By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Meet all the Hall County Schools Teachers of the Year
11272018 TEACHERS 001.JPG
Frank Zamora was named Hall County Schools Teacher of the Year. - photo by Austin Steele
amy holliman.jpg
Amy Holliman

Amy Holliman

School: Myers Elementary

Teaches: 4th grade

Years at school: 7

Years teaching: 11

City of residence: Braselton

Quote: Being an educator is an awesome responsibility. I consider it such a blessing and my daily mission. We have an amazing opportunity to help students develop a lifelong love of learning and make a positive impact on their lives. I am honored that my Myers family recognizes my passion to help students succeed and become the best version of themselves.

amy berra.jpg
Amy Berra

Amy Berra

School: Chicopee Woods Elementary 

Teaches: Reader’s Theater 

Years at school: 14

Years teaching: 14

City of residence: Clermont

Quote: “A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.” – Brad Henry. I pray every day that I am being the teacher my students need. When I see them with hope in their eyes that was previously not there, or watch them create, or have joy when they figure something out, I feel rewarded. I did not put it there, but I try to help draw it out. Every student has dreams and I want so badly for them to reach for them and be courageous in their learning.

ashley snapp.jpg
Ashley Snapp

Ashley Snapp

School: Sugar Hill Academy

Teaches: Kindergarten

Years at school: 17 

Years teaching: 19 

City of residence: Jefferson

Quote: What makes teaching so rewarding to me is knowing that I am able to make an impact on students’ lives everyday. Having former students come back year after year with smiling faces and warm hugs makes me remember why I do what I do. To have been chosen as the teacher of the year for Sugar Hill among so many fabulous teachers is a huge honor to me. If feels good to know that my efforts are seen and appreciated by my co-workers. 

jackie green.jpg
Jackie Green

Jackie Greene

School: Cherokee Bluff Middle School

Teaches: Severe Profound

Years at School: 1

Years Teaching: 19

City of Residence: Gainesville 

Quote: I am so humbled and honored to be chosen as Cherokee Bluff Middle School’s first teacher of the year! People always tell me that it takes a special person to teach children with special needs, but I believe with all my heart that a child with special needs inspires me to be a special kind of person. 

mary katherine.jpg
Mary Katherine

Mary Katherine Johnson

School:  White Sulphur Elementary

Teaches: 4th Grade Writing

Years at school: 5

Years teaching: 5

City of residence: Gainesville

Quote: One of the greatest privileges of a teacher is the opportunity to inspire and encourage students to be the best versions of themselves. As teachers, we can empower students to take charge of their learning, ignite a passion in them, and encourage them to work hard toward accomplishing their goals. I am honored to be selected as teacher of the year and am grateful for the opportunity to impact the lives of students each day.

shawn griffin.jpg
Shawn Griffin

Shawn Griffin

School: Spout Springs elementary

Teaches: 3rd Grade

Years at school: 4 

Years teaching: 17 years

City of residence: Flowery Branch

Quote: The rewards are endless in 3rd grade, however one of my favorites is when the light bulb clicks and they finally get it! Watching the excitement spread across their face and knowing they feel successful is such an amazing experience! I feel honored that my team members felt that I was deserving of this recognition. Everyone at SSSE works very hard to help our students to be successful, I don’t feel that I am better or more deserving of this reward than they are.

jessica mueller.jpg
Jessica Mueller

Jessica Mueller

School: Cherokee Bluff High

Teaches: Library media specialist

Years at school: 1

Years teaching: 15

City of residence: Braselton

Quote: Each day, I get the opportunity to inspire learners to know that they are capable of changing their world; I get to support teachers who are excited about innovatively reaching their students; and I get to partner with faculty and community members to help make a difference in our school and local community.  

jeff kelly.jpg
Jeff Kelly

Jeff Kelly

School: Chestatee High

Teaches: Theater

Years at school: 8

Years teaching: 13

City of residence: Gainesville

Quote: Theater is life. It shows us our humanity, or lack thereof. It encourages dialogue, fosters teamwork and gives confidence in one’s self. Most of all, it allows us to see who we really are without pretense, and more importantly, it shows us who we can and should be. This award means the world and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity.

