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Hood develops her students into thinkers
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Teacher Michele Hood works with her seventh-grade language arts class Friday morning as they write and edit poetry at Chestatee Middle School. The 19-year veteran teacher has been named the Hall County school system’s teacher of the year.

Hall County teachers of the year

Amanda Ruis
School: Oakwood Elementary School
Teaches: First grade
Years of service: Six, all at Oakwood
City of residence: Gainesville

Amy Baker
School: Martin Elementary School
Teaches: First grade
Years in service: Eight, all at Martin
City of residence: Braselton

Anna Weaver
School: West Hall High School
Teaches: Mathematics
Years in service: .00014, five at West Hall
City of residence: Lawrenceville

Ashley Taylor
School: Tadmore Elementary School
Teaches: First grade
Years in service: Four, all at Tadmore
City of residence: Gainesville

Baker Pulliam
School: Chestatee High School
Teaches: Construction technology
Years in service: 11; eight at Chestatee
City of residence: Mossy Creek

Brenda Barger
School: North Hall High School
Teaches: Literature and is International Baccalaureate extended essay coordinator
Years in service: 14; three at North Hall
City of residence: Gainesville

Brenda Rakes
School: Wauka Mountain Elementary School
Teaches: Second grade
Years in service: 20; 10 at Wauka Mountain
City of residence: Clermont

Carol Duncan
School: Chestnut Mountain Elementary School
Teaches: First grade
Years in service: 22, all at Chestnut Mountain
City of residence: Hoschton

Carrie Bain
School: Lanier Elementary School
Teaches: Second- through fifth-grade mathematics
Years in service: Four; two at Lanier
City of residence: Gainesville

Cathy Dial
School: Mount Vernon Elementary School
Teaches: Gifted education
Years in service: 29; four at Mount Vernon
City of residence: Gainesville

Catherine Waters
School: Lyman Hall Elementary School
Teaches: Kindergarten
Years in service: Four, all at Lyman Hall
City of residence: Winder

Denise Ramsey
School: Flowery Branch High School
Teaches: Ninth- through 11th-grade English
Years in service: Nine; three at Flowery Branch
City of residence: Braselton

Elaine Houston
School: Spout Springs Elementary School
Teaches: Second grade
Years in service: 11; seven at Spout Springs
City of residence: Gainesville

Elizabeth Sage
School: McEver Elementary School
Teaches: Second grade
Years in service: Five; four at McEver; four as a paraprofessional
City of residence: Flowery Branch

Heather Banks
School: Chicopee Woods Elementary School
Teaches: Second grade
Years in service: Eight; three at Chicopee Woods
City of residence: Braselton

Holly Hultquist
School: Sugar Hill Elementary School
Teaches: First- through second-grade English as a Second Language
Years in service: 15; five at Sugar Hill
City of residence: Suwanee

Jacquie Parker
School: Jones Elementary School
Teaches: First grade
Years in service: Four, all at Jones
City of residence: Flowery Branch

Janie Ritcheson
School: C.W. Davis Middle School
Teaches: Seventh-grade mathematics
Years in service: Six, all at Davis
City of residence: Buford

Judy Bagwell
School: Friendship Elementary School
Teaches: Art
Years in service: 12; four at Friendship
City of residence: Buford

Keren Barr
School: White Sulphur Elementary School
Teaches: Music
Years in service: Six; two at White Sulphur
City of residence: Braselton

Kristin Kirby Finley
School: North Hall Middle School
Teaches: Eighth-grade mathematics and is an instructional coach
Years in service: 18; 12 at North Hall
City of residence: Clermont

Marla Lear
School: World Language Academy
Teaches: Third grade
Years in service: Two, all at World Language
City of residence: Buford

Melanie Sloan Teffs
School: Flowery Branch Elementary School
Teaches: Third grade
Years in service: 14; seven at Flowery Branch
City of residence: Flowery Branch

