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RCPS 2015 Teacher of the Year finalists announced
School-level Teachers of the Year not present for group photo: Open Campus – Carol Brand, Barksdale – Shannon Billingsley, Sims – Sonja Vernon, Pine Street – Yukiko Buck, Heritage High – Patrick Kicklighter, - photo by Submitted Photo

Congratulations to Rockdale County Public Schools' individual school Teachers of the Year for 2015. (Pictured left to right) Front row: C.J. Hicks – Leeya Cockfield, Edwards Middle – Makeisha Hinds, Flat Shoals – Yasmin Kelley, Conyers – Dr. Carol Sims, Honey Creek – Kisha Starks. Second Row: J.H. House – Doug Lauritsen, Rockdale Magnet – Dr. Debra Russell, Rockdale Career Academy – Amanda Restivo, Shoal Creek – Emily Begue, Hightower Trail – Angela Kretschmar, Peek’s Chapel – Farrie Jackson. Third Row: Memorial Middle – Antonio Thomas, Salem High – Cristy Starling, Alpha Academy – Jim McCrary, Lorraine – Sophia Bradley, Rockdale County High – Stacey Archer, Davis Middle – Brandon Cheek. Not in group photo, pictured individually: Barksdale – Shannon Billingsley, Pine Street – Yukiko Buck, Sims – Sonja Vernon, Heritage High – Patrick Kicklighter, Open Campus – Carol Brand

Three of Rockdale's best and brightest teachers were all smiles and hugs of excitement as they were honored with the announcement Friday morning that they were selected as the finalists for Rockdale County Public School's 2015 Teacher of the Year.

Sophia Bradley of Lorraine Elementary, Angie Kretschmar of Hightower Trail Elementary, and Debra Russell of the Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology were in surprise visits by a caravan of officials and dignitaries.


Sophia Bradley, LES

Bradley, a 20 year veteran of teaching, has taught fifth grade teacher for two years and fourth grade for 10 years. Bradley is married with three children, two sons and a daughter, and a dog, Hera. The youngest son is a sophomore at Heritage High and the older son is in college. She recently became a grandmother when her daughter and son-in-law recently had a baby boy. In her free time, she spends time with her students and their families on the weekends, writes poetry and twirls her baton.

"My most rewarding experience is anticipating forming familial bonds with my students and their loved ones each year," she wrote in her application.


Angie Kretschmar, HTE

Kretschmar, a fourth grade inclusion teacher at Hightower Trail Elementary for the past three years, is a renaissance woman who coaches wrestling and track at Davis Middle School, renovates homes and has a degree in music.

"The athletes at Davis Middle call me Mrs. Coach K or Mama K. They make me feel like I have 40 new children each sports season," she wrote.

She has been married to her high school sweetheart, Kenneth, for 13 years, and they have three dogs. In her free time, she is a volunteer at Camp Sunshine, a camp for kids with cancer, enjoys hiking and shopping and spending time with her dogs Chloie, Cal and Blue. She and her husband are also renovation junkies and always have a project or two going on in their home.

"Joining the Hightower Trail family has been amazing. Working with the fourth grade team has been so rewarding. I have been surrounded by hardworking Christian role models and I am a better teacher each day because of my team," she wrote in her application.


Debra Russell, RMSST

Russell has been teaching in Rockdale County for more than a quarter century, 27 years. She is in her eighth year of teaching science at RMSST. She and her husband Dennis have been married for 35 years, have two sons and daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. In her spare time, she swims, bikes, takes walks with her dog and spends time with her family.

"My most rewarding experience comes every spring - not because it's almost the end of the school year," she wrote in her application. "I teach a tough subject and ask my students to work hard all year long to learn some difficult topics. At first, the information may seem disjointed or unrelated to the students but by spring everything 'clicks,' and they start making their own connections. I love seeing this 'Aha' moment with my students."