow as people through 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, as athletes, as musicians, it’s really a pleasure and a joy to get to know them personally, and build that relationship with me, and I always tell them, once you’re my student, you’re always my student, and really, they’re not just my students, they’re my kids.
We’ve seen some amazing stories tonight, and we’ve got more after the break. Don’t go away.
[Announcer] The Golden Apple Awards, brought to you by Kroger, Augusta Flooring, and Great Deals on Furniture continues from Television Park Studios.
Welcome back to our Golden Apple celebration, everybody, as we honor the very best teachers. Let’s meet more of the CSRA’s finest educators. Well, whether they’re learning about electrical wiring, agriculture or welding, students in Eric Holton’s classes are getting lifelong skills. Many of them will go on to get good jobs in the community after they graduate. Mr. Holton is following in his father’s footsteps in the classroom. Now his son is gonna follow the same path. The Holtons have a strong commitment to education. When Mark Brown isn’t in the classroom, he’s on stage, and that is a very comfortable place for this veteran actor. He’s also comfortable conveying his history and government lessons at Warren County High School. The kids feed off of his happiness, energy and enthusiasm. Here are these devoted teachers in their classrooms. He’s been in the classroom for a quarter century. How did he get here? Eric Holton is quick to give credit to his parents.
My dad was an Ag teacher, and I kinda followed in his footsteps, went to the University of Georgia, graduated, came here as soon as I graduated, and I’ve been here ever since, love it. Great school, great administrators, and I’ve really been blessed to be here.
[Brad] Today, Mr. Holton is teaching electrical skills, students learning to make connections and building character.
Their life is not about having one single skill to get you where you wanna go. You need to have some knowledge in all areas, but also, having the work ethic, the perseverance to get to where you need to be.
[Brad] Holton is also the FFA advisor, and teaches welding.
I just enjoy working with the young people. I really do feel blessed to be able to work with them. They are, you know, it’s fun to come to work every day. I’ll just put it that way, because everything is different every day, all the different personalities you get to interact with them and it’s just really a blessing.
[Brad] So where do they go from here? Well, spend some time in this part of the state, and you’ll see Mr. Holton’s former students keeping their communities going strong.
We’ve got several that are working over in the Elberton Whitlow there, several that actually in the electrical field that are in apprenticeship programs right now, so I do get to see them, and it’s, I always tell my kids, I wanna see you in 10 years, and hear what great things you’re doing. And it is good to see them. It does bring you joy when you realize that they’ve taken what you started in class, and they’ve been able to build a career and advance themselves.
[Brad] Mark Brown makes the past come to life in his history classes at Warren County High School.
You gotta make the connections from the past to now so that they can relate to it. You have to keep it relatable so that they’re interested. You’re up around the room, it helps to be animated, it helps to hold their attention. I use a lot of video clips, songs, short movie clips, things like that.
[Brad] When he’s not teaching history and government, you can find Mr. Brown on stage.
I’ve done a lot of things with the Augusta Players, a lot of things out at Fort Gordon Dinner Theatre.
[Brad] He has a passion for acting, a passion that serves him well when he’s at work.
And this is kind of just like that. You get up in front of an audience every single day, and especially with history, it’s one long story that it doesn’t stop. So you get to kind of relive that story every single day, and bring them into that story.
[Brad] Another big key to his success? His wife. She’s also a Warren County teacher.
No one understand the job a teacher does more than another teacher, so when you’re living it with someone, we get to go home, bounce ideas off of each other, talk about our day.
[Brad] Days that are filled with lots of rewards, lots of moments that let Mark Brown know that he made the right choice when he answered the call to teach.
It’s seeing them be successful. It is seeing them understand something, seeing that moment when they get something, helping them, not just as a teacher, just as another human being. Teaching them that, you know, the world isn’t always an easy place, but if you put in the work now, you can make the world a better place, and you can make it a little easier on yourself and others.
Andrea Eremus spent more than a decade serving this country in the United States Army. Then, she moved on to a good job, but when her daughter was in the 3rd grade, she knew it was time for a change. Now, she is living a life of service to her students, and the children at North Harlem Elementary School surely are fortunate to have her. Laurie Frazier has been teaching in Aiken County for 30 years. She has deep ties to the community and deep ties to Schofield Middle. That’s where she went to school a few short decades ago. Now she’s giving back to the place loves so much. Their classrooms are just as unique as they are. Let’s take a look.
