A Hometown Legacy: Two teachers at GNMS teach students through their own life experiences

Published 3:00 pm Wednesday, January 19, 2022

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Editor’s Note: This story is part of a series on teachers of the year in Troup County. 

Two Gardner Newman Middle School teachers have returned to their old stomping grounds and are inspiring students.

This year, Marcus Blandingburg and Monica Cameron — both former GNMS students — shared the title of Teacher of the Year at Gardner Newman Middle.

GNMS Principal Kelley Adams had kind words for her teachers. She said Adams had an energy that easily translated into her teaching.

“She has worked very hard to become a teacher. And she has the best rapport with her students, as well as her athletes,” Adams said. “She is high energy, and they love going to her classroom. She is phenomenal. She started off as a paraprofessional and ended up as one of our teachers, one of our best math teachers”

Adams said she grew up with Blandingburg and went through GNMS and high school with him.

“We were in sixth grade together when the school opened. We were classmates, and we went through all of Gardner Newman,” Adams said. “Then, we also went to high school together and graduated together.”

Adams said she has enjoyed watching Blandingburg give back to his students.

“To watch somebody that, I, in essence kind of grew up with through the school system,” she said. “It’s a pleasure to see his journey and how he’s worked with kids, and what he’s done for the athletic program.”

(Photo/Iris Hersey)

Blandingburg said he uses coaching to teach students how to handle adversity and his health class to teach education like how to secure a job.

“In the classroom, I always talk about the educational piece, what to do to be successful in life, for education, like job wise,” Blandinburg said. “When it comes to coaching, it’s a whole other dynamic. I talk about life skills, like going through adversity.”

Cameron said she did not go the traditional route to become a teacher. She worked three careers before she even started teaching math at GNMS. Those careers were in the U.S. Army, Milliken and as a substitute teacher in the career. She said substitute teaching is ultimately what got her into teaching.

“My name got around, and people started calling me. And then one day I saw the human resource assistant at the store, and she was like, I need you,” Cameron said.

Cameron said it is the community of LaGrange and Troup County that keeps her teaching and coaching every year.

“I know the community. I love the community,” Cameron said. “As I began talking to some of these kids and building relationships with [them], I went and took the GACE [Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators], and I passed it.”

For Cameron and Blandingburg, it is always about providing love to their students.

“These kids need some tough love. They need love, but they need tough love,” Cameron said. “They need some inspiration, some mentorship.”

Blandingburg said he uses what he learns as a parent and husband to help inform his teaching.

“What I do at home, it really influenced [my teaching] because I know what we have at home,” he said. “I want a kid to experience that through just me being around here on a football field or at a wrestling match.”

(Photo/Iris Hersey)