Rocky Mount Elementary School kindergarten teacher Tracie Bucy, Campbell Middle School Social Studies teacher Rhonda Lokey and Lassiter High School Special Education teacher Cathy Zingler are the three level honorees for 2013-14.
Superintendent Michael Hinojosa made surprise visits to all three schools on their first day of pre-planning to name the Teachers of the Year in front of their fellow teachers and staff members during assemblies.
With this honor, the Teachers of the Year will participate in the annual “Give Our Schools a Hand” event given by the Cobb Chamber of Commerce in October and both the Cobb and Marietta school systems’ honorees will get a chance to participate in a drawing to lease a car for free from Ed Voyles Auto Group.
Bucy, who was born and raised in Cobb County and graduated from McEachern High School in Powder Springs in 1984, is this year’s elementary level Teacher of the Year. She was among 1,890 other teachers who educate students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
“I had no idea,” the 47-year-old said about the surprise. “I totally believed that the superintendent was coming by to recognize our school.”
Her husband, one of her five children, parents, sister-in-law and niece were all in attendance for the surprise.
“It’s a great honor, I can’t even describe it,” she said, still in shock Wednesday afternoon. “I feel like it’s a huge responsibility but I am just very excited.”
Before joining the staff at Rocky Mount eight years ago, Bucy taught at Cheatham Hill Elementary in west-central Cobb for nine years and at Baker Elementary in northwest Cobb for nine years before that.
Rocky Mount introduced her to kindergarten students for the first time in her profession.
“I loved other grades and never imagined I would teach kindergarten but after a few years, I realized I absolutely love it,” she said. “These kids are so excited about learning and they come in not even knowing their letters and leave able to read. That’s just great to watch.”
Bucy earned her bachelor’s degree in childhood education from Kennesaw State University, master’s degree in education administration from Jacksonville State University and a specialist degree in educational administration and leadership from Lincoln Memorial University.
She lives in Roswell with her family.
Fourth time’s a charm for Lokey
The 2013-14 school year marks the fourth time Lokey has been elected by her peers to be her school’s Teacher of the Year, but this is the first time she’s been named the winner for the middle school level.
The Campbell Middle School sixth-grade Social Studies teacher was selected from among 750 other middle school teachers in the district.
“I was totally shocked and speechless and had no idea that I would receive this honor,” said Lokey, who lives in Atlanta.
Her husband, Charlie, and the couple’s dog, Houston, were there as part of the surprise.
“We don’t have children so my principal (Gail Johnson) told my husband to bring Houston my dog,” she said.
Lokey received the school-level honor while teaching at Dodgen, Lost Mountain and Smitha middle schools.
“I’ve been very blessed to have always worked with fabulous teachers, and I am the teacher I am today because of all those people,” Lokey said. “I’ve been very, very fortunate.”
The 52-year-old 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.
Next year will start her 32nd year teaching.
“When people ask me why I haven’t retired, I say it’s because I’m having fun and that’s why I know I’m not ready,” she said.
Teachers in Georgia are eligible to retire after 30 years.
Campbell, a Smyrna area school, served 1,301 students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades last year.
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.
Zingler ‘born to teach’
For Lassiter High, Zingler’s designation as the high school-level Teacher of the Year is the second year in a row the east Cobb school has received the honor. She was chosen among 960 other high school teachers in Cobb.
“My first thought was that Lassiter High School had won some major award because I could not imagine people winning back to back Teachers of the Year,” Zingler said, adding that she was speechless when they called her name and realized that her husband and daughter were there to see her recognized.
“I’m overwhelmed and thrilled, yet humbled because I love what I do every day,” she said. “I’m very thankful that I’m in a profession that I truly enjoy.”
The 50-year-old is a special education teacher and cheerleading coach for the Trojans and has been teaching in Cobb Schools since 1996, but an educator since 1986.
She taught at east Cobb’s Wheeler before Lassiter, which served 1,955 students last school year, then at schools in South Carolina, Indiana and Missouri.
Her husband is a former college football coach so the couple moved around a bit before settling down in Cobb in the mid-1990s.
“When we decided to have kids, we wanted to be somewhere that they could call home,” Zingler said.
She did a little research and realized that Cobb would be the best place for them.
“Both of our kids are in college now but they were able to go all of their school years in Cobb Schools,” she said proudly.
Zingler said she didn’t come from a family of educators but that the profession was one she was born to do.
She was one of six children growing up in Chicago and, as the oldest, she felt like her role was as the teacher to help her siblings.
There also was a little girl in their neighborhood who was a special education learner.
“Kids made fun of her so I decided in third grade that I wanted to be a protector and teacher of children who were different,” she said. “I have never wanted to do anything else.”
Zingler earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education from East Tennessee State University.