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Master teachers transform lives
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Georgia Teacher of the Year Lauren Eckman of the Georgia Academy for the Blind speaks at the Featherbone Communiversity during the Annual Masters of Teaching event.

A teacher’s job goes beyond assigning and grading homework, beyond the classroom, beyond the school.

Teachers who do their job masterfully have the power to create a better future for their students and their world.

Nine local teachers were honored Tuesday morning in the fifth annual Masters in Teaching award ceremony on the Brenau University’s east campus at Featherbone Communiversity for their passionate service to students and for their life-changing careers.

The award honors educators from the city and county school districts, local colleges and private schools. The educators were selected for the honor based on their expertise, intrapersonal and interpersonal qualities and their transformational influence in the lives of students.

The standing-room-only ceremony was attended by local educators, students from the Featherbone Communiversity Academy, and groups of educators from Athens and Los Angeles, Calif. The nonlocal educators attended to observe the culture and accomplishments of the communiversity model and to consider how it may help their own communities.

All of the honored educators were given the opportunity to present to the group and explain what it is they feel makes a master teacher. Many of the teachers gave advice to students interested in becoming teachers.

One of the honorees, Gnimbin Ouattara, assistant professor of history and international studies at Brenau University, said he considers himself to be a “teacher in motion.”

He isn’t just a teacher in the classroom. He is a teacher wherever he goes. He considers his profession to be an opportunity to better the world.

“Teaching for me is compassion,” Ouattara said. “I see teaching as an opportunity to contribute to the happiness of humanity. There is joy in illuminating others and empowering them to free themselves from the tyranny of ignorance. That is what I call the power of compassionate teaching. That is my vision.”

Many of the honorees also said they felt called to become a teacher because of their desire to improve the lives of others.

But some of the masters admitted their paths to becoming a teacher were somewhat less defined.

One of the honorees, Jim Mealor, worked in manufacturing and sales and owned his own business before becoming a machine tool technology instructor at Lanier Technical College.

Mealor said he’s found the teaching profession to be a difficult one. For a time he wondered if he would make it as a teacher.

“What made me stick around was that I started to see the difference in my students,” Mealor said. “They graduated and found a good-paying job and then they’d come back and tell me, ‘Hey, you made a difference.’ And that made a difference in my attitude toward teaching.”

Mealor said he’s watched the area industries grow over the years and knows that technical education is responsible for that growth.

Many of the teachers offered advice for the students and other educators in the room.

They encouraged teachers to remain students themselves and always keep learning, find a mentor, identify student strengths and weaknesses, regularly communicate with parents and make sure students know someone cares about them and their lives.

Master teacher Sally Krisel, director of innovative and advanced programs for Hall County Schools, said she often works with new teachers in the school system and at the University of Georgia where she is a part-time faculty member in the Department of Educational Psychology.

She said she tells the new teachers they can forget everything she teaches them as long as they remember one thing.

“Above all else, remember the power that you hold in your hands every day,” Krisel said. “It is the power to create, the power to build, the power to be an artist with the most precious raw material on earth, our children.”

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