Gwinnett County Public Schools will name its Teacher of the Year at a banquet this evening (Thursday, Nov. 1) at Gwinnett Center.
Here are brief bios on each finalist as submitted via press release:
Erica Leach of Walnut Grove Elementary (Eight years in education, six with GCPS)
From the GCPS press release: "Erica Leach was on her way to becoming an attorney. But it just didn’t feel right. That changed one morning while sitting at a coffee shop and reading an article about the national program, “Teach for America.” She recalls how she felt while reading about the need for teachers in high-poverty areas saying, 'I was angered and upset with all of the inequalities these children were facing because they were born into poverty … There it was. It felt right. My creativity, sense of fun, passion for learning, curiosity, patience, out-going personality, and my love for children seemed to yell out to me that this was my path to make a difference.'
"Mrs. Leach supports Walnut Grove Elementary students and classroom teachers as the school’s Mathematics Specialist, a position she has held since 2007 when she joined Gwinnett County Public Schools. Before she made the Collins Hill Cluster her home, she dedicated the early years of her teaching career to 5th graders in Houston (Texas) and 2nd graders in Atlanta. Mrs. Leach holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Auburn University. She also completed the Teach Gwinnett Alternative Certification Program."
Deborah Johnson of Berkmar Middle (Five years in education, all with GCPS)
From the GCPS press release: "Deborah Johnson was working as a teacher’s assistant in an algebra course while in college when she realized teaching would be the career she would pursue. 'During that first semester of teaching, I learned that I was given a gift: I could communicate mathematics in a manner that reached all students, regardless of ability,' she recalls. 'I saw many struggling learners grow and prosper under my guidance.'
"She continues to see her students prosper today. This time, at Berkmar Middle where she has taught Mathematics to 8th graders since joining Gwinnett County Public Schools in 2008. Ms. Johnson received her bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, and her master’s degree in Teaching and Curriculum, both from Michigan State University."
Celisa Edwards of Dacula Middle (21 years in education, 8 with GCPS)
From the GCPS press release: "Two very important people in Celisa Edward’s life saw a teacher in her before she realized it herself—her middle school mathematics teacher who supported her when the subject became frustrating, and a close friend of hers who encouraged her to go into teaching while they both attended graduate school together.
"A veteran educator, Mrs. Edwards brought several years of experience from California when she joined Gwinnett County Public Schools in 2004. After three years of teaching Science to 6th graders at McConnell Middle, she moved to Dacula Middle in 2007 where she teaches all subjects to 7th graders. Ms. Edwards earned her undergraduate degree in Natural Science from the Master’s College, a master’s degree in Integrating Technology into the Classroom from Walden University, and is currently pursuing a specialist’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Lincoln Memorial University."
Heidi Mikulecky of Richards Middle (Five years in education, all with GCPS)
From the GCPS press release: "The daughter of two retired educators, Heidi Mikulecky rebelled against them venturing into the world in search of a career different than that of her parents. Needless to say, destiny had something else planned for her. She explains, '… when I truly considered my strengths, talents and passions, all roads led to teaching. Ten years later, I had tears in my eyes when I phoned my parents to tell them that I had been selected as my school’s Teacher of the Year.'
"Mrs. Mikulecky entered the teaching profession in 2008, as a teacher at Richards Middle where she teaches language arts to 6th graders. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from Georgia Southern University, and also holds a master’s degree in Education from Georgia State University."
Jay Nebel of Norcross High (17 years in education, all with GCPS)
From the GCPS press release: "The spotlight of being named a local Teacher of the Year is one Jay Nebel has been under before in his 17-year with Gwinnett County Public Schools. Not once, but twice, at two different schools, Mr. Nebel has earned this honor. He is proud of that recognition as he credits his parents with teaching him how to be the teacher he is today. He remembers his dad being a funny, fair, steady, and knowledgeable coach and his mom for being patient but firm with high expectations for him. 'Now, when I teach, I always hope that I’m making the kind of impact on my students that my mom and dad made on me,' he says.
"Mr. Nebel has taught World History to freshmen and sophomores at Norcross High since 2007. He dedicated the first 11 years of his teaching profession to Creekland Middle students where he taught language arts and social studies. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Middle Childhood Education from Georgia State University, and a master’s degree in Teaching and Curriculum from Trident International University."
Dean Landers of Peachtree Ridge High (Five years in education, all with GCPS)
From the GCPS press release: "As a mechanical engineering student in college, Dean Landers says he felt 'deeply unsatisfied' with the career that awaited him after college. He had enjoyed tutoring classmates as a high school student but never really followed that calling to serve others. That changed during a semester abroad when he had the opportunity to teach English to Spaniards. '… The passion for teaching began to blossom,' he says. 'Not only was it fun, but I was good at it.'
"Upon his return to the United States, Mr. Landers completed his degree with the intention to begin his journey as a teacher. He joined the faculty at Peachtree Ridge High and has never looked back. He teaches Physics to juniors and seniors. Mr. Landers earned his mechanical engineering degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in Science Education from Georgia State University."