Two Columbus area teachers are among the 10 finalists for the 2019 Georgia Teacher of the Year award.
Stefan Lawrence, an English teacher at Carver High School, and Kayla Yeargin, a math teacher at Troup High School, were interviewed for the state title and made speeches during a luncheon with the judges Monday. The winner will be announced May 19.
“It will certainly be a difficult decision for our panel of judges to choose who should be the 2019 Teacher of the Year," Georgia Department of Education superintendent Richards Woods said in a news release. "It is evident upon meeting each finalist that they treat education as more than just a profession -- it is their calling. It is my honor to meet each of them as they all are obviously dedicated, quality educators."
Lawrence is the Muscogee County School District’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, selected by the Muscogee Educational Excellence Foundation. Asked for his reaction to this higher-level honor, he said Wednesday in an email to the Ledger-Enquirer, “I was shocked when I first got the news. It’s such an honor to be recognized as a top teacher in this wonderful state.”
His only goal when he began his teaching career eight years ago, he said, was “to help as many children succeed as possible.” The appreciation he values most comes from his students, family and co-workers, Lawrence said.
“Teaching truly is a calling, and God has been kind to his servant,” he said. “Every day, I try to be the best steward of my blessings that I can, and I will continue to do so as I serve God, MCSD, MEEF and the State of Georgia.”
Lawrence is a product of local public education. He graduated from Northside High School and Columbus State University, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and played basketball. He then earned his doctorate from the University of Georgia.
MCSD superintendent David Lewis said in a news release Wednesday, “We are very excited by Dr. Lawrence’s selection as a top ten finalist and congratulate him on this significant professional accomplishment. Having graduated from our school district and Columbus State University is certainly a point of pride for our community. I am confident that he will continue to represent our district well, and we wish him all the best as he competes to become Georgia’s Teacher of the Year.”
Lawrence has worked his entire eight-year career as an English teacher at Carver. His service to the school has included positions as Advanced Placement coordinator, head freshman and junior varsity boys basketball coach and assistant for the varsity. MEEF selected him as a Harvard University Fellow in 2017.
Yeargin attended with Lawrence the Project Zero Classroom at Harvard. She is the Troup County School System’s 2016-17 Teacher of the Year.
Asked for her reaction to this higher-level honor, Yeargin said Wednesday in an email to the L-E, "When I received the news, I was returning from Iceland and many emotions came to me all at once. I was excited, exhilarated, overwhelmed and then excited again.
“I am in the company of some great educators from across the state, and that is a good place to be. This is an honor for me and for the students I teach -- because that's who it is about; it's about them."
Yeargin graduated from Oglethorpe County High School and LaGrange College, where earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, played on the softball team and served as a graduate assistant coach. She now is the head softball coach and girls golf coach at Troup.
She has worked her entire seven-year career at Troup as a math teacher. Her service to the school has included Game Changers (which focuses on the school’s culture), school improvement team and attendance team. She also has led professional learning sessions on teaching techniques and assessments, presented at the Model Schools Conference in Nashville last June, and she is a member of the Leadership Troup 2017-18 class.
The 2019 Georgia Teacher of the Year finalists were chosen from a pool of 150 applicants who have won their school district’s Teacher of the Year award. A panel of judges, including past Georgia Teacher of the Year winners and finalists, administrators and community leaders, selected the finalists based on their essays, according to the GaDOE’s news release.
The winner will travel around the state and the nation, serving as an ambassador for the teaching profession in Georgia. He or she also will be entered into the National Teacher of the Year competition. The 2018 Georgia Teacher of the Year is John Tibbetts, an economics teacher at Worth County High School.
The other finalists for the 2019 Georgia Teacher of the Year award are:
▪ Shaylen Dixon, third grade, Peachtree City Elementary School, Fayette County.
▪ Doug Doblar, fourth and fifth grade, math and science, R.D. Head Elementary School, Gwinnett County.
▪ Allison Kerley, third grade, Barnwell Elementary School, Fulton County.
▪ Nancy Rogers, English, Thomas County Middle School.
▪ Maleah Stewart, speech pathologist, North Forsyth Middle School, Forsyth County.
▪ Ike Thompson, English/gifted, Veterans High School, Houston County.
▪ Melanie Thompson, science, Georgia Academy for the Blind.
▪ Stephanie Vidrine, math, Woodstock Middle School, Cherokee County.