“I’ve never been at a loss for words in my life,” said Humanities teacher Rhonda Lokey. “I just want to say thank you.”
Two weeks ago Lokey, 52, was surprised to learn that she had been named the middle school level Teacher of the Year for Cobb Schools during a teacher meeting. On Friday she was tricked again with this recognition during a sixth-grade assembly.
Cobb Superintendent Michael Hinojosa made the announcement, which was welcomed with a standing round of applause by everyone present.
“We have thousands of teachers and all of them are fantastic, but for you guys to have the best teacher in all of Cobb County is very impressive, so let’s give it up for her,” Hinojosa said of Lokey.
She was selected from among 3,600 other teachers in the district. Campbell, a Smyrna area school, serves about 1,300 students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
Campbell Principal Gail Johnson was told about the honor two weeks ago and has been trying to keep it secret since then.
“To put this surprise together took so many pieces of the puzzle because (Lokey) is so intuitive and I was afraid that anything off would give her a clue, so it was a lot but worth every minute of it,” Johnson said.
She wasn’t surprised at all by Lokey receiving the award.
“Rhonda has that perfect sense of children and what it takes to reach them and what it takes to get them to understand,” Johnson said. “She builds relationships with all her kids and I recognized that as soon as I stepped into the principalship here.”
She also said this was an honor that stretched far beyond Lokey’s classroom.
“I think it’s going to have a ripple effect on the community,” Johnson said. “Campbell Middle has been growing in its reputation and people are beginning to take notice about what is going on here. This won’t just highlight Rhonda’s excellence in teaching but the entire school.”
All of Lokey’s current students and a few of her former students were at the ceremony Friday morning.
“I think she deserves this award because she goes above and beyond the call of duty,” said eighth-grader Kevan Washington.
Washington had her his first year at Campbell after coming to the Smyrna school from Teasley Elementary.
“Every day we were building on what we learned and I don’t think there’s anything we ever learned that I didn’t like,” he said. “Her class made it easier for me to learn because I really love Humanities and her class was fun, very hands on and not like your typical classroom. It wasn’t just taking notes every day and quizzes.”
Twelve-year-old Brooke Townsend agreed.
“She liked to interact with us a lot with dance moves or chants to help us remember lessons,” the seventh-grader said. “She was also very energetic and always had a smile on her face.”
After the auditorium ceremony, Lokey’s principal had a small reception for her in the school’s library, where she was joined by more than 30 colleagues, former co-workers, friends and family members, including her husband Charlie.
“All these people have somehow had such an impact on me and helped me grow professionally,” Lokey said, still in shock. “I believe I am the teacher I am today because of the people I’ve worked with.”
During her 32-year career, Lokey said her colleagues have helped mold her teaching skills and worked collaboratively with her to make her a success.
“We learn so much from each other in this county,” she said. “It makes working enjoyable and you learn a lot and that just blew me away, the number of people who came out from those who knew me from when I first started teaching to now.”
Lokey has a history of being ‘Teacher of the Year’ The 2013-14 school year marks the fourth time Lokey has been elected by peers to be her school’s Teacher of the Year, but the first time she’s been named the winner for the middle school level and district.
Lokey previously received the school-level honor while teaching at Dodgen, Lost Mountain and Smitha middle schools.
She began teaching in 1982 in Newton County but joined Cobb Schools in 1987, where she first taught at Dodgen in east Cobb.
She later transferred to Lost Mountain Middle, Smitha Middle and briefly taught at Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta for two years, before returning to Cobb Schools and eventually to Campbell Middle in 2010.
Lokey earned a bachelor’s degree in middle grades education from Georgia College and her master’s in the same program from Georgia State University.