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Hall County 2018-19 Teachers of the Year
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East Hall High School teacher Cindy Grier has been named the Hall County Schools Teacher of the Year for 2018-19. - photo by Scott Rogers
Cindy Grier 

School: East Hall High School

Teaches: Mathematics

Years at school: 20

Years teaching: 27

City of residence: Gainesville

Quote: “Of course I enjoy the subject I teach, but the greater joy comes from the endless opportunities teaching provides to make an impact on so many young lives. As a teacher, I have the chance to not only educate my students in the area of mathematics, but also help develop their character. It is immensely rewarding to hear from a current, or former, student that I made a positive difference for them in some way. Without a doubt, that has to be the greatest blessing of being a teacher.” Read more about the districtwide winner.

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Jason Chesser
Jason Chesser

School: Chestatee Academy

Teaches: Physical education and wildlife biology

Years at school: 18

Years teaching: 21

City of residence: Cleveland

Quote: “My love for teaching stems from my desire to learn. I love to research and investigate and hope to model that for my students and inspire them to do the same for themselves.”


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Chantelle Grace
Chantelle Grace

School: Chestatee High School

Teaches: Social studies

Years at school: 5

Years teaching: 5

City of residence: Braselton

Quote: “Teaching is one of the most rewarding careers anyone can enter into. And it’s not because of the lives we have the opportunity to impact, but the impact those lives have on us. Every year, my students inspire me to be better than I was before, and it is their motivation that continuously reinvigorates my love for teaching.”

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Dana Walker
Dana Walker

School: Chestnut Mountain Creative School of Inquiry

Teaches: Fourth grade

Years at school: 6

Years teaching: 16

City of residence: Braselton

Quote: “Building positive relationships with my students is one of the greatest joys and reasons why I love being a teacher. Every year I strive to create a sense of community within my classroom so that my students know that they have classmates and a teacher that care about them. It is such a rewarding experience when I see my students excel because of the positive reinforcement that has been shown to them throughout the year.”

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Alisha Buffington - photo by Scott Rogers
Alisha Buffington

School: Chicopee Woods Elementary School

Teaches: K-5 science lab

Years at school: 8

Years teaching: 8

City of residence: Flowery Branch

Quote: For me, teaching is more than just providing the singular service of an academic education. Every day is an opportunity to do what my heart is most passionate about — caring for and supporting children emotionally and socially. Teaching is a blessing because on a daily basis (and sometimes even moment by moment) I can be exactly what a child needs — a teacher, a friend, an advocate, a nurse, a mommy, a mentor, a comedian, an encourager and so much more. 

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Joe Anglin
Joe Anglin

School: C.W. Davis Middle School

Teaches: Georgia studies

Years at school: 18

Years teaching: 18

City of residence: Flowery Branch

Quote: “While I thoroughly enjoy teaching the students about Georgia, the finest state in the Union, it’s interacting and getting to know the students that I cherish the most about teaching. There are very few professions that allow a person to impact lives more so than teaching.”


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Dana Cain Farr
Dana Cain Farr

School: East Hall Middle School

Teaches: Georgia studies

Years at school: 14

Years teaching: 14

City of residence: Gainesville

Quote: “To truly educate is more than a calling — it is a sacrifice. It takes time, effort and determination to take words of my faith and to bring them to life in deed and in compassion. Teaching shows the beauty and sheer power of empathy, hope and redemption — and I teach to mirror those attributes in my classroom for all of my students.”

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Kimberly Nelson
Kimberly Nelson

School: Flowery Branch Elementary School

Teaches: K-5 English to Speakers of Other Languages 

Years at school: 12

Years teaching: 19

City of residence: Buford

Quote: “I love teaching because students are constantly changing and surprising me, which keeps me learning and growing. I love the students and the relationships we build over the years as well as their ability to continually amaze me.”

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Beth Murphy
Beth Murphy

School: Flowery Branch High School

Teaches: Social studies, U.S. History

Years at school: 11

Years teaching: 13

City of residence: Winder

Quote: “I enjoy sharing my love of history with my students. Their enthusiasm makes me a better teacher.”

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Taren Dailey-Rowland
Taren Dailey-Rowland

School: Friendship Elementary School

Teaches: English to Speakers of Other Languages

Years at school: 3

Years teaching: 11

City of residence: Hoschton

Quote: “Being an educator is an amazing experience and an awesome responsibility. I have the opportunity to learn from my students every day. I also have the opportunity to make a positive impact on their lives by teaching them to read and write in English. I feel fortunate to have such a meaningful profession.”

