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These are Gainesville's teachers of the year
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Gainesville Exploration Academy teacher Suzanne Cindea has been named Gainesville City Schools' district teacher of the year. - photo by Scott Rogers

Suzanne Cindea, a third grade teacher at Gainesville Exploration Academy, has been named Gainesville City Schools' district teacher of the year. Read her story. In addition to Cindea, the following teachers have been designated as teachers of the year at their individual schools.

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Lauren Niles
Lauren Niles

School: Centennial Arts Academy

Teaches: Third grade

Years at school: 5

Years teaching: 5

City of residence: Gainesville

Quote: “The most rewarding aspect of my career has been watching students learn and grow and creating lifelong relationships with students and families.”


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Heather Hagye
Heather Hagye

School: Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy

Teaches: Special education interrelated resource

Years at school: 7

Years teaching: 7

City of residence: Gainesville

Quote: “When I reflect on my profession, I feel the most sense of satisfaction knowing that I am a small part of helping to improve our community. I value the trust that families place in me and that they allow me to be a part of their lives. Teaching is ridiculously rewarding, at times heartbreaking and always an opportunity to learn.


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Ashley Hamby
Ashley Hamby

School: Fair Street International Academy

Teaches: K-5 special education interrelated resource

Years at school: 5

Years teaching: 5

City of residence: Dawsonville

Quote: “I love having a job where I can daily pour into the lives of children and feel like I can make a difference in their lives. I enjoy the challenge of striving to find the individual needs of each student so I can reach each child at their level and meet their needs in all aspects, whether it be academically, socially or emotionally.”


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Kristy Smith
Kristy Smith

School: Gainesville High School

Teaches: Social studies to English learners

Years at school: 20

Years teaching: 24

City of residence: Flowery Branch

Quote: “The most rewarding aspect of my job as a teacher is being able to impact the lives of young people. Not only do I teach them world history, I also teach them speaking, listening, reading and writing in English. Furthermore, I teach them life skills such as logic, sound argumentation, responsibility, how to work in groups, respect and integrity, to name a few. In a nutshell, I endeavor to help my students become the best they can be.”


Iris Butts
Iris Butts
Iris Butts

School: Gainesville Middle School

Teaches: Eighth grade math

Years at school: 17

Years teaching: 18

City of residence: Flowery Branch

Quote: “This is my second time being named teacher of the year at Gainesville Middle and I love my job. I don’t call it coming to work, I call it coming to school. I love the impact that a teacher has on kids and when the students teach me something new.”


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Amber Sharkey
Amber Sharkey

School: Mundy Mill Learning Academy

Teaches: Second grade

Years at school: 3

Years teaching: 10

City of residence: Lula

Quote: “I had a child who said, ‘I love even though sometimes when things don’t work out at home, I can come here and Ms. Sharkey is there with a hug.’ It’s knowing that you’ve made an impression and you’re that person for that kid. That was my goal when I became a teacher.”


Tori Gilleland
Tori Gilleland
Tori Gilleland

School: New Holland Knowledge Academy

Teaches: Third grade

Years at school: 5

Years teaching: 5

City of residence: Flowery Branch

Quote: “When you intentionally spend time getting to know them, you can see their potential. The sweet part is when you work day in and day out and watch them get the things we worked on. I love when students feel confident that they can do things that are difficult.”