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How Hall's teacher of the year Frank Zamora will use $10,000 award to pay it forward
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Hall County teacher of the year Frank Zamora speaks at a banquet in his honor on Wednesday at The Oaks at Lanier Charter Career Academy. (Courtesy of Jamey Moore/Hall County)

Honored with a giant $10,000 check and shiny, crystal apple, Johnson High School history and ESOL teacher Frank Zamora thanked those that poured support into him as he was celebrated for being the Hall County School District Teacher of the Year.

“It’s a great feeling seeing that people do value what we do. It’s a great feeling to be valued and have your work valued as well,” he said.

Zamora’s family and a trio of his students joined him for a banquet Wednesday, Sept. 18, at the The Oaks at Lanier Charter Career Academy. Zamora was the first to receive the $10,000 honor set up through the Melvin Douglas and Victoria Kay Ivester Foundation.

When asked about potential plans for the money, Zamora said he wanted to give back to his family.

His parents brought him to the United States in 1995, when he was about 6 years old.

“My sister and I have a plan to start a scholarship over at Johnson honoring my niece, who passed away last year, in honor of her,” Zamora said.

Zamora’s niece, Daniela Gomez, 8, was about to begin third grade at Tadmore Elementary when she was killed in a car crash while in Alabama. Zamora said his niece loved to learn.

“She was one of the most energetic and loving children I think that we’ve probably ever had in this building,” Tadmore Elementary School Principal Robin Gower previously told The Times.

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Hall County School superintendent Will Schofield shakes hands with teacher of the year Frank Zamora at a banquet for Zamora on Wednesday at The Oaks at Lanier Charter Career Academy. (Courtesy of Jamey Moore/Hall County)

The foundation dedicated $200,000 over the next decade to sponsor the banquet and the Teacher of the Year award.

“It makes an incredibly loud statement to the 2 million people across this country that pour into 53 million boys and girls in our public schools that what you do matters. Frank, what you do matters, and you stand representing our 2,000 teachers in the Hall County School District,” Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield said.

One of Zamora’s students, Noemi Leal-Lara, said Zamora truly cares for the students.

“He’d always push us to do our best. He would always give us these assignments and emphasize how important it is to complete them, to be our best selves and continue trying,” she said.

Along with the oversized check, Schofield gave Zamora a Waterford crystal apple that was engraved.

“I can tell you one of the things that makes teaching so difficult in this country. It’s not the quality of the students. It’s not the lack of pay. It’s not the lack of resources or the number of kids in the classroom. It’s the lack of respect in general that our society gives educators. It goes a long way,” Schofield said.

Zamora said he wanted to become a teacher because of “those teachers that poured into me.”

“Hall County Schools is the most caring place on this Earth, and I mean that, because again if it wasn’t for all those people who poured into me, I would not be able to be here,” Zamora said.