Schools' Teachers of the Year announced for 2012 (Sept. 7, 2012)
The classrooms of three Rockdale County Public School teachers were upended Tuesday morning as they were named a finalist for the 2012 Teacher of the Year by a parade of administrators, school board members and media that stopped by. Those three finalists were Kimberly Davis of Heritage High School, Katy King of Davis Middle, and Amy Autry at Lorraine Elementary.
Teaching runs wide and deep throughout the family tree of Heritage business teacher Kimberly Davis.
Her mother, a special education teacher for 35 years, was an inspiration for Davis growing up. Davis’s siblings are all educators - one sister is an English teacher in Albany, Ga., the other sister is a media specialist in Lithonia, and her brother is a physical education teacher.
But Davis was turned on to the field she teaches now by a teacher she had in high school “I had a good business education teacher in high school. I said that’s what I want to do.”
For her, the most rewarding experience in teaching is “When they get it and they use it.” Students might come in knowing a lot of programs or resources, she said, but might not know how to effectively use them to carry out a business idea, project or plan.
“The most rewarding experiences in my teaching career is when the students come back to visit me and say the words that every teacher loves to hear, “I would not have made it without you,” she said in her application. “Or when they make you the godmother of their kids, send you college graduation invitations, thank you letters for no reason!...Or when the parents say thank you for being a positive role model in my child’s life.”
Heritage principal Greg Fowler said of Davis, “She’s a credit to the profession…. We love her here.”
Davis began her teaching career at Heritage seven years ago fresh out of college at University of West Georgia.
The Ellenwood resident has been married to her college sweetheart Walter Davis, an accountant, for five years, and they have a 2-year-old son Wade and a dog, Billy the Peekapoo.
Lorraine Elementary special education teacher Amy Autry (of no relation to Superintendent Richard Autry), described herself as a behind the scenes person. So it was a little bit of a shock when the parade of administrators poured into her special education classroom to announce her as a finalist.
“I’m very honored,” she said, wiping away tears from her eyes.
Autry has taught for 14 years and has been in the Rockdale County Public School system for most of those years.
“I do feel called to do this,” she said of teaching special education. “I like rooting for the underdog.
“These kids get told all the time they can’t do something. And we’ve proven over and over again… they can when we give them the right method and access.”
The school system’s profound and severe special education program for elementary students is located at Lorraine Elementary, with about 18-25 students in three classes.
Lorraine Principal Dr. Davis Ray said “Mrs. Autry does so much to make those meaningful links for students. A lot of times in these situations people are focused on the physical needs, because there are so many... But she truly makes meaningful learning connections every day.”
“She’s always been one of our stars with our special needs students,” said Superintendent Richard Autry. “And thanks to the whole team.”
Amy Autry also emphasized the teamwork of the therapists, assistants and parapros. “It takes a village,” she said.
Autry is a graduate of University of West Georgia. She and her family – husband Jason, daughter Hannah, and sons Timothy and Zachary – live in Covington. She volunteers as the children’s director at Zion Baptist Church in Covington and is currently working on a Master of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
This was Davis Middle School art teacher Katy King’s seventh year being nominated as a teacher of the year for her school and her seventh year with Rockdale County Public Schools.
“I’m overwhelmed,” said King.
King also grew up surrounded by teaching and was inspired by her parents. Her mother, Kathy Diggs, was an art teacher and her father, Bill Diggs, was also an art teacher and later a principal.
King said she loves teaching middle school students. “They’re high energy.”
“It’s all because of them I do what I do,” she said, motioning to her students.
King graduated from Georgia State University, concentrating in ceramics, and taught seven years in the DeKalb County school system and seven years at Davis Middle.
Davis Principal Mike Mauriello said, “We’re just very proud… She’s one of the hardest working teachers I had the opportunity to work with, and one of the most loved by her students.”
Co-worker Cherie Thompson, the media specialist at Davis and the person who nominated King, said “She motivates her kids. She motivates the teachers around her… She’s such a go-getter.”
During the summers, King does the Creative Kids Camp at Emory’s Oxford College, directs/teachers enrichment camps at Rockdale Career Academy, volunteers at the Olde Town Conyers Gallery. She also participates in numerous arts/crafts shows throughout the year such as at Inman Park, Chandler Park Summer Fest, Decatur Arts Festival, Olde Town Fall Festival, selling brightly colored gourd birds crated from the gourds she grows on her farm.
King was also recently named as a Visual Arts Educator finalist for the Woodruff Arts Center's Woodruff Salutes Georgia Arts in Education Leaders Recognition Program.
IN BRIEF (Oct. 16, 9:46 a.m.): This year's finalists for Rockdale County Public School's Teacher of the Year were announced with surprise visits to the teachers' classrooms Tuesday morning: Special education teacher Amy Autry at Lorraine Elementary, art teacher Kathleen King at Davis Middle School, and business education Kimberly Davis of Heritage High School. Check back later for the full story.