[Brad] Andrea Eremus served in the United States Army for 12 years. She had a good job when she got out, but when her daughter was in the 3rd grade, she knew it was time for a change.
We had an experience, and it wasn’t the greatest, and I remember talking to my husband about it, and he said to me, “What are you gonna do about it?” And at that time, I had just transitioned from being a government contractor, and we were out in El Paso, and he said, “Well, what are you gonna do?” I was like, I could go teach.
[Brad] And she’s never looked back. She gets reminders that she made the right choice almost every day.
There’s something that’ll happen. I’ll be working with a student, or a student that I’ve taught in the past will come by and say, “Hey, Ms. Eremus,” or one of the parents will let me know that I’m doing something right, and it just confirms that this is where I’m supposed to be.
[Brad] It’s a challenge to keep her 1st graders focused, but somehow, she pulls it off.
[Andrea] I move a lot, and I drink a lot of coffee. I don’t sit down hardly, and when I do sit down, today, I had to put in some pre-test information, and that’s what I was doing when you guys came in here, but most of the time, I’m up, I’m moving, and I’m very animated, so I guess that helps.
[Brad] Mrs. Eremus thinks about these students all the time, constantly working on ways to help them.
It makes me give them my best. It makes me, I think about them at home, I think about it when I’m in my car, and I’m just transitioning, I’m doing something or going someplace. I think about what can I do to reach that student? How can I get them to move from one place to another, and be ready?
[Brad] And she is quick to give credit to her entire team, a great group working for the outstanding children at North Harlem Elementary School.
That’s how it works in this building. We work together, and we pull each other along, and try to come up with the best for each one of our students.
[Brad] Laurie Frazier’s interest in teaching started when she was a child. At first, she played school at home.
And then I read a book called “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” and in the book, the main character, Francie Nolan, she got out of poverty by wanting to go to school and valuing education, and my home life wasn’t always the best, and I knew that I had something that I could do with my life and the enthusiasm that I had for reading and for literature, and I wanted to share that with young people and I wanted to be able to make some type of difference in this world.
[Brad] She’s making a huge difference in the lives of her students. It’s an important year, as they wrap up their careers at Schofield Middle, and get ready for high school.
8th grade is the last time that we get a chance to help those students be able to have the skills to stay afloat, and not sink, because they’ll be the little fish in a big pond when they get there.
[Brad] Mrs. Frazier taught in Aiken County for 27 years. Last year, she moved to Columbia, and taught there. She knew she had to come back.
I realized that how much my family and how much Aiken County Schools, and how much just being in a community where I feel supported meant to me, and so, I’m happy to be back, and I can even say I was a student here in Schofield Middle School. When I first moved down here from New York, I went to Schofield in 1975.
[Brad] A former student helping these current students reach great heights. Congratulations, Laurie Frazier, a teacher who will be remembered and appreciated for a lifetime of dedication to our children.
I know that I’m making a difference. I actually had a young lady last night send me a little message on Facebook. It was something that Ellen was doing for a young man, and she had his teacher come, and she said that this is how I see you, and those are the types of things that just make me know or make me understand that what I’m doing makes a difference and I know I was put on this Earth to be a teacher.
Latoya McGriff was always destined to work with children. At first, she wanted to be a neonatal nurse, but then she followed her heart into teaching, and she puts her heart into her lessons every day. Her kindergarteners learn and change so much while they’re in her classroom. It’s an amazing year of growth. Well, she has gone from covering breaking news to breaking down the greatest writers of all time. Kathleen Conyers used to be a radio broadcaster, but the classroom was her true calling. Now she helps her students understand Shakespeare, Chaucer and other literary greats. She’s a beloved member of an outstanding team at Midland Valley High School. Amazing teachers with great stories. Let’s visit their classrooms. Latoya McGriff didn’t always know she’d be in this classroom. Instead of teaching these children, she could’ve helped deliver them.
