City Schools of Decatur honors teachers, professionals of the yearCity Schools of Decatur and the Decatur Education Foundation honored the teachers of the year on Nov. 14, 2023. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
Decatur, GA — City Schools of Decatur honored the teachers and professional employees of the year during the school board’s regular meeting on Nov. 14.
Alicia Reno was named CSD’s 2023-2024 Teacher of the Year and the Talley Street Upper Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year. She is a science, technology, engineering and math teacher at Talley Street.
“Alicia is an educator, who has made an unforgettable impression on her school, our district, and the field of STEM education,” Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Burton said. “She creates an engaging and energized learning environment for her students, fostering a love for discovery and problem-solving in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.”
Reno has helped establish STEM programs in the district’s upper elementary schools.
“For Alicia, the STEM Lab is magic. It’s a place where all students can be successful,” Burton said. “Alicia creates a learning environment where her students get to learn, apply knowledge in creative ways, and play. Alicia says she is continually impressed and pleased at how students who are not usually considered ‘academically successful’ elsewhere have shined while in the STEM lab.”
Here are the school-level teachers and professional employees of the year:
College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center
Teacher of the Year: Bianca Cheatham
Cheatham has been teaching for 12 years and has been at College Heights for five years. Cheatham is a pre-K teacher.
“She has been married to her husband John for almost 10 years. They have a fun-loving three and half year old daughter named Amelia who is always on the go. She also attends College Heights. Her family has two dogs, Bella and Owen, and she loves to read, craft and shop in her free time,” Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Burton said.
Professional Employee of the Year: Elecia Fulton
Fulton is an after-school manager at College Heights.
“Elecia is the epitome of a team player. She helps out whenever and wherever she is needed. She puts in extra hours to ensure the school needs are being met,” Burton said. “Her passion for her job and love for the students are some of the most endearing qualities.”
Clairemont Elementary School
Teacher of the Year: Corinne Jolley
Jolley is an early intervention teacher at Clairemont Elementary School.
“Corinne was inspired by her mother, a principal a Montessori school in Haiti and a children’s book author,” Burton said.
After earning a bachelor of science in marketing, Jolley discovered her passion for teaching while teaching abroad in South Korea.
“In her 13th year of teaching, Corrine, now in her second year at Clairemont, not only serves as a classroom teacher but also excels in her roles as an MTSS lead and EIP teacher,” Burton said. “She’s also the co-founder of Readers to Dreamers, a nonprofit promoting multicultural literature.”
Professional Employee of the Year: Gloria Ann Alexander
Alexander is a custodian at Clairemont Elementary.
“Ms. Alexander is an important part of Clairemont,” Burton said. “She connects with all students and staff in such a positive way. Ms. Alexander is aware of the needs and ensures she has a laser focus on ensuring Clairemont runs smoothly every day.”
Glennwood Elementary School
Teacher of the Year: Ann Guilfoile
Guilfoile has been teaching for 35 years. She is an early intervention teacher at Glennwood Elementary.
“For the past 15 years, she has been an integral part of City Schools of Decatur teaching early intervention reading and math at Clairemont from 2008-2017, and now at Glennwood,” Burton said. “In 2017, her role expanded to MTSS co-chair.”
Professional Employee of the Year: Harold Seals
Seals is a custodian at Glennwood Elementary.
“Mr. Seals is a quiet person yet friendly and has formed positive relationships with staff, students and parents over the years,” Burton said. “He demonstrates leadership qualities in every task he completes to the best of his ability, without exception. His leadership is demonstrated in his actions and the pride he takes in his work.”
Oakhurst Elementary School
Teacher of the Year: Kelly Whelchel
Whelchel has taught at Oakhurst Elementary for nine years, teaching kindergarten and second grade.
“Previously, she spent 12 years at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in the emergency room and served eight years as a firefighter EMT with the DeKalb County Fire Department,” Burton said. “As Oakhurst’s math cultural lead teacher and PTA staff representative, she balances her professional commitments with outdoor activities, and travels alongside her husband, daughter, Abby Lynn, and dog, Pepper.”
Professional Employee of the Year: Sophia Wilder
Wilder is a paraprofessional at Oakhurst Elementary.
