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Area teachers honored at Masters in Teaching program
Ocie McMillan tosses a ball in the air before throwing it to a member of the audience who has to answer a question Tuesday during Masters in Teaching at Featherbone Communiversity on Brenau University’s East Campus in Gainesville. The event honored area teachers for their teaching expertise and influence.

Coming Sunday: Look for full profiles of this year's Master Teachers in Sunday's print edition of The Times, available at retail outlets and news racks throughout Northeast Georgia. Subscribe online to have The Times delivered to your home, or call 770-532-2222.

If you give a teacher a roomful of people who aren’t her students, she will still find a way to teach them.

“It takes a lot of hot air to teach,” Brenau University professor Karen Henman said. “So who in here is qualified? Raise your hand if you think you have a lot of hot air.”

Henman brought three audience members down to the front, asking them to blow into three long tubes. They struggled with the task.

Then, Henman invited up one of her Brenau students, who filled a tube with two breaths.

“Bernoulli’s principle says that when moving air has greater velocity, it reduces air pressure,” Henman said. “So when (the student) blew up the tube, she was increasing the velocity of the air into the tube, which was causing the pressure.”

Henman’s educational demonstration was part of her acceptance speech at the sixth annual Masters in Teaching program, where she was one of nine educators honored for their dedication and tenacity in the classroom.

Along with Henman, this year’s winners were Heather Anderson from World Language Academy; John Hamilton from the University of North Georgia; Ocie McMillan from Gainesville Middle School; Kim Nicholson from Sardis Enrichment School; Tina Schnepper from Lanier Technical College; Charlie Sea from Gainesville High School; Marleen Springston from Riverside Military Academy; and Lynn Zottnick from Lakeview Academy.

The Tuesday event was held on Brenau University’s East Campus at Featherbone Communiversity, where it was first dreamed up six years ago.

“The concept at the time was this, and I’ll ask you this question,” Communiversity founder Gus Whalen said. “Do you remember a teacher who changed your life? We do. And so what we wanted to do was to honor the best of the best in teaching.”

While the nine recipients come from different backgrounds and subject areas, a common theme emerged from their acceptance speeches: Bring excitement and positivity to the classroom, then learning comes naturally.

The other common ground between the participants was their passion for the profession.

“How could I do anything else with my life?” Nicholson asked. “Teaching is my honor, my calling. It’s my ministry. I wanted to say to you that there are really no words I can use to get up here in front of you with this podium and this microphone and express what it’s like to be in the classroom.”

Keynote speaker and Georgia Teacher of the Year Jemelleh Coes talked about the importance of trying new things in the classroom.

“I’m challenging teachers to do things they’ve never done before, or maybe some things that they have done before and increase those things, to get results that they’ve never gotten before,” Coes said. “(It is) taking a chance, because you do things you haven’t done before to get where you want to go.”

Also at the Tuesday event, 52 students graduated from the Featherbone Academy.

“I am so lucky and proud to be a part of this great program,” Gainesville High student Jakim Johnson said. “All of these activities have become building blocks for our future, given to us in the new angle of learning, and that’s exactly what Communiversity is about.”

Regional events