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District crowns its top teachers
Educators 'represent excellence,' school chief says
TOTY WEB 1
Big Creek Elementary teacher Courtney Stokes is surprised Tuesday by school officials. Stokes has been named elementary level teacher of the year. - photo by Jim Dean

At a glance

Meet the Forsyth County school system’s teachers of the year:

Elementary school

• Courtney Stokes, second-grade teacher at Big Creek Elementary

• Stokes received her bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University and master’s degree from Georgia State University in early education.

• Prior to joining the school system in 2010, she taught first- and second-grades at Mamaroneck Avenue School and Lee F. Jackson and Morningside elementary schools.

• Through her travel experiences abroad, she has learned to respect and be influenced by language, literacy and change. 

• She volunteers her time as an assistance leader for her eldest daughter’s Girl Scout Brownie troop.

Middle school

• Liz Watterson, seventh and eighth-grade math teacher at South

• Watterson received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from North Georgia College and State University.

• She began her teaching career at South Forsyth Middle School in 2005. During the summer after her first year of teaching, she had the opportunity to intern for the national Education Association in Washington, D.C.  

• She volunteers on the weekends for Academic Bowl and Math Club competitions.  She enjoys participating in 5K and 10K fundraiser races. 

• She attends Browns Bridge Church and is a volunteer for the Georgia National Guard’s Family Readiness Group. 

High school

• Nick Crowder, technology education teacher at South

• Crowder received his bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University and master’s degree from University of Georgia. 

• Crowder, who has been at South since 2008, also has taught at Forsyth Central High and Vickery Creek Middle. 

• He advises The Technology Student Association, which sponsors at least two community events each year. These include food drives and collection efforts for Toys for Tots and other nonprofits.  

• He is a member of Browns Bridge Church, where he also is producer of the Tech Team.

Source: Forsyth County Schools

The three educators named Forsyth County 2013 Teacher of the Year at the elementary, middle and high school levels each said they were overwhelmed by the honor.

Courtney Stokes, Liz Watterson and Nick Crowder were also surprised when Forsyth County School Superintendent Buster Evans and an entourage of officials visited their classrooms Tuesday morning to announce the news.

“With nearly 2,500 teachers in the system, all of them are so deserving of the recognition, but to honor these three finalists is the highlight of the year for us,” said Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Buster Evans, “They represent excellence in all classrooms in this district … so it’s fun to see them and their excitement.”

One of the three teachers will be named the county’s top teacher Feb. 15 and go on to represent the district at the state level.

Crowder, a technology and engineering teacher at South Forsyth High, said he never thought he’d receive such a prestigious honor when he began teaching in 2001.

“To have my job here, to be privileged enough to work with the young people of Forsyth County every day is enough of a reward,” he said.

“That my colleagues thought enough of me to nominate me, I thought ‘Wow, what an honor,’ and that was at the school level. So to go on to be evaluated by other professionals, I’m just overwhelmed.”

The same is true for math teacher Watterson, now in her eighth year at South Forsyth Middle.

“I work in a great school system, with great co-workers, great students with a great administration, I couldn’t have a better spot,” she said. “I work hard, but I feel like I do what I need to do and I just try my best. So to be recognized just feels really nice.”

It’s just Stokes’ third year at Big Creek Elementary, but the second-grade teacher has made a quick impression.

“I’m touched beyond words,” she said. “It’s an acknowledgement of a lot of hard work and a lot of love for what I do. I couldn’t be here without the school support and my teammates who are remarkable, truly.”

At each stop, Evans reminded the finalists about the competition they faced to earn the coveted spot. The school district has about 800 teachers in high school, 600 for middle school and 1,600 in elementary.

“In Forsyth County, there are so many great teachers in every school,” Evans said. “This is a process where we can honor the people who make a difference for our kids.”