All of Allatoona High School gathered at a pep rally to surprise Gwynn, a geography and history teacher, with the announcement.
Principal Scott Bursmith carried off the surprise by introducing Gwynn to the gym full of students as the school district’s high school level Teacher of the Year, a distinction announced last month.
Then, Bursmith’s introduction was interrupted when interim Superintendent Chris Ragsdale snuck up on the two to make the announcement Gwynn had been named the district’s Teacher of the Year from among the three finalists.
“When Mr. Ragsdale walked up, I leaned over and whispered to Mr. Bursmith, ‘Is it time for me to go?’” Gwynn said. “And he told me, ‘No, I think you’re here for a reason.’”
Bursmith said he was proud to have a representative of Allatoona moving on in the competition for Georgia Teacher of the Year.
“We all congratulate you,” Bursmith said.
A committee of former Teachers of the Year and Cobb administrators chose Gwynn out of three finalists from the system’s 5,538 teachers to represent Cobb.
Laura Martin, human resources supervisor for Cobb schools, was on the committee and said members chose Gwynn because of his genuine love of teaching.
“He just has outstanding commitment to all of the children. He truly does believe in every child,” Martin said.
The committee found his efforts inspiring when he told them stories of how he had reached out to children in a personal way with classroom assignments, Martin said.
“He’s really not only a teacher, but a coach and a mentor for his students,” Martin said.
Martin said Gwynn told the committee a story of an assignment where he asked parents to write letters to their children as a way to tell their children things they don’t often say out loud.
“There was one mother and her daughter who were having a conflict, and with that exercise of writing letters, they were able to bridge that conflict,” Martin said.
Andrea Gwynn, Tyler’s wife, who teaches French at Allatoona and lives in Powder Springs with her husband and two children, Carson, 8, and Carin, 6, said she has seen her husband help many children in the same way.
“I screamed when they called me to tell me he’d won. I am so proud. He deserves this,” Andrea Gwynn said. “He has touched so many lives with his teaching and his coaching.”
Tyler Gwynn coaches the speech and debate club at Allatoona.
He began teaching in Cobb right out of college after he graduated with a bachelor’s in history from the University of Georgia in 1999. He taught honors history classes at South Cobb High School from 1999 to 2007. While he was at South Cobb, he also coached wrestling.
Alice Rasnake, Gwynn’s grandmother, was his inspiration to be a teacher, he said. She taught high school Latin, and Gwynn said he never heard a mean word come out of her mouth.
“I realized as a young man that that’s how teachers are,” Gwynn said. “They bring out the best in everyone around them.”
He said he teaches because he loves being able to influence children’s lives.
“When you love what you do, it’s easy to come to work,” Gwynn said. “You have a unique opportunity to make a lifelong impact on someone, and that’s what this life is all about — it’s got to be. If you change someone like that it goes beyond you, and that’s what I like about teaching.”
Tyler Gwynn moved to Allatoona in 2007 because he was “ready for a change.” He has been teaching geography and history ever since.
During his time at Allatoona, Gwynn earned a master’s degree in teaching from American College of Education in 2011 and a specialist’s degree in teaching from Lincoln Memorial University in 2013.
Rhonda Lokey, last year’s Teacher of the Year who teaches sixth-grade humanities at Campbell Middle School, was also on the committee to choose Gwynn as teacher of the year.
“It’s a great honor to be able to pass it on to someone I think is so deserving,” Lokey said. “He’s just such a genuine person.”
Lokey said she is passing on the perks of being Teacher of the Year that Gwynn will now enjoy, which includes driving a car of his choice from the Ed Voyles Kia dealership in Smyrna for one year and putting his handprints in the Marietta Square alongside former teachers who won the title.
Lokey said she enjoyed the last year, and she’s excited to pass on the award.
“I think the coolest thing was hearing from past students,” Lokey said. “They would reach out to me and congratulate me, and I’ve been teaching for 32 years, so there are people who have their own kids now. That made it really special.”
Gwynn said after the pep rally Friday Lokey had already offered to coach him on how to fill out his application for the state competition for Teacher of the Year, which is due in December. Ten finalists for the spot will be announced in March.
“It’s just an amazing honor and privilege to be given this, especially with all of the high caliber teachers in this county,” Gwynn said. “This is a different kind of competition now because this is all about representing Cobb, and I’m going to bring my best.”