HUNT COLUMN: Our diverse Teacher of the Year nominees

Published 10:30 am Saturday, February 5, 2022

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By Cathy Hunt
Troup County Board Chairwoman

Over the last couple of months, this newspaper has been running feature stories on the 25 teachers who have been named “Teacher of the Year” at their respective schools and are thus in the running for the 2022 Troup County Teacher of the Year. This group includes one teacher from each elementary school, two from each middle and high school, and one each from HOPE academy and THINC Academy.

I’m very pleased to see every one of these educators be given individual front page coverage for the recognition they have received from their colleagues. At the school level, they are chosen by people who work with them every day and see their energy, enthusiasm, character and dedication.

As I’ve read the profiles, I’m struck by the diversity of the candidates. They run the gamut from those who have been in the profession for fewer than five years to those who have been at it for decades. They are male and female, black and white. But they all have important things in common: they’re exceptionally good at what they do, and they have a passion for it.

A great many of the honorees are Troup County born, bred, and schooled, saying they had a tremendous desire to come home to teach. It was always a thrill for me when Troup High graduates returned after a few years to become co-workers. There is absolutely a special validation in that, and certainly a return on investment.

Many of these folks took the traditional career path, getting a college degree after high school and going straight into teaching. Some went to college with their minds set on other careers, including speech pathology, interior design, kinesiology, entrepreneurship, graphic design, and music. But a little voice inside nudged them in another direction. Others did stints in a variety of fields — the military, church work, criminal justice, industry, nursing — before realizing their calling.

In my house, one of us (that would be I) took the traditional route. My husband, on the other hand, whose degree is in art, worked various jobs in the design field before deciding to get his teaching credentials in middle age. He became a high school art teacher, and had 15 wonderful years before retiring. He wished he’d changed gears earlier.

A couple of this year’s winners worked as paraprofessionals in our schools before deciding to go all in. Troup County leaders know the value in this and encourage promising individuals to continue their education as part of our “Grow Your Own” program.

However these fine teachers come to us, we are delighted to have them as part of the team. And this year’s honorees represent only a fraction of the exceptional educators in our system. Several spoke of their surprise and gratitude to be singled out from among all their wonderful colleagues — people who will undoubtedly find themselves profiled in the Daily News some day as school level Teachers of the Year.

Congratulations and good luck to this year’s nominees for Troup County TOTY.