vickie rundbaken.jpg
Vickie Rundbaken

Vickie Rundbaken

School: Flowery Branch High

Teaches: Family & Consumer Sciences

Years at school: 5

Years teaching: 27

City of residence: Dacula

Quote: It is a great honor to have been selected as the teacher of the year. The quote from William Yeats, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire,” is the perfect saying to represent the style of teacher that I am. To find students that are excited about learning and finding their passion is the reason I teach.

kara thomas.jpg
Kara Thomas

Kara Thomas

School: Flowery Branch Elementary

Teaches: K/1 multi-age

Years at school: 11

Years teaching: 17

City of residence: Buford

Quote: Teaching is one of my greatest joys. I love hands-on activities and am motivated by seeing the kids light up as a lesson comes to life. Building relationships with the children in my classroom, and their families, for years long after they’ve left my classroom is just one of the many rewards of my job. I love my school and community; it is such an honor to represent both.

sonia alvarez.jpg
Sonia Alvarez

Sonia Alvarez

School: World Language Academy

Teaches: 3rd grade math, science, and language arts – all in Spanish.

Years at school: 10

Years teaching: 24

City of residence: Buford

Quote: I strongly believe that learning is a never-ending process and being a teacher is the best example of it. When I decided to be a teacher, I just started getting involved in this process that implies not only training, but being deeply committed to high-quality education for children. I am very grateful to my colleagues for making me worthy of this honor for the second time. It is important to share our experiences and learn from them.

cheryl walls.jpg
Cheryl Walls

Cheryl Walls

School: Chestnut Mountain CSI

Teaches: 4th Grade

Years at school: 17

Years teaching: 21

City of residence: Braselton

Quote: One of the most rewarding things about teaching is seeing my students grow to love learning. I love seeing them gain confidence and believe that they can reach their goals and be successful. Being selected as CMCSI’s Teacher of the Year is a great honor and I am thankful to work with such an amazing group of people who inspire me daily.  

sonja carter.jpg
Sonja Carter

Sonja Carter

School: McEver Arts Academy

Teaches: Kindergarten

Years at school: 16

Years teaching: 24

City of residence:  Gainesville

Quote: It’s very rewarding to hear the students say, “This has been the best day ever!”  It makes all the planning worth it. Also, it’s an honor to me when former students come back to visit after moving on to middle school and high school, and share with me their career paths, that they are making good grades, what activities they are involved with, and what they remembered about kindergarten.

marlene goodall.jpg
Marlene Goodall

Marlene Goodall

School: West Hall High

Teaches: Science

Years at school: 5

Years teaching: 5

City of residence: Braselton

Quote: Teaching is a gift that shouldn’t be taken for granted. The classroom is the soil containing all the nutrients to cultivate the students to grow beyond what is expected. To help them grow, it is important to identify a purpose. Students are eager to learn better when knowledge has meaning. When students understand meaning they thrive in and out of the classroom. I am blessed to know that I serve as a role model to many.

megan kotula.jpg
Megan Kotula

Megan Kotula

School: Academies of Discovery at South Hall Middle School

Teaches: 7th grade science

Years at school: 7

Years teaching: 13

City of residence: Flowery Branch

Quote: To me, helping students learn and inspiring a sense of wonder about the natural world makes teaching science rewarding. I feel very honored and blessed to receive this award when I work with so many other amazing teachers who are just as deserving.

casey phillips.jpg
Casey Phillips

Casey Phillips

School: Tadmore Elementary

Teaches: Digital Learning Lab

Years at school: 11

Years teaching: 15

City of residence: Jefferson

Quote: The most rewarding part of teaching for me is witnessing that celebratory “Aha!” moment when a student overcomes a challenge, learns something new or realizes they have reached their goal. Being able to encourage students to become empowered learners is important to me.

