Ten of the area’s top teachers were invited to share what’s in their hearts and on their minds Tuesday at the second Masters in Teaching: Life Changers at Work awards ceremony.
The master teachers, who range from early childhood development to university level, were honored for excelling in the art of teaching.
Educators and community members gathered at the Warren Featherbone Communiversity to learn from teachers who have made a difference.
Gus Whalen, the founder of the communiversity and the creator of the Master Teachers award, emphasized the importance of great teachers in the community.
“We want to affirm those people in all grade levels who are our master teachers,” Whalen said. “We want to learn from you. We want to encourage people to come in behind the master teachers and teach at this level.”
Each of the teachers spoke about their unique experiences, though they shared a number of common themes.
They pointed to the importance of teachers who truly care about their students. Many were inspired by a special teacher who helped them.
For Stacy Vinton, the owner of the Academy Child Development Center, it was her second-grade teacher who always took the time to listen to students.
“She cared about our feelings,” Vinton said.
For Lisa Sheehy, a math teacher at Gainesville High School, the memory was of a small gesture; a teacher who tied the sash on her dress after her stepmother died.
“It’s just noticing what people need,” Sheehy said.
Master Teacher Deanna Fawcett said she emphasizes personal attention to the children in her Sardis Enrichment School class because she may not know what their lives are like outside the classroom.
“I might be the only person who hears their story that day or offers words of encouragement,” Fawcett said.
The Master Teachers also spoke about the importance of passion and excitement about what they teach.
Myers Elementary School teacher Caye Guidry said she makes a point of using as many “out-of-desk experiences” in her lessons as possible, including costumes, experiments and even gardening.
“I believe what’s important is making memories,” Guidry said.
Gainesville Middle School science teacher Hugh McKinney said if kids are enjoying what they are learning, it’s more likely to stick.
“You don’t just have to give them a list of numbers, give them a fun, exciting way to remember that,” McKinney said. “There’s nothing wrong with being fun as long as you’re learning.”
Though all of the master teachers teach different subjects, the common thread is that they are all passionate about what they do.
“I share with my students something I believe with all my heart,” said Billi Bromer, the director of teacher education at Brenau University’s Augusta Campus. “Teaching is not something you do. Teaching is something you are.”