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Hall, Gainesville Teachers of the Year
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GAINESVILLE CITY SCHOOLS

Jessica Chambers

School: New Holland Knowledge Academy
Teaches: kindergarten
Years at school: five
Years teaching: five
City of residence: Gainesville
Quote: "Teaching is fun. I enjoy teaching in hopes that I can make a difference in their lives, just like one was made for me by my teachers."

Diana Drerup

School: Centennial Arts Academy
Teaches: English for Speakers of Other Languages
Years at school: 12
Years teaching: 14
City of residence: Jefferson
Quote: "I love finding ways to help children achieve their best and the moments when students feel successful."

Michelle Garcia

School: Fair Street IB World School
Teaches: second grade
Years at school: eight
Years teaching: eight
City of residence: Cleveland
Quote: "I enjoy teaching children how to read and write. Getting to be a part of the education of a child who is going from knowing a few letter sounds to actually reading with fluency is a rewarding experience. It is also amazing when students begin to write sentences independently. I get the privilege of calling that my job."

Samantha Humphries

School: Gainesville Exploration Academy
Teaches: first grade
Years at school: four
Years teaching: five
City of residence: Gainesville
Quote: "I love being able to share my passion for learning while building meaningful relationships with the students I teach each year. It is so thrilling watching them grow."

Kay Law

School: Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy
Teaches: first grade
Years at school: 16
Years teaching: 30
City of residence: Gainesville
Quote: "Teaching first-graders allows me the opportunity to experience the energy and excitement they bring into the classroom each day. Having the opportunity to see the world from their unique perspective adds to the instruction. I am motivated to teach them the skills they will need to be successful and achieve their best academically and personally."

Jean Louis Pondo

School: Gainesville Middle School
Teaches: French
Years at school: five
Years teaching: eight
City of residence: Atlanta
Quote: "I enjoy teaching because it gives me the ability to help children achieve their best. Teaching allows me to inspire and challenge students not only academically but personally. I just love the feeling of accomplishment, seeing students grow in knowledge, confidence and skills. The excitement of a good and well thought out lesson is just unparalleled."

Master Sgt. Jack Reese

School: Gainesville High School
Teaches: Naval Junior ROTC
Years at school: nine
Years teaching: 18
City of residence: Gainesville
Quote: "The only way to success is through education. Here in our diverse little part of the world, that is very true. When I hear students say, ‘The only reason I graduated was because of you’ — this is the joy of teaching. Touching and changing young lives."

HALL COUNTY SCHOOLS

Jennifer Anderson

School: Johnson High
Teaches: English and English for Speakers of Other Languages
Years at school: six
Years teaching: 19
City of residence: Maysville
Quote: "I enjoy teaching because if I can make a positive difference in at least one student, it has all been worth it."

Heather Banks

School: Oakwood Elementary School
Teaches: kindergarten
Years at school: five
Years teaching: 14
City of residence: Braselton
Quote: "Teaching is the best job ever. Every day I get to laugh with and love on these precious children. I am able to inspire students to be their best while helping them grow in knowledge and skill. It is often challenging but always rewarding. There is no place I would rather be."

Robin Bates

School: South Hall Middle School
Teaches: foreign language
Years at school: 14
Years teaching: 14
City of residence: Flowery Branch
Quote: "I enjoy getting to know my students and getting to see them for all three years of middle school, seeing them change and grow over that time. I especially enjoy seeing past students who tell me that something I taught them has helped them later on in another subject, or in whatever they decide to pursue after school."

LaChele Brown

School: East Hall Middle School
Teaches: eighth-grade math
Years at school: 19
Years teaching: 15
City of residence: Lula
Quote: "Being a teacher brings joy to my heart …. To this day when I see a student that I previously taught and they remember me, I get so excited. I like to talk with them and see what they are doing with their lives. I love giving back to my students and seeing them become successful."

Courtney Chambers

School: Riverbend Elementary School
Teaches: first grade
Years at school: eight
Years teaching: eight
City of residence: Gainesville
Quote: "I love to see the lightbulb go off in a child’s head when they understand and enjoy learning. I also love being able to care for and love on children."

