Sometimes we become so obsessed with potential problems that punctuate our societal picture that we fail to recognize the good things going on around us. But there are so many positive elements to last week’s teacher of the year recognition by the Ivester Foundation that it’s impossible not to take notice.
Start with the donation itself. Thanks to the generosity of the Melvin Douglas and Victoria Ivester Foundation, $200,000 has been earmarked to finance for the next decade an annual teacher of the year banquet and to make a cash donation to the teacher of the year for the Hall County school system.
It’s worth noting that as soon as the Ivester plans were made public, there were those who took to social media to complain that money was being spent on a recognition banquet. We think the banquet is a traditional and appropriate way to recognize outstanding achievement and to bring attention to exceptional teachers, and see nothing wrong with those donating private funds having a say in how they are spent.
The Times editorial board
- Norman Baggs, general manager
- Shannon Casas, editor in chief
- Cheryl Brown
- David George
- Mandy Harris
- Brent Hoffman
- J.C. Smith
- Tom Vivelo
Such a high profile commitment to the teaching profession from a private entity is certainly worthy of recognition, though not surprising given the philanthropic role played by the Ivester family in our community, and specifically its ongoing support of education.
Last month the foundation announced the donation of $2.2 million in support of the Early College Program, which is a partnership between the county school system, Brenau University, Lanier Technical College and the University of North Georgia. In 2017, the foundation donated $3.5 million to programs at Brenau.
As a stipulation of the Early College donation, the program will take the name of Howard E. Ivester, Doug Ivester’s father. Of his late father, Ivester said, “Given a choice of where to invest, there is no doubt he would have chosen education.” The apple, it seems, did not fall far from the tree, as the Ivesters have invested heavily in helping to make education better here at home.
Speaking of apples, a shiny crystal one went to Johnson High School teacher Frank Zamora on Wednesday when he was recognized at the first Teacher of the Year program funded by the Ivester donation. Along with the sparkling fruit, Zamora received a $10,000 check for being named the county system’s top teacher.
Zamora’s story is one that exemplifies much of what is good about the area in which we live. Like many others here, he was brought to the United States from Mexico as a child, assimilated into the community and went on to graduate from Chestatee High School and the University of Georgia.
Today he teaches history and English as a Second Language at Johnson, where he also sponsors the Latino Knights of Service, a school club.
Zamora notes that he has taken “full advantage of the American dream,” and now wants to motivate others to see what is possible in their lives.
As befitting someone committed to helping others, Zamora said he plans to use the $10,000 award to establish a scholarship at Johnson in honor of his late niece, a Tadmore Elementary student who died at age 8 in a car crash. By doing so, he honors his family, his commitment to education and his profession.
The profession of teaching is one we too often take for granted, as noted by county school superintendent Will Schofield at Wednesday’s event.
“I can tell you one of the things that makes teaching so difficult in this country,” said Schofield. “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.”
Schofield makes a telling point. Classroom teachers are the foundation of any educational system, but far too often the role they play in preparing students for life is under appreciated and over criticized. We expect teachers to be educators, social workers, baby sitters, surrogate parents, confessors, confidants and counselors. They tend to be the first place blame is placed if a student has a problem and the last place praise is directed if a student excels.
Not all teachers are perfect and some aren’t in the right line of work, but for the most part they excel at jobs most of us wouldn’t do for twice the money they’re paid and couldn’t do if we wanted to.
Kudos to the Ivester Foundation for finding a way to show respect for teachers who excel, and by so doing honoring all of those who are members of a noble profession. And congratulations to Zamora for being recognized as one of the “best of the best,” and for finding a way to help others find their own American dream.