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Top teacher nominees down to three
System educators honored for work in the classroom
jenna ward
Otwell Middle’s Jenna Ward was named the county middle school Teacher of the Year Tuesday. - photo by Jim Dean
Each teacher handled it with her own personal touch, but the reaction was the same when a balloon-toting entourage of school officials burst through the classroom door: Surprise!

Three Forsyth County teachers were honored Monday morning as finalists for the 2009 Forsyth County Teacher of the Year.

Superintendent Buster Evans and James McCoy, president of the Cumming-Forsyth Chamber of Commerce, carpooled around the county early Monday delivering the news.

The congratulations started at Mashburn Elementary with first grade-teacher Kim Lochbaum.

She was all smiles as her students twisted in their seats at the visiting grown-ups with flashing cameras and flowers.

“I was hopeful,” Lochbaum said minutes after accepting the award. “Hopeful, but definitely surprised. It’s really great to get this.”

Lochbaum has taught for 21 years, the last two at Mashburn. Student Susie Thompson attributed Lochbaum’s success to her generosity.

“She gives us parties and pizza,” said the first-grader, adding that math is her favorite subject.

From Mashburn, the traveling committee headed to West Forsyth, where the high school level winner was caught off guard in the school’s media center.

“Oh my gosh,” said honors AP physics teacher Rebecca Austin, blushing. This is her 10th year of teaching and her first year at West Forsyth.

“This is such a huge surprise,” she said. “I can’t believe it.”

Eleventh-grader Ivey Samples wasn’t so surprised.

“She deserves it,” Samples said. “She takes time out to care for each and every one of her students. It sets her apart.”

Evans apologized to those in the media center for the noisy intrusion.

“I know it’s supposed to be quiet in the media center, but this deserves some applause,” he said as students jumped to their feet to congratulate Austin.

With one last educator to recognize, the crew made a pit stop on the way to Otwell Middle School. Coffee was in order to complete the task and kill time until the next honoree began class.

The energized entourage then popped in on life science teacher Jenna Ward.

“Oh!” she shouted, covering her mouth as the group approached with flowers and balloons.

Minutes later, Ward admitted to being “extremely surprised ... I’m still shaking.”

“I never saw this coming ... never in a million years,” she added.

Seventh-grader Allie Tucker was one of the first to rise and cheer her teacher.

“She’s great because she’s really enthusiastic,” Tucker said. “Learning in her classroom is fun.”

She added that Ward’s students often sing songs about the animal kingdom and cell structure.

“It’s hysterical,” Tucker said.

Ward has taught at Otwell Middle for three years. She and the other two finalists advance to the next level, which involves classroom observations by the Teacher of the Year Selection Committee.

The committee will score teachers based on classroom performance and an interview process to determine this year’s big winner, who will be crowned April 27 during the Annual Celebration of Excellence luncheon.

E-mail Frank Reddy at