Micah Hoyt
School: East Hall High School
Teaches: Mathematics
Years in service: Seven, all at East Hall
City of residence: Clermont

Michelle Stalions
School: East Hall Middle School
Teaches: Sixth-grade mathematics
Years in service: Five, all at East Hall
City of residence: Gainesville

Phil Higgins
School: Johnson High School
Teaches: 11th- and 12th-grade psychology, sociology and American government
Years in service: Eight; four at Johnson
City of residence: Flowery Branch

Robin Bates
School: South Hall Middle School
Teaches: Spanish
Years in service: Eight, all at South Hall
City of residence: Flowery Branch

Roxi Mitchell
School: West Hall Middle School
Teaches: Sixth-grade language arts
Years in service: Nine; five at West Hall
City of residence: Dahlonega

Susan Canaday
School: Riverbend Elementary School
Teaches: First grade
Years in service: 10; eight at Riverbend
City of residence: Gainesville

Tamara Pyke Hammock
School: Myers Elementary School
Teaches: Kindergarten
Years in service: Nine, all at Myers
City of residence: Braselton

Tina Carol Blalock
School: Lula Elementary School
Teaches: Kindergarten
Years in service: Six; five at Lula
City of residence: Commerce

Tracy Barnett
School: Sardis Enrichment School
Teaches: Media specialist
Years in service: 19; 15 at Sardis
City of residence: Gainesville

Note: Lanier Charter Career Academy has not selected a 2010-2011 teacher of the year.

For Michele Hood, Hall County school system’s teacher of the year, teaching is more than a career — it is a passion.

“I can’t remember a time that teaching wasn’t a part of my being. For many years I’ve heard teachers complain about the long hours and low pay. Those things may be true, but after 19 years in the classroom, I have no regrets and countless rewards,” said Hood, a Chestatee Middle School English and language arts teacher.

“I feel blessed when I see a light bulb go on in math or a student win a writing contest, because I know that I have played a small part in building confidence in that child. I pray that I have made a difference in students’ lives because I know that so many past students have made a difference in mine.”

The fact that she was chosen to carry the systemwide title speaks volumes to the effect that Hood has had in the lives of her students and at her school.

“(In September) I sent all principals in Hall County an e-mail announcing that it was time to select the ... teacher of the year. I asked the principals to work with their staff members to nominate the best representative for their school,” said Eloise Barron, Hall County assistant superintendent.

In nominating teachers, participants are asked to consider an individual that is inspirational, dedicated and who holds the respect and admiration of students, parents and their peers.

“In most cases, teachers are asked to nominate their choice by secret ballot,” Barron said.

Systemwide winners are then entered into the Georgia Teacher of the Year competition.

As a testament to her effectiveness as a teacher, the parent of one of Hood’s former students wrote a letter of support for Hood’s state teacher of the year application.

“There was a time in middle school when my daughter struggled with anxiety and academic skills. Michele Hood saved us. She mentored Katie and became a sounding board not only for Katie, but for the family as a whole,” Sally Clark said.

“Mrs. Hood gave her direction and encouragement. Today, Katie is a senior at North Georgia College & State University. She is on the dean’s list and is studying to be a teacher. It really makes a difference when a concerned and determined teacher stands behind a struggling child. We owe a lot to Michele Hood.”

Although the efforts of teachers often go unrecognized, Hood sees teaching as her “higher calling” and says her reward comes through helping mold the minds of tomorrow’s leaders.

“My accomplishments don’t typically come as accolades, but are preserved in names and faces — those students in the past and those yet to come. When I hear a student say, ‘I don’t like to read,’ I challenge myself to find the right book that hooks that student. And then I must find the second and a third,” Hood said.

“Students in the 21st century need to be thinkers. And to think, they need to read and discuss. They need to have access to technology and use creativity. To develop 21st century learners, I want to design lessons that promote learning no matter what technology exists 10 years from now.”

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