Top education honor goes to local teacher
by Lindsay Field
May 17, 2013 12:22 AM | 3980 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Carole Kell presents Durham Middle School teacher Thomas Panter with this year’s Corky Kell Award in honor of her late husband during a surprise announcement at the Acworth school.
Carole Kell presents Durham Middle School teacher Thomas Panter with this year’s Corky Kell Award in honor of her late husband during a surprise announcement at the Acworth school.
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ACWORTH — A Cobb County middle school teacher with almost 20 years of experience is one of two educators surprised this week with the prestigious Corky Kell Excellence in Teaching Award.

“I was just very honored to be nominated by our principal,” said Thomas Panter, who teaches social studies at Durham Middle School. “Our character program (The Wildcat Way) would not be possible without (Principal Susan Galante).”

Galante nominated the eighth-grade teacher for the recognition.

He was surprised with the award by coach Corky Kell’s widow, Carole Kell, during a program Monday morning.

It is funded by the Corky Kell Classic, which is held each fall, and awarded in honor of the former Cobb County educator and coach. The recognition has been awarded since 1999.

A football coach is honored each fall at the Cobb Schools Touchdown Club Banquet with a $1,000 check and two teachers, one from elementary and another from middle or high school, receives the honor in spring.

“This is simply to reward teachers for being an excellent teacher. I’m very, very proud of this program. Teachers need and deserve this kind of support,” said Carole Kell, who was also a Cobb Schools teacher for 33 years.

Kell said this year’s nominees are all amazing, which makes the decision difficult, but she’s still proud that they are able to make the three annual recognitions.

Galante said she nominated Panter, 47, because his teaching techniques impact not only the classroom but how students take on real world experiences.

This is proven through a character program he introduced to the school, The Wildcat Way.

“He’s done a great job with that,” Galante said. “While he’s at school, he’s nurturing and mentoring his students, always leading them towards the right thing to do and at home, he absolutely adores, loves and protects his family. He’s such a family man.”

Galante said having known coach Kell, she believes he would have been proud for Panter to be a recipient of the award.

“This is the way he lived his life,” she said.

Panter said he was honored with the nomination and proud that his school is being recognized for the program, which exemplifies the school’s motto, “Not for ourselves, but for others.”

“Our community is very much like a pond or a lake. … What the kids do at our school is going to impact our community in some way,” he said. “We want them to impact our community in a good way, in a positive way.”

He said his colleagues have worked hard to make the character program a reality and they deserve just as much credit.

“I’m one of many in a great, great school,” he said.

Panter remembered the first time he saw Coach Kell at a North Cobb and Wheeler football game.

“Both teams were unbeaten and it was probably one of his best football teams he ever had,” Panter said. “I never got the chance to meet him in person, but he was such a good man and this county is a better place because of Coach Kell and his wife Carole.”

He hasn’t quite decided what he’ll do with the $1,000 reward but he is thinking about putting it toward a specialist degree.

“I spend a lot of money trying to help my kids in my classroom, so anything I can do help my kids, I’m going to try and do,” he said.

The Corky Kell Excellence in Coaching Award was given to North Cobb High School coach Shane Queen this fall. The second spring recipient will be awarded later this week.
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