At first, I started off as wanting to be a neonatal nurse. And then, I was praying to God, asking Him for my purpose, ’cause nursing classes are hard, so if that’s not what you want me to do, I don’t wanna have to go through all of that. At the time, I was working at Belk, and I was working at the Clinique counter, and this lady came in, I did her makeup, long story short, her son ended up telling me that I was supposed to be a teacher.
[Brad] So she changed her major and the rest is history. Her kindergarteners at Warrenville Elementary reap the benefits of her decision every day.
I try to make it so fun for them. I like to find out what they’re interested in, like they really love unicorns, so that’s what I’m known as, the unicorn teacher. I do a story time live on my Facebook, and I dress up in my unicorn pajamas and my kids tune in and I read them bedtime stories every Tuesday night.
[Brad] Ms. McGriff is still recovering from a horrible car accident three years ago, an accident that she says improved her approach to her job.
Every morning I wake up, I try to think how I could be a better teacher than I was the day before. I know what it’s like to be taught something one day and not remember the next, because when my brain, when my car accident, I had trauma on the brain, so my memory, it’s been taking me awhile to get my memory back, and so, when I ask my kids to do something, and they give me this look, it’s like, oh, well, maybe they really don’t remember, ’cause I’ve been where they are now.
[Brad] And she’ll continue to be there for them.
So I have to make sure that I’m doing my best to reach all of my kids, and that’s a lot of pressure, but I teach my kids that we can defeat challenges, and so, that’s what I have to do with them. When I’m feeling the pressure, I just kinda figure out another way, or I seek another source or way to get help so that I can help my kids and make sure I’m giving them my all.
[Brad] Kathleen Conyers could’ve been on the other side of the mic during this interview, but way back when, her priest steered her in a different direction.
I was a radio announcer, a news announcer, and there was an opening at the religious school, and he said, “You know what? “I think you’d be really good at that.”
[Brad] She is very good at it.
And I just realized that I love the subject, and I wanna share the love of English with other people.
[Brad] That means getting today’s kids to fall in love with literature written long ago.
Shakespeare’s themes, his thematic ideas are timeless, and even though the language might be difficult, what he’s saying is not. These young people are experiencing the same things that he writes about today.
[Brad] Ms. Conyers knows that the seeds planted in this room could lead to legendary careers when they leave Midland Valley High School.
They may be the next Shakespeare. They could be the next writer, and I just want them to enjoy writing, enjoy their language, and explore the language.
[Brad] Congratulations, Kathleen Conyers, a broadcaster who became a teacher, who became an incredible inspiration to her students.
When you’ve been around as long as I have, you’ve taught the same material year after year after year, and the most amazing thing about teachers is that every year, I teach this material, I learn something new from my students. They come with a new perspective, and they make me reconsider what I thought I knew about Shakespeare, or what I thought I knew about Chaucer, they always bring something new. So I’m learning while they’re learning, and that is the most rewarding thing about teaching.
Luanne Baker is about to hit the 30-year mark in her teaching career. She has helped generations of children during those three decades. She keeps things moving for her kindergarteners. Every day, in her Redcliffe Elementary School classroom is an adventure in learning. From the U.S. Navy to the construction business to Home Depot, Shane Dowdney has had a lot of jobs, but his true love is teaching. He shares that love with his students and helps them excel at science, and in his spare time, he even coaches the archery team. They are educating our future leaders, and loving every minute of it.
[Brad] Luanne Baker’s students are hard at work on another math lesson.
We were doing addition today, learning how to make, to use manipulatives or their hands or other things to do addition.
[Brad] There’s a lot of energy in this room. Ms. Baker knows how to keep things moving.
That really does help them learn, when they can actually do it and see it, then they know it. They’re so smart, and they love to move around. Five year olds love to move around, and so, I try to use that any time I can.
[Brad] And these bright young minds change and grow so much during their kindergarten year.
I see the joy of the love for reading that they have. They come in, they might not know the letters of the alphabet, but by the end of the year, even by now, they’re reading.
[Brad] And even though they’re becoming more independent every day, Mom and Dad still play a key role.
It starts at the home, because I think the parents are their number one teachers, I tell them, and I talk to parents weekly, and I just make a, I have a positive relationship with my parents, so then, they support me.
[Brad] Support that’s been strong for Luanne Baker for nearly 30 years.
