Glennville Rotarians saluted Tattnall's Teachers of the Year at their Wednesday, September 27, 2023, meeting. These include Teacher of the Year for South Tattnall Middle School (STMS) Kimby Brooks, Haley Fennell for Tattnall County High School (TCHS), Andrew Messer for North Tattnall Middle School (NTMS), Elizabeth James for North Tattnall Elementary School (NTES), and Jessica Dutton for South Tattnall Elementary School (STES). They were introduced by Tattnall County School Superintendent Dr. Kristen Waters.
Kimby Brooks of STMS is in her 24th year of teaching at several schools. She has taught math courses that span sixth grade math to calculus. In addition, she has served as a co-sponsor for the STMS Junior Beta for the past five years. She also teaches at Coastal Plains Charter School at night twice a week.
Haley Fennell is the tenth grade Honors Biology and Inclusive Biology teacher at TCHS. Even though she did not initially plan on teaching, one of her college professors at Georgia Southern University encouraged her. She also credits the inspiring role model of former teachers Janet Bussell and Dana Beasley. She has been teaching 17 years.
Andrew Messer, math teacher of NTMS, has been teaching for ten years and has taught every grade from kindergarten to eighth grade. He started the NTMS Chess Club over three years ago, and his students have excelled in these mind-challenging games. Messer has organized several chess competitions in the area.
Elizabeth James is the system-wide Teacher of the Year. She is NTES Teacher of the Year and has taught for nine years. She has also taught English Language Arts (ELA) in fourth and fifth grades and also a writing lab class to students in grades first through fifth. She is well known throughout the State of Georgia as an autism advocate and serves as a DECAL Family Peer Ambassador for the State of Georgia and speaks at various events locally and in surrounding counties.
As a candidate for Georgia Teacher of the Year, Elizabeth feels her primary message is the importance of early intervention for children exhibiting developmental delays. The goal is to educate teachers, staff, parents/grandparents, and the community of the resources available to them.
Jessica Dutton, STES Teacher of the Year, has taught for 18 years. She didn’t enter education initially. After graduating from Georgia Southern University with a degree in Therapeutic Recreation, she worked for three years at Charter by the Sea on St. Simons Island before returning back to Tattnall County and earning her Master’s degree in Education.
Superintendent Waters presented several questions to the teachers, with the first one, “Why did you become an educator?”
Kimby Brooks commented that she had several phenomenal math teachers who planted the seed in her to become a teacher.
Haley Fennell stated that even though she did not begin considering becoming a teacher, she knows today that being able to related to teenagers is one her strengths.
Another question posed to the teachers was “What is the one thing today that our students are missing?”
Andrew Messer, as a male teacher, feels that more male role models are needed in the classrooms, and he values the relationship building and positive male influence in their lives as a teacher.
Elizabeth James commented that many students are lacking background knowledge that inhibits their ability to express themselves. A lack of social skills and interacting with other students, such as making eye contact, can hamper their integrating with fellow students and teachers.
“What is something that the community can do to support our students?” was another question that Superintendent Waters asked the teachers.
For Jessica Dutton, she feels we have a supportive community and that her two daughters have felt the genuine love of their teachers, but that some children need help that their own parents can’t give them.
Elizabeth James added that communication boards may be helpful for those students who are non-verbal to be able to understand their situations. Also, there is a lack of therapy for students in this area, with the need to travel out of town for specific therapy.
The last question was “Why would you recommend Tattnall County to someone?”
The reply was the genuine concern for the students from teachers and the support to find a solution among the family of faculty when issues needed to be resolved. They agreed on the favorable learning environment and the support given to the students by the teachers and the system itself.
The Glennville Rotarians applauded the teachers and thanked them for their service and dedication to the students.