lorrie miller.jpg
Lorrie Miller

Lorrie Miller

School: Lanier Elementary

Teaches: 5th grade

Years at school: 12

Years teaching: 15

City of residence: Gainesville

Quote: Teaching is definitely a calling and I feel blessed to be called to such a rewarding job where I can touch the lives of kids daily. I feel like I learn just as much from my students as they do from me. I am honored to be the teacher of the year at Lanier among all the wonderful teachers. 

ann harper.jpg
Ann Harper

Ann Stroberg Harper

School: Mount Vernon Exploratory

Teaches:  3rd grade

Years at school: 2

Years teaching: 15

City of residence: Cleveland

Quote: It is an honor to be named teacher of the year at Mount Vernon. I am so fortunate to get to work alongside amazing teachers, administrators, and 24 pretty extraordinary 3rd graders. I quest to make learning fun and exciting for my students. It is my ultimate goal that they grow to be lifelong learners.

giovanna garcia.jpg
Giovanna Garcia

Giovanna Garcia

School: World Language Academy Middle

Years at the school: 8

Years teaching: 8

City of Residence: Gainesville

Quote: I became a teacher looking for “meaning.” Today, I know that what I do every day helps shape a human being that will be able to solve problems and will be able to stand behind their own decisions. Being teacher of the year has validated my hard work. I realized that what I do does matter and it transcends beyond the four walls of my classroom.

misty bull.jpg
Misty Bull

Misty Bull

School: Sardis Enrichment School

Teaches: Physical Education

Years at school: 20

Years teaching: 20

City of residence: Gainesville

Quote: Teaching is so rewarding because it allows you to really inspire and help kids become the best version of themselves. I want them to leave my classroom with character and the confidence to believe in themselves just like I believe in them. I often use the quote from John Wooden that states, “Character is who you are when no one is watching.”

nicole hill.jpg
Nicole Hill

Nicole Hill

School: Friendship Elementary

Teaches: Gifted Education

Years at school: 23

Years teaching: 25

City of Residence: Flowery Branch

Quote: I am honored to represent my school, colleagues and community as teacher of the year. Every day, I look for new ways to inspire my students to problem solve more, dream more, create more and achieve more.

buddy earnest jr.jpg
Buddy Earnest

William “Buddy” Earnest Jr.

School: Chestatee Academy

Teaches: Social studies

Years at school: 17

Years teaching: 23

City of residence: Gainesville

Quote: To be recognized among such an outstanding faculty here at Chestatee is truly an honor. I love what I do and believe that – to be an effective educator – you have to really love kids and enjoy being around and working with them. I have been blessed to be surrounded by some amazing people who have poured into me and helped me develop my teaching style.

mandy sullens.jpg
Mandy Sullens

Mandy Sullens

School: Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy

Teaches: Special Education Resource

Years at school: 8

Years teaching: 8

City of residence: Gainesville

Quote: Helping my students achieve academic and personal goals, and being able to celebrate those accomplishments with them, is what makes teaching so rewarding for me. I have the opportunity to do what I am most passionate about while making a positive impact on my students every day.

dody sorrells.jpg
Dody Sorrells

Dody Sorrells

School: C.W. Davis Middle

Teaches: 6th grade earth science

Years at school: 17

Years teaching: 20

City of residence: Braselton

Quote: It is an honor to be recognized by my colleagues. I work with amazing teachers who continue to inspire me to always do what’s best for our students. The most rewarding times are the moments I see students gain confidence in themselves and begin to believe the potential I already see in them. 

kelly olson.jpg
Kelly Olson

Kelly Olson

School: Riverbend Elementary

Teaches: Special Education

Years at school: 14

Years teaching: 28

City of residence: Lula

Quote: There is nothing more rewarding than knowing and seeing the evidence that you’ve made an impact on a student’s (and their family’s) life. To be recognized as Riverbend Elementary’s teacher of the year is a true honor, but I am very cognizant of the fact that a student’s success is a result of a team of individuals, not just one teacher or staff member.