It’s more rigorous than we used to, because to graduate from high school, they have to know more than they used to 29 years ago, and you know, some parents would say, “You’re teaching 1st grade,” and I thought that, but no, these children are ready for it.
[Brad] They are ready because of Ms. Baker’s hard work, her constant commitment to help her students.
And when I was in 3rd grade, I said I wanted to be a teacher. I always wanted to be a teacher, and I love the children, I love seeing the light bulb turn on when they learn how to read, and they learn their letters, and they learn to add and to do math. It’s just such a great feeling, and it’s all worth it.
[Brad] Shane Dowdney has a lot of experience in a lot of fields.
I was in the Navy for right at four years, I’ve done construction, I’ve worked with Home Depot for a long time, I’ve been a coach most of my adult life, and even when I worked at Home Depot, I was still teaching classes.
[Brad] And now, he’s focused on making his Thomson McDuffie Middle School classroom a place of growth and discovery. He fits right in with his 6th and 7th grade gifted science students.
[Shane] I’m a big kid, I like to play, so science allows me to do that.
[Brad] It’s also a place where technology is at the forefront. Notice the laptops instead of textbooks.
This way, I can track, it’s more immediate feedback, I can grade on here. They have, they can find out, they can correct without having to pencil/paper everything. It saves time for them, it saves time for me.
[Brad] Mr. Dowdney also makes sure his middle schoolers are straight shooters. He’s the coach of the archery team. He’s also in charge of the Girls Who Code program. He helps those students get interested in the world of cyber at an early age.
And we average about 30 girls every Tuesday, so up from about 15 last year. So it’s growing. I don’t turn any girls away for Girls Who Code.
[Brad] And all of this is made possible by Mr. Dowdney’s dedication to his job, and the support of the entire team and the McDuffie County School System.
For me, it’s awesome. Now, I’ve been, I’ve taught in three states, and multiple counties, and I love the support that I get from the board, from the district, from the administrators here at the school. The other teachers, the parents, it’s, I get, I enjoy what I do, and I get help along the way doing it, so for me, it’s awesome.
Kayleigh Sheppard’s plate is more than full. She teaches five advanced science courses, and still finds time for several leadership roles outside the classroom. Well, she’ll tell you, it’s all part of life at a small school. Briarwood Academy has a team of teachers ready to do whatever it takes to help those students. Ansley Nelson had a great role model growing up. Her mother was a teacher. Now Mrs. Nelson is in charge of a great group of 3rd graders. She makes sure they’re happy, enthusiastic, and that they love to read. They’re ready to tackle anything after their time with her. They inspire students every day. Here they are. Kayleigh Sheppard teaches AP Chemistry, Honors Chemistry, AP Biology, and Physics at Briarwood Academy.
Our school is small, so our teachers typically teach across the curriculum in their subject area. So you kind of end up with a number of different courses rather than just one course that you focus on.
[Brad] Her goal is to create a relationship that makes the students comfortable. That comfort assures them it’s okay to ask questions and make mistakes.
I’m a lot more comfortable with kids than I am with adults, so it’s just a lot easier for me to talk to them, and for the most part, I mean, they’re interested in what we’re doing, and the more personable you can be with them, the easier it is for them to learn from you.
[Brad] Learning that goes far beyond the textbooks.
They do learn a lot about critical thinking, and deadlines and we go to lab a lot, so we try to get in the lab, and teach them how to function independently of me in there.
[Brad] And any independence is welcome. It frees Mrs. Sheppard up to do other things, like coach the cheerleaders, lead the National Honor Society, or plan the prom.
We’re small, and we just have to all wear a lot of different hats to keep it going.
[Brad] Mrs. Sheppard says this career has taught her a lot, and when she started teaching her own children, she realized that sometimes, it’s okay to loosen the reigns, and let the students show you the way.
From them, I’ve learned that I have to be a little bit more flexible and a little bit more understanding to get them there.
[Brad] Ansley Nelson is in this classroom because of a very special role model in her life.
My mom is an elementary school teacher. She’s taught 4th and 5th grade her entire career, and I’ve always loved being around kids. I used to work a preschool and things like that, daycare, and so, I absolutely love 3rd grade.