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Courtney Hester Dwyer
Courtney Hester Dwyer

School: Johnson High School

Teaches: Special education/English

Years at school:

Years teaching:

City of residence: Jefferson

Quote: “Teachers and coaches have been some of the most influential people in my life. Now that I teach, it feels good to have that same purpose as I help some of our most fragile learners. Really, the kids need me as much as I need them.”

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Christopher Mitas
Christopher Mitas

School: Lanier College & Career Academy

Teaches: Culinary Arts

Years at school: 5

Years teaching: 8

City of residence: Auburn

Quote: “There is no other career that has the ability to impact the lives of so many individuals over the course of my life.” 

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Tracy Giles
Tracy Giles

School: Lanier Elementary School

Teaches: Fourth-grade math

Years at school: 13

Years teaching: 13

City of residence: Gainesville

Quote: “Each day my students effortlessly love, support, challenge and inspire me. This motivates me to be the very best teacher that I can be. I am so thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow with my students.”

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Heather Welborn
Heather Welborn 

School: Lula Elementary School

Teaches: Third grade

Years at school: 3

Years teaching: 4

City of residence: Gillsville

Quote: “The calling to teach is immeasurably awesome! As a teacher I get to unlock the world’s potential to so many students and help cultivate their passions and dreams. I get the honor to play a small role in molding their minds but more importantly their hearts daily.”

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Deanne M. Belford
Deanne M. Belford

School: Lyman Hall Elementary School

Teaches: First grade

Years at school: 20 years

Years teaching: 22 years

City of residence: Cornelia

Quote: “I love teaching because I get to be involved in helping form lifelong learners. Teaching first grade allows me to equip students with the foundational skills that they will build upon for the rest of their lives. Building relationships with students and seeing their faces become brighter as they become more and more confident in their skills, is a satisfaction that I will always treasure.”


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Jessica Smith
Jessica Smith

School: Martin Technology Academy of Math and Science

Teaches: First grade

Years at school: 4

Years teaching: 4

City of residence: Gainesville

Quote: “My passion is teaching students to love learning and to look forward to coming to school each day! The best part of teaching is each day is brand-new and a new chance for students to learn. I consider it an honor and privilege to teach our world’s greatest resource, the children, of Hall County.”


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Sarah Lux
Sarah Lux

School: McEver Arts Academy

Teaches: K-5 English to Speakers of Other Languages

Years at school: 14

Years teaching: 20

City of residence: Oakwood

Quote: “It brings me great joy to work with students daily! There is something new to learn everyday.”

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Kristi Crumpton
Kristi Crumpton

School: Mount Vernon Exploratory School

Teaches: Media specialist

Years at school: 8

Years teaching: 25

City of residence: Clermont

Quote: “The beauty of my position as a media specialist is that I have the privilege to work with students from kindergarten to fifth grade. I work with them in many areas including research, technology, gardening, STEM, literacy and on many student teams including technology team, safety team and the news crew. I love being able to build relationships with students and watch them grow and develop into confident and competent leaders.” 

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Kacie Landers
Kacie Landers

School: Myers Elementary School

Teaches: Third grade

Years at school: 11

Years teaching: 14

City of residence: Gainesville

Quote: “Every day is a new day filled with eager students who thirst for knowledge. The excitement of an 8- or 9-year-old learning a new concept or skill is something amazing to see, and I get to experience that every day.” 

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Amy Tyner
Amy Tyner

School: North Hall Middle School

Teaches: Sixth-grade science and social studies

Years at school: 5

Years teaching: 14

City of residence: Gainesville

Quote: “I do what I do because I love teaching! I believe that students should feel loved, and I enjoy seeing students light up when they ‘get’ it.”

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Emily Hulsey
Emily Hulsey

School: North Hall High School

Teaches: English special education

Years at school: 1

Years teaching: 11

City of residence: Lula

Quote: “I love working with young people; the opportunity to interact and inspire students on a daily basis is something I see as an honor and privilege, and I enjoy going to work each day because of my kids. Making the move to special education was something I felt called to do, and I am thankful that I’ve been able to work with all levels of students over the past 11 years.”

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Christy Morris
Christy Morris

School: Oakwood Elementary School

Teaches: Kindergarten

Years at school: 3

Years teaching: 29

City of residence: Braselton

Quote: “I have a heart for teaching and seeing the sparkle in my students eyes as they learn new things. I feel that a positive environment with a solid foundation in kindergarten sets the tone for students and their parents as they begin their educational journey. I have been truly blessed with the opportunity to work with amazing families and colleagues over the past 29 years!”