Kathi Chastain

School: Mount Vernon Exploratory School
Teaches: kindergarten
Years at school: 10
Years teaching: 10
City of residence: Gainesville

Quote: "I enjoy teaching because not only do I get to spend my days loving and being loved on by my kindergarten students, but I get to teach the foundational skills that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. I know that what I do directly impacts their future."

Bob Comley

School: East Hall High School
Teaches: U.S. and world history
Years at school: 17
Years teaching: 46
City of residence: Oakwood
Quote: "I teach to provide useful information in a world where much misinformation is present."

Dean DeVito

School: North Hall Middle School
Teaches: math
Years at school: 10
Years teaching: 15
City of residence: Cleveland
Quote: "I really enjoy the chance to interact and collaborate with kids, families and co-workers in a way that no other profession allows. This job is never boring, and working with kids to constantly improve, while helping them face challenges head on, is a great way to spend the day."

Kelli Duck

School: White Sulphur Elementary School
Teaches: second grade
Years at school: four
Years teaching: four
City of residence: Talmo
Quote: "Each child that I teach has been placed in my class for a specific purpose. I enjoy helping my students learn to value themselves and what they bring to the world by increasing their engagement, boosting their creativity and transforming their life as a lifelong learner. This is my time to make a difference in many lives."

Amy Gillespie

School: Lula Elementary School
Teaches: fifth grade
Years at school: nine
Years teaching: 15
City of residence: Gillsville
Quote: "It is so rewarding to see the students progress throughout the year. I strive to build meaningful relationships with my students and provide them with a challenging curriculum to ensure their learning. I strive to make a difference in the life of each child in my classroom."

Nohemi Guzman

School: World Language Academy
Teaches: Spanish-language reading, writing, math, science and social studies
Years at school: eight
Years teaching: six
City of residence: Gainesville
Quote: "I enjoy teaching because I have the honor and opportunity to inspire my precious and beloved students to imagine, ask, think, believe, investigate, try, make and fix mistakes and never give up."

Kristy Hene

School: Sardis Enrichment School
Teaches: first grade
Years at school: 12
Years teaching: 12
City of residence: Gainesville
Quote: "There are lots of things I enjoy about teaching, but especially teaching first-graders to read."

Jana Hensey

School: Tadmore Elementary School
Teaches: second grade
Years at school: 11
Years teaching: 12
City of residence: Braselton
Quote: "I love teaching because it’s so rewarding to see children grow. I think becoming independent is so important. I love how much knowledge they gain from the beginning of the year to the end of the end of the year."

Cindy Herford

School: West Hall High School
Teaches: chemistry
Years at school: 13
Years teaching: 23
City of residence: Oakwood
Quote: "I enjoy teaching because it is never dull, and I really enjoy working with high school students."

Christa Holland

School: C. W. Davis Middle School
Teaches: media specialist
Years at school: 14
Years teaching: 14
City of residence: Flowery Branch
Quote: "I think that the students at this stage of life are the most fascinating bunch because they go through so many changes mentally, emotionally and physically during the short period of time we teach them. They are silly and nutty one day and then so very mature and sophisticated the next day as you watch them perform in school plays, Veterans Day assemblies, sporting events and chorus concerts."

Jan Keller

School: Flowery Branch Elementary School
Teaches: music
Years at school: seven
Years teaching: 23
City of residence: Flowery Branch
Quote: "I enjoy watching students grow and discover new talents and new skills. I enjoy helping them learn how to focus on a task and work hard to accomplish that task. I enjoy their excitement and energy, and I enjoy their sense of pride when they have done something that was a challenge."

Tam’ra Kerch

School: Lanier Charter Career Academy
Teaches: math
Years at school: two
Years teaching: 22
City of residence: Buford
Quote: "Teaching is an opportunity to prepare students for their future as well as the future of our community and world."

Jessica Lovell

School: Lyman Hall Elementary School
Teaches: reading intervention
Years at school: three
Years teaching: 15
City of residence: Gainesville
Quote: "Teaching is something I enjoy because each day is different, and there is always something to learn. It is also rewarding to see the children grow in their knowledge."

Tammy Lynn

School: Martin Technology Academy of Math and Science
Teaches: fourth-grade math, science and social studies
Years at school: 15
Years teaching: 16
City of residence: Flowery Branch
Quote: "It is such a blessing to be able to equip young minds with problem solving skills and relate what they are learning to the ‘real world.’ I always look forward to building positive relationships with my students and letting them know that I love and accept them just as they are."