[Brad] Mrs. Nelson also takes time to give individual help to her kids.
I just really look at who needs that extra help, who needs extra time, my extra time, and just pull them in small group, and try to make things interesting and hands-on as I possibly can.
[Brad] All part of making sure they leave 3rd grade and are ready to tackle what’s next.
You want them to find their independence, and really find what they like about school and what keeps them going, and so, I just really try to foster that independence and build on that from the beginning of the year, and get them to find what they’re interested in, and what they’re passionate about.
[Brad] That includes fostering a big interest in reading.
That’s something that, this year, is really important to me, is finding a balance between Google Classroom, and independent reading time, and so my kids get at least 20 minutes of independent reading time.
[Brad] And none of it would be possible without the strong support of her family.
They’ve always supported me, helped me, donate things to my classroom, and make sure that, you know, they understand the time that it takes, and my husband is very understanding of the time that I make a mess of the living room, making grades and organizing their books, and making sure that they have what they need, and what I think is fun to do.
[Brad] Congratulations, Ansley Nelson, a hard-working teacher who knows that she’s helping to shape the future leaders of her community.
And my goal is for them to be successful citizens that are just passionate about learning. So that’s my goal.
Shannon Stoddard has high hopes for her children. She gets to witness so much growth during their 2nd grade year. It’s the kind of progress that makes her realize they are really going to leave their mark on the world one day. She certainly makes quite an impression on them during their time in her Jamestown Elementary classroom. JaVonne Jones teaches musart. It’s a chance for students to learn about music and art. It’s a combination that gets her class excited about each lesson. They apply these music and art skills in other classes throughout the day. Shaping the CSRA’s future, let’s meet them.
[Brad] You may like to read when you start Shannon Stoddard’s class, but you will love it by the time you’re finished.
Everything surrounds reading. The books, we set goals to achieve higher levels, and they work real hard to achieve those goals, and we celebrate those goals.
[Brad] The result? 2nd graders who are reading well beyond their years.
Everyone has grown so much, and at the beginning of the year, I have a lot of below-level readers, and that’s a challenge that I love to fill, I love to close that gap, get them on or even above. I have several in here right now that are reading on 3rd and 4th grade level.
[Brad] But all that progress doesn’t get parents off the hook. Mrs. Stoddard encourages adults to read at home as much as possible.
Even if they just listen to someone reading, it helps improve their vocabulary, and understanding word meaning and the surrounding message around the story, or the text or the passage.
[Brad] Teaching is Mrs. Stoddard’s true passion. She loves her job, and she has high hopes for these children.
I want them to be whatever they want to be. I’m sorry.
No, you’re fine. Your hopes are high for them.
I feel like being a teacher is like being a parent. Every choice I make or don’t make affects their path. Same with my students.
[Brad] All part of answering the call to teach, and to touch so many lives.
My heart’s full. I just know it’s right for me. This is my gift, this is my gift from God to these children.
[Brad] Welcome to JaVonne Jones’ class at Deer Chase Elementary School. She calls it musart.
I try to find art standards that correlate with the music standards, and you know, teach the students that, because they never really had any art, formal art teaching.
[Brad] Music and art coming together, a fusion that’s fun and informative.
We did lines, horizontal, vertical, and so, I told them about lines in music, like melody, you know, music moves up, down, things like that, so they could see that there’s lines in art, literally, but there’s also lines in music.
[Brad] These lessons also help the students succeed in other courses.
They go to their math class, and they’ll do geometry and you’re doing angles and triangles, different types of angles and we talked about the lines that we use in here to be able to do that.
[Brad] Ms. Jones is giving back to the community that made her the expert musician and teacher she is today.
I actually am a product of Richmond County School System. I went to C.T. Walker and I went to Davidson 5th through 12th grade. So I’m a product here, and when I was in 4th grade, I started in the orchestra, and I just kept going, and played throughout high school and college.
[Brad] And when she’s not in the classroom, you can find Ms. Jones playing her electric violin at functions throughout the area. She lifts people up wherever she goes, a gift that started when she was a child, when she heard a girl play the violin at church.
It’s amazing how a person can have that much impact on a person, and they don’t even know that they did that for me. So I said I wanted to be that person for other boys and girls.