Westchester Elementary School
Teacher of the Year: Brooke Nation
Nation joined CSD in 2006 and began teaching at Clairemont Elementary School. Nation is a media specialist at Westchester Elementary School.
“Ms. Nation dedicated a decade to teaching kindergarten and second grade at Clairemont, where she served as a team lead and PTA representative and was honored as Teacher of the Year in 2009-10,” Burton said.
She later transitioned to Westchester to serve as a media specialist, “finding fulfillment in her multifaceted roles and considering Westchester her home away from home,” Burton said.
Professional Employee of the Year: Julia Walsh
Walsh is a paraprofessional at Westchester Elementary.
“Julia is a warm, friendly face that we love seeing each day. She always has a positive attitude and treats everyone around her with love and respect. She is an active member of Crew and leads by example each day,” Burton said.
Winnona Park Elementary School
Teacher of the Year: Rachel Sigmon
Sigmon is an intervention teacher at Winnona Park Elementary School.
“Rachel’s passion for teaching emerged in second grade when she transformed her home into a makeshift classroom using her mother’s ironing board as a teacher desk,” Burton said. “Over the course of 19 years in CSD, Rachel has thrived in various roles including team lead, PBIS coach and currently MTSS lead, demonstrating her dedication to education in the community she proudly serves.”
Professional Employee of the Year: Pat Burton
Burton is a custodian at Winnona Park Elementary.
“Pat is an integral part of the Winnona Park crew from the moment she opens the building for everyone,” Burton said. “She goes above and beyond to support students, staff and parents. Pat’s work and attention to detail make the classrooms, offices, hallways and grounds safe, clean and inviting to students, teachers and staff.”
Fifth Avenue Upper Elementary School
Teacher of the Year: John O’Keefe
O’Keefe is an ESS teacher at Fifth Avenue Upper Elementary School. He has been teaching for 23 years.
“His educational philosophy centers around brining inspired learning into the classroom, fostering skills of safety, risk taking and joy and self-confidence for lifelong development,” Burton said. “John considers himself fortunate to discover aspects of himself in every student.”
Professional Employee of the Year: Artesha Chaney
Chaney is a paraprofessional at Fifth Avenue Elementary.
Talley Street Elementary School
Professional Employee of the Year: Mary Frazier
Frazier is a custodian at Talley Street Elementary.
“Ms. Frazier is such an important part of the Talley Street family,” Burton said. “She is one of the warmest and kindest people you will meet. Every morning she is there greeting the students and staff with a huge smile. Her dedication to keeping the school clean and inviting is beyond measure.”
Beacon Hill Middle School
Teacher of the Year: Laura Stroer
Stroer is a special education teacher at Beacon Hill Middle School.
“Ms. Stroer is a devoted special education teacher focusing on students with intellectual disabilities, prioritizes their needs and advocates for inclusion both inside and outside the classroom. She founded Bulldog Buddies, an inclusive club fostering meaningful interactions between neurotypical and differently abled students,” Burton said.
Professional Employee of the Year: Brian Bell
Bell is the lead custodian at Beacon Hill Middle School.
“As a leader of the Beacon Hill Middle School custodial team, he is one of the most caring and hardworking team members of the facilities and maintenance department in CSD,” Burton said. “He demonstrates a strong sense of responsibility by taking ownership of the cleanliness and maintenance of the building. Even if something is not part of his job description, he jumps in to help and is a problem solver, while bringing a smile and joy to everyone he works with.”
Decatur High School
Teacher of the Year: Lena Hamilton
Hamilton is a ninth and 10th grade English teacher at DHS.
“Lena is a Boston native and Georgia resident, is a Black Teacher Project fellow and advisory board member, a Rhode Island’s Writers Colony Fellow, a Roots Wounds Words fellow, a recipient of the Tufts University Department of English prize and former teacher of the year 2009,” Burton said. “Hamilton was a finalist for CSD’s Good Trouble Award in 2022 and in 2023, a winner.”
Professional Employee of the Year: Kelli Aaron
Aaron is an athletics administration specialist at Decatur High School.
“Ms. Kelly mentors both students and coaches daily. She’s a caring adult in the performing arts center and athletics and makes sure athletics is a safe, supportive and inviting environment to all,” Burton said.
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