Longtime Candler County educator and Metter Elementary School teacher Cheryl Coker Cobb was named Candler County Schools’ Teacher of the Year in an uplifting awards ceremony at the Metter Middle School gymnasium on Wednesday, October 6, 2021.
Cobb, who began her career with the Candler County Schools as a teacher’s assistant in 1991, also received the Ben G. Bowen Teacher of the Year award for $10,000!
The awards ceremony was conducted on a day when students were not in attendance but teachers were working on campus preparing for upcoming lessons and projects.
According to John Jordan, assistant superintendent of Candler County Schools, the decision to have the awards ceremony on a “Teacher In-service Day” was made after a group brainstormed the best way to honor the county’s best educators.
Says Jordan, “The consensus was that the school Teacher of the Year representatives wanted to be able to celebrate with their team members and co-workers as the annual award is presented.”
On the day of the celebration, teachers and support staff from Metter High School, Metter Middle School and Metter Elementary School filled the gymnasium with anticipation of hearing who the 2021 prize winner would be.
Dr. Bubba Longgrear, superintendent of Candler County Schools, welcomed the crowd as the program began. He commented to those gathered that the record year that Candler County Schools has experienced is, in fact, due to the adults in the room.
He also thanked Ben G. Bowen, Metter High School alumni and successful businessman, for committing to providing the Candler County Teacher of the Year with an award that would make the winner feel appreciated. The crowd cheered as they learned that Bowen has furthered his commitment to funding the award through 2030. Bowen also annually provides a significant academic scholarship to a graduating MHS senior.
Following Longgrear’s comments, Board of Education Chair Craig Lanier spoke to the group. He admitted that, as a farmer, he had always assumed farming was the toughest job to do because of the constancy of work.
“In farming, there is always something to do, something happening, always a challenge,” he stated. Now, he says, he is persuaded that teachers face the same challenges. “Things are always changing, and the educators are meeting the changes and challenges every day,” he said. Lanier included feeding children, providing transportation, teaching, and maintaining a safe environment as challenges that are being met each day by the personnel of the Candler County School District.
“What is happening in the Candler County School District is a miracle every day,” he exclaimed, adding, “This school system is getting it done!”
Cassandra Donaldson, who received the Ben G. Bowen Teacher of the Year award one year ago, then shared her thoughts on her year as the county’s top teacher. “I pray that I represented you with dignity and grace,” she pleaded. She expressed her thanks to Bowen and to her peers for the support that they gave to her so that she could experience being the Candler County Teacher of the Year. She encouraged those present by sharing, “God has given each of you a gift and called you for a particular moment in time,” she stated. “Continue to inspire and walk boldly into your purpose,” was her challenge to the audience.
Following the opening comments, a video of the three school representatives was shown. Produced by Tony Lescek and the Video Production Students of Metter High School, each of the school’s Teachers of the Year were shown interacting with students and were featured in interviews about their teaching experiences.
After hearing touching stories of mentors and students, there were few dry eyes in the crowd as each of the teachers featured shared stories that had made them better teachers and better people through their experiences.
When the video presentation ended, it was time for the principals to honor the Teacher of the Year from his or her respective schools. Monicca Bohannon presented Metter Elementary’s Teacher of the Year as Cheryl Coker Cobb, stating, “Cheryl exemplifies what it is to build a classroom community.” She added that Cheryl even sent post cards from a Hawaii vacation to her school in preparation for another year of teaching.
Metter Middle School Principal Will Thigpen introduced his school’s Teacher of the Year Holly Beasley with a comparison to Babe Ruth. He said that Beasley translates her passion for teaching into a passion for learning, adding, “Mrs. Beasley keeps it real!”
Last, Ellis Strobridge, principal of Metter High School, presented the MHS Teacher of the Year Julie Ray with her award. He said that to know Mrs. Ray is to love her and that the success of her students is her utmost priority.
Each of the school representatives were presented with an assortment of gifts, including a gift totebag of goodies.
As the end of the hour approached, Dr. Longgrear took the microphone again to make the long-awaited announcement of the Candler County Teacher of the Year. The room erupted in cheers as Cheryl Coker Cobb’s name was called. Cobb approached the podium with tears in her eyes. Her exclamation upon winning was, “What an honor!” She then expressed her appreciation to all of those gathered saying, “I appreciation all you do for the children. Particularly, Cobb thanked the members of her team of Kindergarten teachers and teacher assistants. She then encouraged all of the gathered educators with the phrase, “Keep on teaching!”
Cobb is a 1991 graduate of Metter High School. In her interview, she said that she never intended to become a teacher until she was hired as a teacher’s assistant right after graduation from MHS. “I was assistant to Mrs. Carolyn Collins, a 41-year veteran teacher. On that first day in Mrs. Collins’ class, I fell in love with becoming a teacher.” Cobb changed roles from teacher’s assistant to teacher in 1996 and has directed instruction in her own classroom ever since.
Another person Cobb mentioned by name was her third grade teacher, Mrs. Janice Collins. Cobb shared that Mrs. Collins instilled a love of reading into Cheryl’s life through the book Where the Red Fern Grows. She said that she loves teaching, and especially teaching reading.
According to Cobb, she is eligible to retire following the 2021-22 school year; however, she is unsure if that is the path she will take. Even though she has earned retirement through service, she continues to further her expertise in teaching. She is currently studying to add a teaching certificate endorsement in dyslexia so that even if she retires, she can continue to assist struggling readers.
Following the conclusion of the program, the Candler County Education Foundation provided the employees of the Candler County Schools with a lunch catered by Chick-Fil-A.
In order to be named Candler County Teacher of the Year, an educator must be a full-time certified classroom teacher with at least three years of teaching experience. The teacher who receives the nomination from his or her school by vote of the instructional staff is named the school’s Teacher of the Year.
To be considered for Candler County Teacher of the Year, an extensive application packet must be submitted for review by a panel of judges from outside of Candler County.
The award is given annually and the Candler County Teacher of the Year is then entered in the competition to become Georgia’s Teacher of the Year.