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Teacher helps turn pupils into award winners
Sherri Butler, left, a Jefferson Middle School social science teacher, stands with sixth-grader Caleb Moore, who recently won a Georgia Municipal Association essay contest. - photo by BRANDEE A. THOMAS

If Jefferson Middle School teacher Sherri Butler was an athlete, her jersey would be retired by now.

But she’s not an athlete, she’s a sixth-grade social studies teacher whose students have dominated a state essay contest for the past four years.

“The Georgia Municipal Association sponsors the ‘If I Were Mayor I Would’ essay contest every year for sixth-grade students. We started entering the contest four years ago, and every year we’ve had the district winner,” Butler said.

Jefferson is in GMA’s District 5 and the winner was Jefferson Middle student Caleb Moore. Gainesville is in District 2 and the winner for that district came from North Habersham Middle School.

“I used to be a language arts teacher, so maybe that’s where part of our success comes from,” Butler said.

“But here (at Jefferson Middle), we really try to get students to write in every subject. We want to show them that reading and writing doesn’t stop in language arts, it’s something you need in all aspects of life.”

Although Caleb is only 11 years old, he has some pretty interesting ideas that might help him win an election if he ever tossed his hat in the ring.

“If I were mayor, I would like to improve the infrastructure in Jefferson. I think it’s important to have a strong infrastructure for the safety of everyone,” Caleb said. “I would also like to build a no-kill animal shelter. I’m an animal lover and I think it would be nice to have a no-kill shelter.”

As good as those ideas are, Caleb doesn’t stop there.

“I think it would nice if we could establish a city park where we could display monuments,” he said.

“There are two monuments on a sliver of grass (in downtown) that no one notices. It would be nice to have them on display in a nice park.”

If it seems like those ideas are a bit too sophisticated for a middle school student, it might clear things up if you knew about one of his hobbies.

“I really like reading encyclopedias,” Caleb said. “I think they’re cool — all of that knowledge just right there.”
With such definitive ideas about governmental happenings, it’s not surprising that the sixth-grader already has a pretty well thought out plan for his future.

“I want to go to UGA, but I want to be an architect, so I will probably pick up an extra degree from Georgia Tech because I hear they have a pretty good architecture program,” Caleb said.

“I want to be (innovative) like Frank Lloyd Wright, but not conceited like him. I don’t want to be completely classical, but I don’t like skyscrapers, either. I favor more traditional architecture and furniture.”

Besides being an outstanding essay writer, Caleb is also a member of the school’s track team, one of two sixth-graders on the school’s academic team and a dedicated Boy Scout who is working towards Eagle Scout status.

Before being named the winner, Caleb’s essay beat out the essay of around 200 other Jefferson Middle students and the essays of students in 12 other counties.

In addition to winning a $250 savings bond and a trip to an awards luncheon at Turner Field, Caleb’s essay also earned a resolution from the Jefferson City Council.

During a recent meeting, the group passed a resolution honoring Caleb’s accomplishments. Although Caleb could be a worthy opponent in a few years, Jefferson Mayor Jim Joiner had nothing but positive things to say.

“This is really a testament to the teachers, parents, and Jefferson school system,” Joiner said.

“This is a testament showing everyone what kind of students we’re producing in Jefferson.”

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