City Schools of Decatur announces recipients of Teacher of the Year awardsStacey Foster was named City Schools of Decatur's Teacher of the Year. She teaches Clairmont Elemenary School. Photo courtesy of CSD.
This story has been updated.
Decatur, GA — City Schools of Decatur has announced this year’s Teacher of the Year awards at the district and school levels. The district honored 10 teachers at the School Board meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 9.
During the School Board meeting, Director of Community and Government Relations Courtney Burnett introduced each teacher and shared parts of their nominations before announcing the District Teacher of the Year.
Stacey Foster was named the District Teacher of the Year. She has been teaching for 14 years and is in her third year at Clairemont Elementary as a K-2 EIP teacher.
Prior to teaching at Clairemont, Stacey was a third grade teacher at Westchester Elementary School. She also worked for in Newton County for several years as a district-level instructional specialist and coach, a math and reading interventionist for grades K-5 and an interrelated special educator.
“Stacey says that she holds the strong belief that lessons should be considered learning adventures where a deep connection with an array of content areas is fostered through experiences with art, music, and getting your hands dirty,” Burnett said. “Her colleagues say she helps students with whatever skill they are working on and encourages them. She helps bring out the best in them, so they believe they can do it.”
One of Foster’s favorite things about teaching is knowing that the beautiful moments she gets to share with so many children can be the foundation for so many more spectacular observations.
The school-level Teachers of the Year were nominated by their peers, and all nominees must be in at least their third year of employment with CSD. Nominations were required to share how the teacher demonstrates leadership within the school or system; works as a team member of the school and works well with staff, parents, and administrators; and provide evidence of student achievement and engagement by providing a stimulating classroom environment.
The nominations for the school-level Teacher of the Year award are considered by a committee and selected by the principals.
Rahfiya Carrion was named College Heights Early Childhood Learning Centers Teacher of the Year. Carrion started working at College Heights eight years ago as an assistant teacher and is currently a preschool teacher.
“Her colleagues say: Ms. Rahfiya sees her students both as a class and individually,” Burnett said. “She works with each child where they are and moves them forward and understands that not all children learn in the same way. She has a very calm, friendly, and nurturing disposition, which allows her children to feel secure, grounded, and ready to learn.”
Carrion works to provide a learning environment that encourages the class and each child to explore their independence, creativity and ways to show empathy to others. She loves seeing the smile on student’s faces when they accomplish a task, and loves seeing when they help each other.
Missy Rose was named the Glennwood Elementary School Teacher of the Year. She has been teaching at CSD for 11 years. She is currently a kindergarten teacher at Glennwood.
“Missy’s colleagues hold her in high regard. They say Missy holds all students to the highest standard possible academically and socially,” Burnett said. “She believes that students can achieve, and they do in her classroom. She always encourages students to try to produce quality work on their own.”
Her favorite thing about teaching is watching her students transform before her eyes. She also loves teaching students how to problem-solve and watching them become confident enough to try something outside their comfort zone.
“She says this is especially relevant in kindergarten, where students often come in not knowing their letters or sounds and leave knowing how to both read and write,” Burnett said. “[Missy] loves the exact moment when a student realizes that they did something independently without giving up. And lastly, I love how elementary students will love you unconditionally and will always tell you the truth, even if it’s not what you were expecting.”
Stacie Kenner is Oakhurst Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year. She has been at Oakhurst Elementary for 11 years and is a kindergarten teacher.
“Stacie is dedicated to her students and is constantly inspiring them to learn. She makes school fun and motivating and is always willing to put 100% energy and effort into her lessons,” Burnett said, while reading a statement from one of Kenner’s colleagues. “Stacie’s classroom constantly feels safe, supportive, and inviting. She is responsive to her families and treats children with respect and dignity. She is a lovely staff member to work alongside and is always willing to support and encourage others.”
Kenner believes that one size does not fit all, and she strives to plan lessons with all her students in mind.
Burnett shard some of Kenner’s thoughts, saying, “Being a teacher is so much more than a career. It’s a passion. Imagine experiencing the cycle of a plant in real time. One that is strategically planting acorns in safe, nurturing spaces. I am adding consistent equitable sprinkles of kindness, encouragement and creativity. As time goes on, my children grow.”
Julie Parker was named Westchester Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year. She is a first grade teacher at Westchester Elementary School and has been there for five years.
“Her colleagues say Julie is a phenomenal teacher. She has found her niche in teaching with a passion and love for phonics and reading instruction. Julie delivers phonics in a personalized way for each of her students,” Burnett said. “She knows each child’s strengths, and at the same time she puts emphasis on challenging each child to grow in their own ways. Her equitable practices are apparent as she makes sure each child gets the instruction they need, in the way they need it. No child leaves her room having received anything less than her best, and this happens year after year.”