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Heather York
Heather York

School: Riverbend Elementary 

Teaches: Fourth-grade Advanced Scholars Academy

Years at school: 7

Years teaching: 8

City of residence: Lula

Quote: “I love teaching because I get to provide opportunities for children to find their true passions and strengths in life.”

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Noah Kirk
Noah Kirk

School: Sardis Enrichment School

Teaches: Second grade 

Years at school: 5

Years teaching: 12

City of residence: Gainesville 

Quote: “I enjoy teaching because there is never a dull moment when you work with children. Teaching provides me with the opportunity to learn, grow and strengthen my community.”

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Kelsey Brunson
Kelsey Brunson

School: South Hall Middle School

Teaches: Band

Years at school: 3

Years teaching: 5

City of residence: Gainesville

Quote: “Music education brings balance to the school curriculum and puts the focus back on the whole student — not just their test score. I push my students to learn how to work hard, be dedicated to their craft and express themselves through music.”

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Michelle Grimes
Michelle Grimes

School: Spout Springs School of Enrichment

Teaches: First grade

Years at school: 23

Years teaching: 21 

City of residence: Gainesville

Quote: “My passion for teaching continues to grow each year. I make it a priority to first love my students, show I care, and keep them engaged with real-world situations. Learning will take place with these other components in place first.” 

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April Baldwin
April Baldwin 

School: Sugar Hill Academy

Teaches: Fifth-grade science

Years at school: 11 years

Years teaching: 7, worked as a paraprofessional in the special education department beforehand 

City of residence: Gainesville

Quote: “I love teaching because I get to experience how excited students get when learning new things. I also enjoy connecting with students and building relationships that can continue when they go to middle and high school. My goal as a teacher is to create an environment where students can develop into productive members of their community.” 

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Jonathan Kostulakos
Jonathan Kostulakos

School: Tadmore Elementary School

Teaches: Technology lab

Years at school:

Years teaching: 10

City of residence: Cleveland

Quote: “I love helping students discover the world of technology! I enjoy watching students use technology to support their learning while they create online projects demonstrating their understanding. When students can apply what they’ve learned in class to areas outside of school, I feel that I’ve empowered my students to become lifelong learners through technology.” 

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Ansley Clarkson
Ansley Clarkson 

School: Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy

Teaches: Kindergarten 

Years at school: 1

Years teaching: 12

City of residence: Gainesville

Quote: Teaching 5- and 6-year-olds is not only my happy place, but it is one of my truest passions! I am thankful that I am able to teach amazing children that I adore and work with encouraging colleagues that I admire.” 

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Kelley Crane
Kelley Crane

School: West Hall Middle School

Teaches: Eighth-grade math special education

Years at school: 6

Years teaching: 11

City of residence: Dacula

Quote: “My work as a special educator is rewarding as it has allowed me to create unique bonds with my students as well as teach acceptance, new friendships and diversity. I can’t express adequately with words the feeling I have when one of my students who has a learning disability masters their goals in math or when one of my autistic students who suffers from anxiety and fears social interaction tells me he is comfortable in my classroom.”

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Angela Pirkle
Angela Pirkle

School: West Hall High School

Teaches: Graphic communications/design

Years at school: 19 

Years teaching: 19 

City of residence: Clarkesville

Quote: “Teaching allows me to see how inspirational the next generation will be in their endeavors. Having the students learn to run the Spartan Print Shop, my program’s student-based enterprise, provides them the opportunity to experience all aspects of running a business. I especially love seeing a student’s face once they create a product from the beginning of the creating process to the ending product.” 

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Yonah Wright
Yonah Wright

School: White Sulphur Elementary School

Teaches: K-2 special education

Years at school: 4

Years teaching: 5

City of residence: Hall County

Quote: “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always had a dream of becoming a teacher. Now, I’m living my dream. I love kids and love to see our students have aha moments. Student growth makes me feel like a teacher rock star; which is what I feel like every day when I come to school. I love my White Sulphur Elementary School family and our students!”

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Diana Flores
Diana Flores

School: World Language Academy

Teaches: Fourth-grade English/language arts, reading and social studies

Years at school: 6

Years teaching: 6

City of residence: Oakwood

Quote: “As a teacher, I hope to do more than just teach. I want my students to be inspired to see themselves in the best light, so that they can make the biggest impact.”


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