By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Master teachers recognized for planting seeds
0413MASTERSsandy rivera
Sandy Rivera

Masters in Teaching

Judith Perry Braselton

School: Brenau University

Years teaching: 37

She retired from the Dawson County school system. She has taught undergraduate and graduate courses at Brenau University’s College of Education since 1984. She studied at the University of North Georgia and Georgia State University before earning a Ph.D. at the University of Georgia.

Dawn Bishop

School: Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy

Years teaching: 15 years in Hall County

She teaches first grade at Wauka Mountain and previously taught in Bedford County, Virginia, where she was named Teacher of the Year in 1992 and 2001. She earned a B.S. in elementary education from Liberty University and a M.Ed. from Lynchburg College.

Tanya Black

School: Flowery Branch Elementary

Years teaching: More than 20 years

She is a graduate of Piedmont College. She previously taught at Tadmore Elementary and Chestnut Mountain Presbyterian Preschool.

Courtney Hagans

School:  Gainesville Middle School

Years teaching: Nearly a decade

A graduate of Brenau Women’s College, she also has holds a master’s degree and an Ed. S. in technology from Lesley University. She teaches eighth-grade English. She has had several leadership positions and serves as GMS’ head cheerleading coach.

George Justice

School: University of North Georgia

He teaches history at UNG. Specializing in the sectional conflict leading to the American Civil War, he is the 2015 recipient of the UNG Faculty Member of the Year-Oconee Award the author of 2014’s Courthouses of Georgia.  Justice has a Ph.D. in history from the University of Georgia.

Martha Lipold

School: Lakeview Academy

Years teaching: 28

A graduate of Brenau Women’s College, she has spent 17 years at Lakeview Academy and Pioneer RESA and another 11 with the Gwinnett and Hall County school systems. She has served as a middle school science teacher at Lakeview since 2008. She also has been a teaching trainer and administrator.

Sandy Rivera

School: Gainesville High School

Rivera earned a B.A. in economics and romantic languages from Binghamton University and a M.Ed. from Piedmont College. She teaches history and ESOL at Gainesville. She previously served as an office manager for a large audiovisual integration firm for 15 years.

Marie Rogers

School: Ava White Academy

Years teaching: Nearly 40

She taught for 16 years at Jones Elementary School and nine years at Oakwood Elementary School. She teaches special education at Ava White. She has a special education degree from Brenau Women’s College.

Elijah Merrett

School: Riverside Military Academy

Years teaching: Six years

He teaches philosophy and 10th-grade literature and is an adviser for the academy’s debate club. He received his B.A. in philosophy and M.A. in religions of western antiquity from Florida State University.

Jason Palmer

School: Lanier Technical College

Years teaching: 7

He has worked for Georgia’s Technical College System since 2008. Receiving his B.A. in English from the University of Georgia and a master’s in English from Piedmont College, he now serves as the division chair for English and the humanities at Lanier Tech. He teaches composition and literature classes.

Ernest Lee described teaching as planting seeds.

“We may not be there to harvest them, but we plant the seeds,” the 2016 Georgia Teacher of the Year said Tuesday morning at the eighth annual recognition of Masters in Teaching at Featherbone Communiversity at Brenau East.

Ten teachers were recognized and honored for their work. They are public and private school teachers and college instructors.

“Teaching is not boring,” said Lakeview Academy teacher Martha Lipold, explaining why she stays in the field. Judith Perry Braselton, a professor at Brenau University, said it is one of the funniest professions to be in.

Some of the teachers said it is a lifestyle, not a profession. George Justice, a University of North Georgia professor, noted, “When you’re grading papers at 1 in the morning, that’s not a profession.”

One student asked how they find time for themselves, separate work and personal lives.

“I haven’t found it,” Braselton said. It can’t be planned, Justice said.
Sandy Rivera, a Gainesville High School teacher, noted, “Things will get in the way.”

Riverside Academy teacher Elijah Merrett and Gainesville Middle School teacher Courtney Hagans said they have set time aside for themselves. Hagans said she plans for time with her family. Merrett said he limits himself to taking papers home one day a week.

Differences in their classrooms were apparent. Hagans said she tries to change her classroom regularly except for her favorite colors of mint green and gold.

Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy teacher Dawn Bishop said she is sometimes missed when visitors come to the room “because I’m down on their level many times.” She teaches first grade.

Braselton said she tells students her job is “to mostly stay out of the way so you can become the people you want to.”

Several of those honored said they always wanted to be teachers.

“It began when I was in fourth grade,” Braselton said.
“I can’t remember a day when I didn’t want to be a teacher,” Bishop said.

Merrett said he took two sets of notes in school one for study and one on “how I would teach the lesson better.”

Three of the teachers started in education after first being in business. Rivera said she worked in the corporate world for almost 20 years and “realized I am not a shark.” Justice worked in management until “somehow the teaching bug took over.” Jason Palmer, who teaches at Lanier Technical College, worked in the business world for a year not for him, he said.

Lee also came back to teaching. He was a lawyer for more than 20 years. He said he “got bored” with his legal job. “I got a do-over at 50,” he said.

Lee urged teaches and would-be teachers to get to know their students. He said he stands at the classroom door, greets students by name and asks them questions. “You can learn a lot by talking to students,” he said.

He referred to a high school teacher he had, Mrs. Graham, and said, “I was still going to be one of those teachers like Mrs. Graham.”

Lee said, “She knew me. That is so important to teaching.” He characterized knowing his students as a “classroom survival tool.”

He told the story of his father, who had a Mrs. Polly as a teacher and he still talks about her. He said Mrs. Polly was born in the 19th century, “and we’re still talking about her in the 21st century.”

No other profession has that kind of impact, Lee said.

Regional events