Leaders with the Forsyth Teacher Academy, under the Forsyth County Schools Human Resources department, introduced a new website for professional development this year along with other resources to help support current and new educators in the district.
Michele Dugan, coordinator of alternative certification and induction, spoke to the Forsyth County Board of Education at its work session Tuesday, May 11, about the academy’s new changes and its program’s latest cohort of students.
FTA hosts three different programs available to new, ongoing and prospective educators within the system — Induction and Mentoring, Endorsements and the Georgia Teacher Academy of Preparation and Pedagogy.
Speaking on the Induction and Mentoring program, Dugan said they help to support educators through retreats every year held in the fall, winter and spring. They were still able to host retreats for teachers last year despite the pandemic through online forums such as ItsLearning.
Last year, Dugan said the system had about 290 new hires along with 106 induction leaders to help provide support and resources.
After bringing these new educators on, they also held a New Educator Orientation to give them a feel for their positions before starting out the school year. On the first day of orientation, they were able to come onto their school’s campus, meet the administration and see their new classrooms. On the second day, they hold a district welcome for all the new teachers, which Dugan said was held virtually this year.
As educators begin in their new careers at Forsyth County Schools, Dougan said they are always interested in learning more and growing, which is why district officials were excited this year to introduce a new website for professional learning.
She described the website as a one-stop-shop where staff members can receive any information they may need relating to their position. New educators can go to the page to find both required and optional professional learning that is available to them before their employment officially begins, giving them the head start that many look for when first hired.
“There will be no one more excited to get their hands on some professional learning than teachers who are coming to our system,” Dugan said. “They’ll email me the moment they get hired sometimes and say, ‘Can I preview a book?’ or ‘Can I login?’ But that speaks to the quality of educators that we bring into our system.”
Dugan told the board that the FTA will now be offering two new endorsements that the Georgia Professional Standards Commission approved this year — K-5 Mathematics, which helps to prepare teachers in math content, strategies and pedagogy; and Teacher Support and Coaching, which prepares them for supporting pre-service, induction and veteran teachers.
The academy will continue to offer English to Speakers of Other Languages and Online Teaching, which have been part of the academy for two years now.
Dugan continued in the meeting by congratulating individuals in Georgia TAPP’s second cohort who recently graduated from the certificate program.
Georgia TAPP was established in FCS just a few years ago, and it offers a chance for industry professionals who do not have a degree in education to transfer into teaching more easily through an affordable and flexible program.
“They’re coming with the content knowledge, and we pick up that pedagogy piece, the instructional strategies, the ethics and so on so that they can move right on to that classroom more easily,” Dugan said.
The certification areas offered through the academy are ones that schools in Forsyth County and even across the nation usually have a more difficult time filling positions in. These areas include K-12 special education, secondary math, secondary science and Career and Technical Program courses.
The academy is currently working with their third cohort of students, and moving forward into the fourth cohort, they plan to also start offering a $500 discount to military personnel and veterans.
“We are excited to be able to offer this just as one more way to ease that transition into education for military families,” Dugan said.
She took the chance during the meeting to congratulate the second cohort of students who just completed the program and are moving to teaching positions in different areas of the county. The new teachers from the second cohort are:
● Kelsey Ballou, special education at North Forsyth High
● Conrad Bishop, science at Gateway Academy
● Lora Brooks, special education at North Forsyth Middle
● Griffin Caracciolo, science at West Forsyth High
● Maci Fletcher, marketing at West Forsyth High
● Quinten Foster, special education at Lakeside Middle
● Anupam Goli, computer science and engineering at Forsyth Central High
● Daphne John, computer science and engineering at Forsyth Central High
● Thomas McCarter, special education at South Forsyth High
● Chad Pigg, special education at Denmark High
● Andrew Robinson, math at Denmark High
● Emma Signa, math at Piney Grove Middle
● Sydney Skidmore, special education at Whitlow Elementary
● Jessica Smith, marketing at Forsyth Central High
● Paul Wilson, computer science at West Forsyth High
● Misty Sprayberry, special education at Vickery Creek Elementary
Dugan made special mention of Misty Sprayberry who she said completed the program while going through treatment after she was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
Sprayberry worked as a paraprofessional at the school before deciding she wanted to go through the program and become a full-time special education teacher. But halfway through her time in the program, she received her diagnosis and began radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
Vickery Creek Principal Kristan Riedinger shared a letter with Dugan and the board about her experience working with Sprayberry.
“Misty Sprayberry is a shining example of the very best in our profession,” she wrote in the letter. “She’s relentless in her service to others. If what she’s doing isn’t working, she’ll find another way and another way and another way …. She is a person who loves others selflessly. Her words and her actions are a reflection of her kind and generous heart. She is, without fail, optimistic and consistently positive.”
She shared that although she faced challenges with her diagnosis — going through heavy treatment and multiple surgeries — Sprayberry never wavered from her usual positive attitude and perspective.
“Misty’s demeanor and outlook deserve accolades in an average year, but this year, Misty has defeated challenges that make even the strongest among us crumble,” the letter reads. “True to her nature, she took this in stride with fight in her heart and a smile on her face. She battled cancer, worked through our program and learned to become a virtual special education teacher all at the same time. Misty’s students and colleagues would tell you that she never missed a beat, and she never missed an opportunity to love and inspire others.”
Knowing how much strength she held in the past year, FTA decided to award her with the new Sprayberry Sunshine Award, which they give each year from now on to the candidate who they feel best represents that same courage and light.
“She is and always will be sunshine, and she brings light wherever she goes,” Riedinger wrote.