The sounds and sight of students cheering with excitement, blowing noise makers, shaking pompoms and waving hand-decorated posters set the stage for the school pep rally that was about to start. High School cheerleaders and the Harrison High School marching band were there to pump up the crowd. However, it wasn’t the high school football team that walked down the aisles of the Roswell Street Baptist Church sanctuary to be celebrated. It was more than 100 Cobb County School District Teachers of the Year.
The annual Teacher of the Year Pep Rally celebrates the Teachers of the Year from every school in Cobb County and is part of the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce’s “Give Our Schools a Hand” program.
Like a hyped-up crowd at a rock concert, the students screamed, shouted and pointed as their favorite Teacher of the Year walked in. CCSD Superintendent Chris Ragsdale congratulated each teacher on stage in front of the enthusiastic crowd of students, school staff, family and community members.
The crowd continued to cheer as two particular Teachers of the Year met on stage. Not only are McCall Primary’s Kelli Stagich and McEachern High’s Heather Langley sisters, their mother, Marjorie Bickerstaff, is a retired CCSD principal.
Jenn Hobby, a local radio personality and host of the “Jeff & Jenn Show” on Star 94.1, emceed the teacher celebration.
Hobby emphasized the dedication Teachers of the Year demonstrate by bringing a recent newly-wed teacher on stage. International Academy of Smyrna Teacher of the Year, Melanie Wall, still had “Just Married” written on the back window of her car in the parking lot. She delayed her honeymoon in order to attend the Teacher of the Year Pep Rally.
The most thrilling few minutes of the pep rally culminated with Ed Voyles Automotive Group giving away a one-year lease on a new car to four stand- out Teachers of the Year: Paulette Allard, CCSD Teacher of the Year; Jacquie Mericka-Brand, CCSD Middle School Teacher of the Year; Elizabeth Dunlap, CCSD Elementary School Teacher of the Year; and Susan Donlin, Marietta School District Teacher of the Year.
A drumroll echoed through the room as the teachers reached in a bag to select the brand of car they would be driving for the next year. Dunlap picked Hyundai. Mericka-Brand will be driving a new Kia. Allard will sport a new Jeep vehicle during her tenure as Teacher of the Year, and students can wave to Donlin in her new Honda.
Prior to the energy-filled pep rally, community partners, principals, family members and other school staff joined the Teachers of the Year at a welcome breakfast. The Cobb Chamber surprised some of the teachers with a random drawing for extra gifts including a weekend hotel retreat.
During the breakfast, the accomplished educators listened to a former Teacher of the Year ease their nerves about making every day in the classroom perfect. CCSD Teacher of the Year for 2013-2014, Rhonda Lokey, instead told the teachers why they are successful educators.
“When we look at selecting teachers of the year, we look for those teachers who inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn,” explained Lokey. “We look for teachers, who have the respect and admiration of students, parents and colleagues. [The Teacher of the Year] award provides recognition for [the teachers’] hard work and talents that [they] have not only shared with [their] students but [their] schools, districts and community. [Teachers of the Year] go above and beyond the regular duties of a teacher.”
Besides Ed Voyles Automative Group, other sponsors of the pep rally and Chamber’s “Give Our Schools a Hand” program included: the Elf on the Shelf; Gregory, Doyle, Calhoun & Rogers LLC; K Mike Wittle Designs; Lifetouch Photography; Cobb EMC; Strand Theatre; Autobell Carwash; Star 94.1; Lockheed Martin; Life University; Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta; Scana Energy; Delta Community Credit Union; and Zaxby’s.