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'The cherry on top': Teachers of the year in Gainesville, Hall honored
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Lanier Elementary teacher Susan Howard, center, receives a check from the Melvin Douglas and Victoria Kay Ivester Foundation Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022, for the Hall County Schools District Teacher of the Year during a banquet ceremony at Lanier College Career Academy. From the left is Kay Ivester, Lanier Elementary principal Alli Roberts, Howard, Doug Ivester and Hall County School District superintendent Will Schofield. - photo by Scott Rogers

Teaching is sometimes called a thankless job, but that certainly wasn’t the case on Wednesday. 

Two teachers are now $10,000 richer after being named Teacher of the Year for their respective school districts. 

“Being a teacher is a reward in itself,” said Susan Howard, the district winner for Hall County Schools who was also a state finalist. “This is just the cherry on top.” 

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New Holland Leadership Academy teacher Cynthia Kinsey, center, receives a check from the Melvin Douglas and Victoria Kay Ivester Foundation Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022, for the Gainesville City School System Teacher of the Year during a banquet ceremony at Lanier College Career Academy. From the left is Kay Ivester, New Holland Leadership Academy principal Andreka Thompson, Kinsey, Doug Ivester and Gainesville City Schools System superintendent Jeremy Williams. - photo by Scott Rogers

Cynthia Kinsey, the district winner for Gainesville City Schools, echoed that sentiment and said the honor ranks near the top of her list of accomplishments during her 15-year teaching career. 

“With that being said,” Kinsey added, “we can't lose sight of the most important thing: the time that we spend changing lives. Really, that’s what it’s all about — making a difference in a kid’s life.” 

The $10,000 prize is not formally tied to the Teacher of the Year program, which began in 1952 and functions at the local, state and national level. Rather, it began in 2019 as a gift from the Melvin Douglas and Victoria Kay Ivester Foundation. 

“That just says to an entire community: This matters,” said Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield.

“There is no more important occupation.” 

Doug Ivester, former CEO of Coca Cola, and his wife, Kay, are known throughout Hall County for their philanthropy in education.

A banquet sponsored by the foundation was held at Lanier College and Career Academy, where Doug Ivester and others spoke about the importance of uplifting teachers. 

“It’s long overdue that society has not recognized their teachers more,” Ivester said. “And teaching, in my opinion, has become a harder job,” especially in the wake of the pandemic and with the integration of technology. 

Now, there are talks of doing more. 

Lynn Darby, president of the Ivester Foundation, and Craig Herrington, chair of the Hall County school board, talked during the event about expanding the award. 

Darby said they want to “spread the net,” perhaps by including more teachers, but they haven’t made any decisions yet. 

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New Holland Leadership Academy teacher Cynthia Kinsey gives a short speech Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022, during a Teachers of the Year ceremony and luncheon at Lanier College Career Academy. Kinsey was honored as the Gainesville City School System Teacher of the Year at the event. - photo by Scott Rogers
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Lanier Elementary teacher Susan Howard gives remarks Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022, during a Teachers of the Year ceremony and luncheon at Lanier College Career Academy. Howard was honored as the Hall County School District Teacher of the Year at the event. - photo by Scott Rogers