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South Forsyth Middle band instructor named systems top teacher
Andrew Poor, a band teacher at South Forsyth Middle, was named the 2016 Forsyth County Schools Teacher of the Year on Friday during the districts annual Celebration of Excellence luncheon. Poor was out of state on a school trip, but his co-workers kept him on FaceTime during the presentation. - photo by Micah Green

SOUTH FORSYTH — Andrew Poor was declared the best teacher in Forsyth County on Friday, but he was nowhere to be found.

In fact, Poor was in a different state, doing what he has been doing all along that led to the prestigious distinction — teaching.

When the South Forsyth Middle band teacher was named the 2016 Forsyth County Schools Teacher of the Year at the district’s annual Celebration of Excellence luncheon, he was in Florida as his students performed at Disney World in Orlando.

But his face was present.

Co-workers at South kept him on FaceTime during the presentation at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center, and the district aired a pre-recorded speech and reaction to the announcement.

In the essay he submitted as a finalist, Poor wrote: “My journey to becoming a teacher was probably similar to many in education. My greatest influences were my mother, a pre-K teacher for 25 years, and my father, a retired Air Force colonel, and he was my management for Walt Disney World for over 20 years.

“From my mother, I learned the phrase, ‘Your students will not care about how much you know until they know how much you care.’ From my father, I learned the phrase, ‘People who are following you will only work as hard as you do.’”

Poor being named teacher of the year was the result of months of interviews and classroom visits with a top teacher from each of the 35 public schools in the local system.

The pool was eventually narrowed to three — one each at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

Last year’s teacher of the year, Forsyth Central High School automotive technology teacher Marlo Miranda, presented the award, which included money, gift cards, Atlanta Braves baseball tickets, gift baskets and, for the first time, a one-year lease on a car from Andean Chevrolet.

“Andrew Poor has had multiple influential music teachers that have helped shape him and lead him to his career,” said Darla Light, chairwoman of the Board of Education. “From his first trumpet teacher, showing him how to love music and how to pay that gift of music forward, to Robert W. Smith shaping his view on comprehensive curriculum development for students and how to transform an organization, Dr. Poor had great influences that led him to the countless classroom successes he has had.”

Since becoming band director at the middle school on Windermere Parkway, the program has grown from 135 to 367 students in two years.

The band has been asked to perform across the country, has been awarded superior ratings at every state evaluation it has attended and has had students selected for GMEA District 9 Honor Band and GMEA All-State Band.

While the teacher of the year award was the culminating honor of the day, a number of people and businesses were also recognized for their efforts in the schools and with students, including counselors of the year.

Ken Terry from Chestatee Elementary School was named mentor of the year, Bryan Properties was named friend of the year and Patrick Miller and Katrina Oliver were named volunteers of the year.

North Lanier Baptist Church received the Silver Program award, and Balfour Beatty was given the Gold Program award.

As the highest honor a Partner in Education can receive in Forsyth County, Browns Bridge Church was named as the 2016 recipient of the Don Hendricks Partnership Award.

“We are a place that the world is beating a path to,” said James McCoy, president and CEO of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce. “Our problems are the envy of the country … and the heartbeat of that is our world-class school system.”