Parker fell in love with her job while teaching children to read. She enjoys seeing the process of taking children from reading picture books to chapter books. Her colleagues also credit Parker for getting them through a lot of change during the COVID-19 pandemic. Parker spent many hours learning Google Classroom and helped others learn how to use the program.
Kelly Stopp is Winnona Park Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year. She began teaching at Winnona Park in 2012 and is a second grade teacher. Stopp has worked as a literacy specialist and has taught first and second grades at the school.
Some of her favorite things about teaching is seeing students develop independence, build relationships with her students, and being silly with her students. They teach Stopp new handshakes, they have built a family pet photo wall, and Stopp loves spending recess on the swings chatting.
“Another Winnona Park staff member said Kelly is, simply put, an inspiration to all at Winnona Park,” Burnett said. “She’s worked tirelessly during her tenure here, and still always has a smile and a kind word to offer to anyone who crosses her path. Former students and parents alike sing her praises and often talk about the feeling of being part of the Stopp crew — a feeling of belonging. She is one of the most exceptional teachers I’ve ever had the honor of working with.”
Dawn Stephen was named Fifth Avenue Elementary Teacher of the Year. She is a third grade teacher. She has been in education for 21 years.
“Dawn embodies what it means to be an IB educator. Her lessons push children to use IB traits, especially inquiry,” Burnett said, quoting Stephen’s colleagues. “Dawn’s room is an inspirational place to visit. Every time I step foot inside, I see a new, exciting idea I want to implement in my own classroom. Dawn goes above and beyond, bringing in exciting, engaging, and rigorous materials that challenge and expand our curriculum.”
Stephen challenges her students to know that they can make a difference in the world and they can fix things. She also pushes her colleagues to do the same.
“Her colleagues shared: Dawn’s always pushing our team for equity and diversity in our teaching practices,” Burnett said.
“She challenges the team to elevate the understanding of equity and bias in our work together. She asked us to be critical and push for broader representation in all that we do to teach our children.”
Shannon Brewton is the first Teacher of the Year at Talley Street Elementary School. She has taught in CSD for about 2015. She is currently a special education resource, language arts and math teacher for third through fifth grades.
“One of her colleagues shared in her nomination, Ms. Brewton spends so much time building relationships with her students and their families,” Burnett said. “She sets the highest expectations for work ethic and holds her students accountable. She is empathetic and understanding, providing a safe place for students to land. Her students love and respect her, and she does everything she can to help them grow both academically and personally. She engages with her colleagues and parents in ways that encourage them to be the best version of themselves.”
Relationship building is Brewton’s favorite part of teaching. She makes it a point to try to get to know as many students as possible at Talley Street Elementary School. She is also a leader in her school.
“Her colleagues say: Ms. Brewton is a voice for equity and inclusion in our school community,” Burnett said. “She speaks up and out for our students of color and students with disabilities. She works to ensure that scheduling is conducive to her students’ needs, and has her IEP criteria, goals and success in mind with every decision she makes.”
Larika Frazier was named Renfroe Middle School’s Teacher of the Year. She teaches sixth grade math and has been at Renfroe since 2013. She also serves as a cross coutry and track and field coach.
Frazier loves seeing her students get excited about learning.
“She says, I like talking to them about how sixth grade math made them build their confidence in math that they thought they did not have,” Burnett said. “It is a privilege to guide them in their observation and build connections to help them with their future learning. Plus, my students are always so fun and entertaining on the middle school level.”
One of Frazier’s sixth grade colleagues said she is a teacher who touches all students who enter her classroom.
“No matter what your ability level is, comfort level is with the subject matter she teaches, past success or failure with the content, she reaches you right where you are and elevates you beyond with a lot of knowledge, love, and accountability,” Burnett said.
Allison Forte-Paul is Decatur High School’s Teacher of the Year. She has taught health and physical education at DHS for 12 years. She has coached softball and basketball. She also started the flag football team, which is in their second season at DHS.
Her favorite part of teaching is building relationships with students, advocating for them and teaching them how to advocate for themselves. She is currently a mentor to a former DHS student, who she never taught or coached. Forte-Paul took this student under her wing during her senior year after a graduation coach connect them. The student is now in thriving in college and Forte-Paul continues to support her.
“Her colleagues say, she makes students feel safe and secure where they are able to be more productive, which in turn helps them reach their full potential,” Burnett said. “Coach is constantly supporting her students and colleagues in a caring and thoughtful manner. She also has everyone’s best interest in mind when making decisions and creating learning opportunities.”