It was a time of celebration and applause as Cassandra Donaldson was named 2020-2021 Candler County Teacher of the Year in an alternative ceremony held at the Candler County K-8 gymnasium on Thursday, Dec. 17.
The audience, made up of faculty and staff of the Candler County schools, sat socially distanced as Superintendent of Candler County Schools Dr. Bubba Longgrear announced that Cassandra Donaldson, Metter Middle School’s Teacher of the Year, was the winner of the Ben G. Bowen Teacher of the Year Award. Donaldson was handed a giant check made out for $10,000 in recognition of her achievement.
The ceremony began with comments by Board of Education Chairman Craig Lanier thanking the gathered educators for the outstanding job they have done in the most challenging year of education ever.
He likened the school staff to the machinery used in the cotton gin in his business, Growers Supply.
“A gin has 75 motors. If one machine breaks, the whole works shuts down,” he explained. When comparing that to a day in the school district, he surmised, “A smooth day is a testament to the people working to make education happen in Candler County.”
Lanier said all parts of the school system are integral.
“Transportation gets the students to school, School Food Services sees that they are healthy and nourished, counselors and nurses make sure the student are healthy minded, teachers instruct and mold minds as the children grow and mature, and administrators set policy and lead so that learning can happen,” he enumerated.
Congratulating those present for the 96 percent graduation rate at Metter High School that was only 59.6 percent 20 years ago, Lanier said the Board of Education loves the work being done in the schools, saying, “It is so important to the heartbeat of our town and county.”
Teachers and other staff members cheered at the announcement that the Board of Education, in appreciation for the job being done in difficult circumstances, had voted to give all employees a Christmas bonus for 2020.
Scott Waters, Candler County Teacher of the Year for 2019-2020, was featured via a video in which he encouraged his colleagues to not lose heart. He expressed his appreciation to them as well as to Ben G. Bowen who funds the annual cash award.
Waters said, “Teachers have proven themselves in the most difficult time in education.”
The three school representatives were introduced through video showing them in their classrooms working with students.
MES’s Teacher of the Year Hannah Brosch was featured talking about the energy she receives from her students and her co-workers.
“I know I am in the right place,” she beamed, adding that she owes her success as a classroom teacher to her mentors and the culture of MES which breeds love and growth.
Donaldson’s video showed her teaching mathematics to students at MMS. She said that she was destined to be a teacher because it runs in her family and is in her blood.
“I want to be at school for my students and I get inspiration because I know that what I do actually matters,” she stated. “I want my students to know that it doesn’t matter where you come from, you can succeed,” she concluded.
MHS band director and Teacher of the Year Toney Golden was shown working with students in the band room and on the practice field.
“Any success I have had I owe to my band students,” she admitted.
She said that seeing the progression from sixth grade beginner band to 12th grade accomplished musicians inspires her. She added that the 2020 football season has presented difficulties but amazing opportunities as the Metter Tigers continued into the quarterfinals of the State playoffs.
“The band is right there playing in the stands, cheering and presenting our half-time show to support our team,” she stated. Her success is evident in the growth of the band program from very small to over 60 members during her tenure as band director.
Longgrear explained to those gathered that each of the candidates completed an extensive application. The applications were reviewed by a team of outside educators and each of the teachers went through an interview process.
Says Longgrear, “The review team was impressed by the strengths of all of the candidates and had a difficult time in making a decision.”
In presenting Donaldson with the plaque and the check that accompanies the title Candler County Teacher of the Year, Longgrear expressed his appreciation of Ben G. Bowen, MHS alumni who funds the award.
“Our Teacher of the Year program is the envy of educators throughout the state because of the input of Mr. Bowen. We cannot thank him enough for the way he supports education in his hometown,” Longgrear concluded.
The program was closed with Longgrear once again praising the gathered educators for the hard work they have done throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. He also expressed thanks to the various community partners who support the Candler County Teacher of the Year program.