Alpharetta's Haight Named Fulton Teacher of Year
The elementary school teacher was surprised by the announcement on Monday.
Alpharetta Elementary School teacher Pamela Haight is the Fulton County School system's Overall Teacher of the Year for 2012-13.
She was delivered the news Monday afternoon during a surprise announcement at her school.
Haight was first named the system’s Elementary School Teacher of the Year and was then selected as the district winner from among two other Fulton County finalists: Barbara Bell from Ridgeview Charter School, who is the system’s Middle School Teacher of the Year, and Kimberly Cooney from Chattahoochee High, who is the High School Teacher of the Year.
Pamela Haight – Fulton County Teacher of the Year
Pamela Haight knows that she doesn’t have the quietest class on Alpharetta Elementary’s fifth grade hall, but it is a place where students are excited to be learning.
“As you’re walking down toward my class, you will probably hear us singing at the top of our lungs about adverbs, adjectives, or some other part of speech,” she wrote in her Teacher of the Year application essay. “Maybe you’ll see my fifth graders standing on chairs, acting out Hamlet, or dressed all in black with berets reciting original poetry. We are different, but we like it.”
Haight believes that students can be intrinsically motivated if learning can be made fun. She found frustration in how students struggled to learn the material in her class, yet could learn all the words from a Justin Bieber song just a day after it was released. Then she began mixing popular music with her class material and students enthusiastically began learning about parts of speech through tunes such as “The Lazy Adjective Song,” a tribute to a Bruno Mars song, or “Adjectives Modify Verbs,” a parody to a Willow Smith song.
In her years of teaching, Haight also discovered that students are eager to learn if they know their teacher is invested in their learning. She attends their sports games and recitals, and keeps up with former students as they move on to middle and high school. Her excitement in their success helps inspire students to push themselves and apply themselves in class.
This excitement for others’ success doesn’t end there, as Haight’s principal, Adam Maroney, believes that she is an exemplary educator.
“I am so proud of Ms. Haight. She is truly a master teacher,” said Maroney. “When I think of the great teachers I have worked with in the past, they all established a wonderful rapport with their students. While academics are Ms. Haight’s focus, she recognizes the importance of teaching the whole child and creates ways to connect with and reach each and every student she teaches. She is an asset to Alpharetta Elementary, the community, and Fulton County Schools.”
Barbara Bell – Middle School Teacher of the Year
A French teacher at Ridgeview Charter School, Barbara Bell isn’t afraid to put herself out there if it means students will be inspired to learn.
“In my classroom, I strive to balance structure with the knowledge that learning a language requires risk-taking, talking, movement, and sometimes controlled chaos,” Bell said. “[Students] know that my French class is a place where we play games, sing songs, act, compete, draw, create, share, laugh, and think. I like to show them that I’m not afraid to sing or act a little silly. I get their attention, and I want them to know that their teacher is willing to take risks and they should be too.”
Bell also believes that educators must be “positive role models, mentors and guides” if they want to reach and teach students.
Kimberly Cooney – High School Teacher of the Year
Kimberly Cooney confesses that she never wanted to be a teacher when growing up, and while in high school, she only volunteered as a summer school teaching assistant to get some résumé material for her college applications.
But something happened that summer and the experience ended up changing her life. “I later realized that it wasn’t the teaching that was powerful; it was the learning,” Cooney said. And now, years later, she has found her calling as an English teacher at Chattahoochee High School.
“There is no greater way to engage with the world than through teaching. My students and I wrestle with some of the most challenging issues together. We talk, we argue, we disagree sometimes, but my goal is that every person who leaves my classroom at the end of the year be a changed human being – and that includes me.”
Each spring, Fulton County schools are invited to nominate outstanding educators based on teacher, staff and parent input. These professionals are then evaluated a second time and one Elementary, Middle and High School Teacher of the Year is announced. From these final three educators, one is chosen as the Fulton County Overall Teacher of the Year.
These three teachers will serve as examples to their Fulton County colleagues for the next academic year. A formal recognition gala will be held next fall to celebrate their accomplishments as well as those of other employees of the year who were selected by their local school communities.