april kirby.jpg
April Kirby

April Kirby

School:  West Hall Middle

Teaches: Math remediation

Years at school: 18

Years teaching: 25

City of residence: Flowery Branch

Quote: ​I will never make millions of dollars for what I do each day, but I have something much more precious tucked safely away in my desk drawer. This is where I keep letters and notes from my students thanking me for teaching and helping them believe in themselves. This is why I teach. I know my students will not always remember everything I taught them, but they will remember how I treated them, and that is what is really important in the life of a child.

jill baumgardner.jpg
Jill Baumgardner

Jill Baumgardner

School: Lula Elementary

Teaches: 4th/5th Grade D.O.G. Academy

Years at school: 3

Years teaching: 9

City of residence: Clermont

Quote: Teaching is my passion. As a teacher, I love watching my students actively engaged in the learning process as they grow to become lifelong learners. It is a great honor to be named teacher of the year at Lula. To be recognized by the faculty and staff for making a difference in the lives of children who are our future is both humbling and rewarding. 

katie eberhardt.jpg
Katie Eberhardt

Katie Eberhardt

School: Lanier College & Career Academy

Teaches: 9th Grade Literature & World Literature

Years at school: 2

Years teaching: 6

City of residence: Braselton

Quote: It has always been my passion to inspire students to use their unique gifts to positively impact the world. At LCCA, this is what every teacher wishes for their students. To be named teacher of the year is amazing, but to represent this incredible group of people is overwhelmingly special.

scott patrick.jpg
Scott Patrick

Scott Patrick

School: East Hall Middle

Teaches: Special Education, Severe/Profound

Years at school: 15

Years teaching: 14

City of residence: Gillsville

Quote: Seeing my kids come through the door with smiles, open arms and watching them progress throughout the year is why I teach.

chris hayes.jpg
Chris Hayes

Chris Haynes

School: North Hall High

Teaches: AP World History, Economics and Government

Years at school: 8

Years teaching: 13

City of residence: Clermont

Quote: I love watching students grow and develop as young adults. I am truly humbled and honored to be selected as teacher of the year.

kirsty ramirez.jpg
Kirsty Ramirez

Kirsty Ramirez

School: Oakwood Elementary

Teaches: Special Education-Autism

Years at school: 3

Years teaching: 3

City of residence: Talmo

Quote: Teaching rewards me in countless ways. When working with children with autism, nothing is more rewarding than the trust they instill in me and the progress they make as a result of that trust.

jody spain.jpg
Jody Spain

Jody R. Spain

School:  Martin Technology Academy

Teaches: 5th grade

Years at school: 18

Years teaching: 25

City of residence: Flowery Branch

Quote:  The most rewarding part of teaching is when my students have that “aha!” moment in their learning. Sometimes students have to try things over and over to achieve mastery, but then there is that moment when they finally “get it” and they rush up to show you what they have done. The pride that they exhibit in those moments makes teaching so rewarding.

daniel stainback.jpg
Daniel Stainback

Daniel Stainback

School: East Hall High

Teaches: U.S. history

Years at School: 4

Years Teaching: 4

City of Residence: Gainesville

Quote: I am so thankful for this recognition by my co-workers at East Hall High School. I have greatly enjoyed teaching at this school, and it can largely be attributed to my students and the staff that I work with every day. Watching these students grow over their years gives me a proud feeling that cannot be replaced, and I look forward to many more years at East Hall. 

angela wiesner.jpg
Angela Wiesner

Angela Wiesner

School: Lyman Hall Elementary

Teaches: 2nd grade

Years at school: 8

Years teaching: 8

City of residence: Buford

Quote: Teaching for me is not a career but a passionate adventure full of joys, challenges and accomplishments. Being able to lead and form deep relationships with my students is a true gift I cherish. I am beyond humble that my colleagues would choose me to represent our school.  


ruby putman.jpg
Ruby Putman

Ruby Blackstock Putman

School: North Hall Middle

Teaches: 8th grade Georgia Studies, Cheer Coach

Years at school: 24

Years teaching: 29

City of residence: Clermont

Quote: “I chose to become a teacher because I wanted to make a difference in our world. I teach because I want to make a difference in the lives of children. Each child is special, and I want to help them discover how important they are in the ‘Circle of Life.’ The children are our future!”


Regional events