The Forsyth County 2013 Teacher of the Year will also receive a free professional development tour this summer to China.
Nick Crowder of South Forsyth High School is one of 30 teachers, administrators and educational leaders selected nationwide for the opportunity provided by EF Education First.
As a leader in international education, EF choses the scholarship recipients based on their interest in and dedication to international education, service learning and global awareness.
The free tour includes round-trip airfare, hotel accommodations, meals and guided sightseeing tours.
Nick Crowder credited his childhood teachers for inspiring him to rise above a bad family situation and pursue a successful career.
Crowder has spent the past decade trying to pass that encouragement onto his students as an engineering technology teacher at South Forsyth High School.
His efforts were recognized Friday during the annual Celebration of Excellence, when he was named Forsyth County 2013 Teacher of the Year.
“Never in my wildest dreams,” Crowder said. “To think that I would ever receive a recognition even close to this would never have crossed my mind.
“The privilege is all mine. To have the job that I have, to work in the school that I do … it’s just a joy to go to work every day.”
Crowder edged fellow finalists Liz Watterson, a South Forsyth Middle School math teacher, and Courtney Stokes, who teaches second grade at Big Creek Elementary, for the honor.
Last year’s Teacher of the Year, Anna Aigner, announced the top teachers for the county’s 35 schools, saying the system is full of “amazing educators.”
“We have teachers who dedicate their lives to our students,” she said.
Presented by Forsyth County Schools and the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, the Celebration of Excellence honors not just teachers who make a difference in the lives of the county’s students, but also businesses, mentors and volunteers.
Superintendent Buster Evans said it’s the commitment from all areas that “makes this place a great place for each of us to work, to learn and to serve.”
About 900 businesses work with the system’s schools and have provided more than $1.6 million to local education, Evans said. Among them are Evan Profeta of State Farm Insurance and Ned Colley of Texas Instruments.
Both were honored Friday with the 2013 Silver Program of the Year award for helping improve academic performance, enrich student life, grow career opportunities and provide educator support and morale.
The Gold Program of the Year honor was shared by Sawnee EMC and Hansgrohe Inc.
Sawnee EMC surprised county principals with $67,500 in donations and also gave more than $10,000 to Lanier Technical College to assist at-risk students with dual enrollment to cover tuition not paid for by the HOPE Grant.
In addition to donating showerheads to reduce the amount of water used in all middle and high schools, Hansgrohe has provided tours for high school German students as well as equipment for the STEM Academy at Forsyth Central High.
Suzanne Hendricks presented the Don Hendricks Partnership Award to Siemens Inc. in honor of her father, a late school board member. The distinction, she said, is “the highest award that a partner can receive.”
“This company has a long-standing relationship with the school district’s special education department,” Hendricks said. “The experience and skills they have learned at Siemens has enriched their lives and allowed them to reach their post-secondary goals.”
The 2013 Mentor of the Year Award went to Robert Scott, who has spent time with students in the system’s Gateway alternative learning program.
2013 Friend of the Year Award went to Jack Schiff of Rewarding Minds for providing technology, including laptops, printers and software to academic high achievers facing financial challenges.
Mentor Me and Ali Margelli both shared the 2013 Volunteer of the Year Award.
Lynn Jackson, administrator at Northside Hospital-Forsyth, the largest contributor to the school district, spoke during the celebration. She encouraged the system’s leaders to build on the strong foundation.
“Don’t let our good school system be the enemy of creating a great school system that we know they’re capable of providing,” she said. “Let the good today definitely become the spring board to a great tomorrow.
“I think the key to that vision becoming a reality is definitely leveraging our assets … education clearly needs to be everybody’s business. By utilizing our community’s manpower, our materials, our financial resources effectively, our schools have effectively built a resource network.”
Evans closed the event, held at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center, saying the system is proud of its schools, students and teachers.
“We didn’t get here alone. We are all components of the equation,” he said. “Those who are here now and those who have served this district and this county in the past … we are a system that we believe is a system continuing to seek excellence because of the strong beliefs and the firm commitments that each of you have made.”