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Finalists announced for the Forsyth County Teacher of the Year
North Forsyth High School science teacher Amy Dykes is presented a bouquet of flowers on Tuesday for being named one of seven finalists for the Forsyth County School system's 2019 Teacher of the Year award. - photo by Alexander Popp

The Forsyth County Schools system announced finalists for the 2019 Teacher of the Year award.

But according to school system officials, this year they are trying something new for the annual celebration, awarding seven finalists, three from elementary schools, two from middle schools and two from high schools, that will then be narrowed down to the one Forsyth County Teacher of the Year.  

“Our teacher of the year program is a wonderful way to celebrate the hard work of our teachers and schools,” said system superintendent Jeff Bearden. “This year, we expanded our finalists from three to seven to reflect the state’s program and also to recognize the addition of many new schools over the past 20 years to our FCS family.“

Forsyth County 2019 Teacher of the Year finalists include;

  •         Ronda Slaughter — first-grade teacher, Matt Elementary School
  •          Jackie Shirley — special education pre-K, Silver City Elementary School
  •          Jessica Nicholson — fifth-grade teacher, Whitlow Elementary School 
  •           Kim Schreier — math teacher, South Forsyth Middle School
  •          Donna Jackson — sixth-grade social studies, North Forsyth Middle School
  •          Amy Dykes — science teacher, North Forsyth High School
  •          Julie Hunt — English teacher, South Forsyth High School

On Tuesday and Thursday, a procession of school officials, Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce representatives and members of the Andean Chevrolet family visited each teacher of the year finalist at their school, surprising them in the classroom with balloons, flowers, small speeches, hugs and a few tears.

Donna Jackson, sixth-grade social studies teacher at North Forsyth Middle School poses with her students on Tuesday. - photo by Alexander Popp

At North Forsyth Middle School, Donna Jackson was buffeted by a classroom full of students chanting her name after being pulled out into a hallway full of teachers and students. The veteran social studies teacher later said that she was never expecting to be chosen for the award and was confused and concerned when 

“I am just stunned. Stunned, honored, amazed,” she said. “I didn't expect this, I didn't even think about it being this week, honestly.”the door initially opened.

At Silver City Elementary School, special education teacher Jackie Shirley was caught unaware in her classroom with her pre-k students and called the experience “unbelievable.”

“I'm pretty sure that I'm in shock,” Shirley said. “Good shock, but shock.”

After receiving flowers and balloons from Deputy Superintendent of Schools Joey Pirkle and James McCoy, president and CEO of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, Shirley said that she was never expecting the award and all credit was due to her students.

“My expectations are just to come in here every day with these kids. But this even awesome-er ... Icing on the cake,” she said. “I really have to say a lot of it has to do with the kids. I think my class makes me look good.”

At North Forsyth High School, Principal Jeff Cheney spoke to the class of science teacher Amy Dykes, congratulating her on the award and telling the students how lucky they were to have her.

Jackie Shirley, a special education pre-K at Silver City Elementary School poses with her students on Tuesday, after receiving word that she was selected as a teacher of the year finalist.

“What strikes me is just how much she cares about you,” Cheney said. “You are very, very lucky to be sitting in that seat. It might not feel that way right now, but you are very fortunate to have Ms. Dykes as your teacher.”

Cheney also walked the gathered people through the different groups and projects that Dykes is involved with at North Forsyth High School.

“So Ms. Dykes, thank you for everything,” he said. “You are at the forefront about how important is to engage with the community and be good citizens.”

According to Forsyth County School Communications Facilitator Hannah Samples, the seven finalists will now go before a committee to be interviewed and give a speech. The committee, which is made up of community leaders and educators, will tabulate the different teacher’s scores and look for the best representation of the county as a whole, Samples said.

The 2019 Forsyth County Teacher of the Year will be announced at the annual Celebration of Excellence luncheon on March 8.