Deana Morfa

School: West Hall Middle School
Teaches: special education, self-contained autism classroom
Years at school: four
Years teaching: four
City of residence: Flowery Branch
Quote: "I love being a teacher to my students. I dare say that the students in my classroom are the hardest working students in our school …. The most rewarding part of my job is watching students who come to us with significant behaviors move on to high school having met their individual learning objectives, as well as, substantially minimizing their behaviors."

Sarah Mudd

School: Friendship Elementary School
Teaches: special education
Years at school: four
Years teaching: four
City of residence: Buford
Quote: "I love interacting with the students and watching them grow academically as well as emotionally. Seeing my students progress despite the various setbacks we have daily is so rewarding. The thing I love the most is watching students begin to realize their own potential and having confidence in themselves, sometimes for the very first time."

Ashley Rhye

School: Spout Springs School of Enrichment
Teaches: second grade
Years at school: 11
Years teaching: 11
City of residence: Flowery Branch
Quote: "Each school year brings new people into your life. Each lesson brings new perspectives. Each failure can help you solve new problems. Each success can be even greater the next time. I feel like teaching is one of the most important jobs of the human race, and am thankful that I am a teacher."

Michele Rosales

School: Chestatee Academy of Inquiry and Talent Development
Teaches: math
Years at school: 15
Years teaching: 15
City of residence: Gainesville
Quote: "Out of all the professions, I feel like teaching has one of the greatest ripple effects in terms of making a significant impact. We teach, guide, and join doctors, mechanics, lawyers, nurses, salesmen, Congress members and more on their journeys. Middle school and adolescence is a significant time in life when we start to become our own person. To have the opportunity to influence, encourage, and support people during such a short and valuable time in life is a gift."

Jennifer Rudeseal

School: North Hall High
Teaches: graduation coaching and tutoring
Years at school: 15
Years teaching: 17
City of residence: Gainesville
Quote: "I love the relationships I develop with my students and their families. Since I have been in this community so long, it is wonderful to have taught older brothers and sisters of my current students. These family ties help bridge relationships."

Amanda Sills

School: Chestnut Mountain Creative School of Inquiry
Teaches: special education
Years at school: six
Years teaching: nine
City of residence: Flowery Branch
Quote: "I enjoy teaching because I like being able to see the difference and the progress that my students make from year to year."

Verena Skinner

School: Myers Elementary School
Teaches: first grade
Years at school: nine
Years teaching: nine
City of residence: Gainesville
Quote: "The look on a student’s face when the light bulb goes on and they finally figure out a concept brings such joy to my face and my heart."

Julie Souther

School: Lanier Elementary School
Teaches: second grade
Years at school: 16
Years teaching: 17
City of residence: Murrayville
Quote: "I enjoy teaching because I have an opportunity to profoundly impact students’ lives academically and personally."

Scott Tilden

School: Flowery Branch High School
Teaches: Advanced Placement macroeconomics, economics
Years at school: three
Years teaching: 20
City of residence: Gainesville
Quote: " I enjoy helping my students become successful academically as well as watching them achieve success after high school."

Elyse Vandiver

School: Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy
Teaches: kindergarten
Years at school: nine
Years teaching: nine
City of residence: Gainesville
Quote: "I love inspiring young minds and watching them grow as learners."

Sabrina Waters

School: McEver Arts Academy
Teaches: fourth grade
Years at school: 13
Years teaching: 13
City of residence: Gainesville
Quote: "I teach because I love learning, I love children and I don’t have to completely grow up. Teaching is magical. Nothing in this world compares to the laughter of a child."

Bambi Willard

School: Sugar Hill Elementary School
Teaches: English for Speakers of Other Languages
Years at school: 13
Years teaching: 18
City of residence: Gainesville
Quote: "My main focus is to help the students I work with cultivate their own sense of self and help to bring out their best. To see the sparkle in the eyes of a child learning new things and feeling good about themselves, that is what makes my job the absolute best."

Leigh Wilson

School: Chestatee High School
Teaches: math
Years at school: three
Years teaching: three
City of residence: Gainesville
Quote: "I love math and sharing that passion, but the thing I love most about teaching is connecting with my students. I have the privilege of teaching some of the greatest students in Hall County. They make my job fun."

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