Emily Daniels says times sure have changed since she started teaching 28 years ago. But you know what? She’s changed with the times, and kept up with the needs of today’s students. From the latest technology to just giving them lots of love, they’re in great shape when they leave her 4th grade classroom. Leon DeBerry has not always been good at math, but he has always had a passion for it. That’s what makes him such an outstanding math teacher. He knows that his 5th graders need to realize it’s a skill set they’ll always use. They love what they do, and it truly shows. Let’s see what makes them great. Emily Daniels has been teaching for 28 years. She knew it was the right career choice right away.
It’s a passion. Either you are meant for this job or you’re not. And it does not take you 28 years to discover that this is not the job for you. It may take you about 28 days, but not 28 years, and I just love it.
[Brad] The connection between teacher and student in this classroom is so strong.
Not so much academic but personal learning, as well. What do they get from me? What do I get from them? We learn from each other, so it’s a calling, it’s a passion.
[Brad] A passion that’s led her to learn new things over the years. Kids have changed.
Wow, have they ever. The classroom has changed, the children have changed, parents have changed, but there is nothing, like I tell my young cohorts, there’s nothing like tradition, so I am a traditionalist at heart, but I am learning about technology, so I’m sort of moving in that direction.
[Brad] Mrs. Daniels gives a lot of credit to Mr. Daniels for her lifetime of success in school.
I must say that my husband is my rock, and when I say that, he is the very reason why I’m able to stand here today and tell you that I have been doing this for 28 years, because he enabled me financially to go back to school to become a certified teacher where he took the bulk of the bills and the bulk of the finances while I went back for about two years, to become a certified teacher.
[Brad] Her son used to watch her grade papers when he was little. He said he would never be a teacher.
But I tell you now, that he is a Spanish teacher at TCM here in Richmond County. So there you go.
[Brad] Way to go, Emily Daniels. Thank you for changing so many lives, and making our community a better place.
We love to say we wanna make kids lifelong learners, but when you see that you have actually done that, you have that student that goes to, they make it to 12th grade, and they come back to your door or the parents come back with them, they come to your door with that invitation in hand, saying, “Ms. Daniels, you told me when I got to 12th grade “and I graduated to bring you my invitation, “so here’s my invitation.”
[Brad] Leon DeBerry stays very busy with his 5th graders. He teaches math, a subject that didn’t always come easy for him, but he has a passion for it that he passes on to these students.
A positive reinforcement, letting them know that they can do it, no matter what the problem may be, they just have to persevere and know that they can do it.
[Brad] Mr. DeBerry helps the children realize they’ll need to know math long after they leave Blythe Elementary School.
In every facet of life, math is used. And I tell them all the time, as adults, they’re going to use it. They just have to embrace what we’re giving them, and take that opportunity to be their very best.
[Brad] Mr. DeBerry knows that he and the great team at Blythe are the last stop for these 5th graders before middle school.
And we just let them know that they can do it, and we let them know how important it is, how important education is, and how they just need to really just take in what we’re giving them, you know, even if they don’t get it the first time, it’s okay, just keep trying. You will get it.
[Brad] And none of his success would be possible without his family. Mr. DeBerry used to teach his cousins when they were children, and he continues to lean on those family ties for support.
It’s such an advantage because even though, and teaching is hard, but when you have that family foundation, that continues to encourage you, and let you know that you can do it, and that you’re making a difference. You know, that’s what gets me up every morning, and just come and just be the very best teacher than I can be to the students.
Yet again, an amazing group of teachers. We hope that you enjoyed tonight’s presentation, recognizing some of the best people that this community has to offer, our teachers. Not only to our Golden Apple winners, but to all educators watching who have touched our lives, we will never forget you.
This new normal is not forever. Our students and teachers will be reunited, and when that day comes, we’re gonna see a generation of students who value getting up and going to school, and learning from a teacher who has researched, planned, and prepared so hard. We’re gonna see stronger relationships forged between teachers and families, and the community will acknowledge the true and lasting impact of an outstanding teacher. On behalf of our Golden Apple partners, and my partner, Jennie Montgomery, thank you so much for joining us for the Golden Apple Awards. Have a great night.