Beth Morgan, who teaches English at Lassiter High in northeast Cobb; science teacher Dr. Rick Kaht of Dickerson Middle in east Cobb; and Carolyn Davis, who teaches fifth–grade at Riverside Intermediate in Mableton were all surprised yesterday by their colleagues and central-office staff.
The three are now finalists for the district’s overall Teacher of the Year honor, which is usually announced in September.
Morgan, who is Lassiter’s first high school level teacher of the year, began teaching 26 years ago.
“I feel really honored and blessed to work at Lassiter,” Morgan said. “Coming to work here in 1999 was definitely the best career decision that I’ve made.”
Morgan’s career began in DeKalb County Schools. She also taught at Simpson Middle School in east Cobb, and in North Carolina before landing at Lassiter, where she also teaches AP Language and Composition.
Morgan, who originally studied business in college, changed her major to education after taking her first literature class and hearing the poem “Spring and Fall,” by Gerard Manley Hopkins.
“I was immediately hooked and I knew then that it was what I wanted to do,” she said, adding that the secret to teaching is to keep hope alive, because seeing a student succeed makes up for the bad days.
“There’s nothing better than when a kid comes back years later and says college was easier because of you,” she said. “That really lets you know that what you’re doing is worthwhile.”
Lassiter’s principal, Chris Richie, has not only worked with Morgan for the last three years as the school’s chief but knows personally how well she is loved by her students.
“My daughter had Mrs. Morgan as an AP language teacher a couple of years ago, so I know firsthand as a parent exactly how strong of a teacher Mrs. Morgan is and the extra mile that she’ll go for any kid to see that they are successful,” he said.
Kaht, the middle school Teacher of the Year, Kaht, has taught science at Dickerson since 1999. He was surprised just before the school’s “Sneak a Peek” on Friday morning.
“I was totally shocked,” he said later. “We knew something would happen today, but I thought it was us being recognized for our test scores.”
He previously taught at Campbell Middle and in other districts.
Kaht said that he’s known that he wanted to be a teacher since seventh grade and that even after earning his doctorate in education leadership, he wants to stay in the classroom.
“I love teaching. I just couldn’t go into administration,” he said. “I believe in that little bit of magic and seeing (students’) faces light up when they see something for the first time. It’s an incredible career.”
Davis, who has been a teacher since 1993 and was chosen as this year’s elementary level teacher of the year, credited her fellow teachers at Riverside Intermediate for her success.
“We all work really hard together and always have the children’s best interest at heart,” Davis said. “All the teachers here at Riverside work extremely hard, so as far as I’m concerned, we’re all Teachers of the Year.”
She teaches fifth grade at Riverside Intermediate where she’s taught since 2007. Earlier, she taught at Floyd Middle and in DeKalb County Schools.
For Davis, she knew she wanted to be a teacher as a young child.
“I can still recall now, envisioning myself standing in front of that mirror with a crayon and pretending like that was my little classroom, teaching to my stuffed animals, nieces and nephews. That was my homemade classroom,” she said.
Faculty at each Cobb school select the school’s Teacher of the Year, and those honorees may then submit a written application for the district-wide award. The district’s overall Teacher of the Year is chosen from among the three finalists after an extensive interview process.
Coy Dunn, who teaches theater at Kennesaw Mountain High School, was Cobb’s 2011 teacher of the year.