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Teacher of the Year Joe Morgan (center) with Harmony Principal Marla Callahan and Asst. Principal Stephen Hunter.

Joe Morgan named teacher of the year

            Harmony Elementary School media specialist Joe Morgan was named the 2023 Pickens County Schools Teacher of the Year at a ceremony on Monday night.

            Morgan, a 20 year teaching veteran, told the Progress on Tuesday morning that he was very humbled by the honor.

            “It is a very honoring and humbling experience to have your colleagues choose you for something like this,” Morgan said. “To have all the students and teachers reach out to me with kind words and comments. There’s nothing any better than that when you’re in this profession. That means the world.”

            Morgan began his career at Hill City Elementary, moving to Harmony Elementary School when it opened in 2006. For years he taught fourth grade and is now the media specialist at Harmony.

            “Kids check out books with me every week and I read with them but I also do research and technology with them that’s library oriented.”

            Morgan said he sees every kid in the school for an hour each week, “so it keeps me busy.”

            “It is fun and very rewarding to get to work with them,” he said.

            Morgan cited both his mom, a career elementary school teacher, and his dad, as his inspiration to pursue education as a career. His mother, Sharon Morgan Flowers, retired in 2020.

            “She was a first grade teacher for many years, also teaching kindergarten and third grade. We are a family full of educators. My sister is a first grade teacher in Fairmount and her husband is a teacher at Red Bud Middle School in Gordon County. My dad worked very hard as a chicken farmer and pushed us to continue our education and he was very proud of us for helping children learn how to read.”

            “I’m just overwhelmed with all the love and appreciation,” Morgan said.

            Morgan is a talented musician as well, playing piano and keyboard. Look for he and his band, One for the Road, playing at the next Downtown Live.

            Morgan will move on to compete for the Georgia Teacher of the Year. The Georgia Teacher of the Year program strives to promote and retain quality teachers. The GTOY serves as an ambassador for education, traveling the state speaking to various educators and community groups.

            From left: Harmony Principal Marla Callahan and Joe Morgan, Hill City Principal Jennifer Halko and Georgia Allen, Tate Principal Stephanie Hall and Krista Newton; Interim Supt. Dr. Janet Goodman, Randy Marler and JMS Principal Cory Thompson; and Amanda Thrasher, PJHS Principal Dr. Chad Flatt, teacher Sarah Bauer, PHS Asst. Principal Dr. Wendy Arnold.

Teachers of the Year for each school

Georgia Allen

Hill City Elementary

            Georgia Allen is a special education teacher at Hill City Elementary. She graduated from Chattahoochee Technical College with a degree in accounting/bookkeeping, but after relocating to Virginia for a period, she began working on an Associate Early Childhood Education degree. In 2021, she graduated with a master’s degree from Western Governors University.

            Students in Allen’s class are provided with lessons that engage them in authentic learning and one such lesson involved aerodynamics. Different airplane models were researched and then students worked together to create various models. Students then had an opportunity to compete and see which plane traveled the farthest.

Krista Newton

Tate Elementary School

            Newton teaches first grade English Language Arts. She is a graduate of Shorter University and Piedmont College where she earned her Education Specialist degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Next school year, Newton will transition to the role of media specialist.

            One of the most important components for learning is keeping students engaged. To accomplish an extended writing lesson, Newton turned her classroom into a pizza shop where students were involved in following step-by-step instructions on preparing a pizza, including rolling out their own dough. Not only does she has a passion for writing, but also for reading and inspiring students to develop a love for literature.

Randy Marler

Jasper Middle School

            Marler is in his 33rd year of teaching and his third year  in Pickens County schools. He teaches science and holds a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies from California State University.

            His priority in the classroom is his students and understanding that each student arrives in the classroom with a unique set of circumstances or experiences that impact them each day. In Marler’s class, every student starts each day with a “clean slate” which allows him to keep moving forward with student learning. He strives to build solid relationships with his students and understands the need for engaging learning experiences.

            Marler collaborates with a colleague to run the Yearbook and Photography club. Students are taught how to use digital cameras and compose photographs.

Amanda Thrasher

Pickens Junior High School

            Thrasher has worked in education for 15 years and currently serves as an eighth-grade math co-teacher and special education department chair at her school. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in both Early Childhood Education as well as Special Education.

            After recognizing students were struggling with a skill – solving equations – Thrasher and her co-teacher went to work and developed a plan to help students, and that is where “Equations Boot Camp” was born. The boot camp took students back to old school math where they used paper, pencil and to show their work. This venture proved to be successful for the students.

Sarah Bauer

Pickens High School

            Bauer teaches Special Education at Pickens High. She teaches math and English to 9th through 12th graders, and teaches World Literature. During her studies at California State University, she decided that she wanted to be a teacher. She soon began working toward her teaching certificate and earning a Master’s degree. After moving to Georgia, she began working as a paraprofessional and in 2019, she began teaching through the Georgia Teacher Academy for Preparation and Pedagogy (GATAPP).

            Since joining the PHS faculty, Bauer has been involved with the Georgia Career and Technical Instruction (CTI) group. CTI provides support for students with disabilities enrolled in career, technical and agricultural education classes.

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