It’s one of Superintendent Chris Ragsdale’s favorite times of the year and it often includes laughter, applause, hugs, flowers, balloons, shocked faces, and even some tears. It’s the day Superintendent Ragsdale walks into three schools to surprise the new Teacher of the Year (TOTY) level winners for elementary, middle, and high school.
On Wednesday, July 25, Superintendent Ragsdale surprised the following teachers in front of their school colleagues: Dawn Harrell, Nickajack Elementary School; Fred Veeder, Dodgen Middle School; and Rachael Sanford, Harrison High School.
“Cobb Teachers are the best in the world. Our teachers are rock stars,” Superintendent Ragsdale said. “You make an impact on our students every day, and I especially appreciate all the hard work from our Teachers of the Year. Congratulations!”
When Nickajack teacher Dawn Harrell heard her name called she was astounded.
“All of these emotions flooded out of me,” Harrell confessed. “I’m passionate about what I do. I love our teachers. I love our students. Whatever I can do to help a student, help a family, help the teachers, that’s what I’m willing to do.”
Harrell, who has been in the classroom for 13 years, loves everything about being a special education teacher.
“I love the atmosphere. I love the energy. I love how every day is different, which allows me to be different, think, and to stay on my toes,” added the Elementary School Level TOTY.
Dodgen math teacher Fred Veeder, was just as surprised when Superintendent Ragsdale announced his name as one of the Teacher of the Year level winners.
“When I was sitting there and the other teachers around me saw [Superintendent Ragsdale] walk in, they said ‘Fred, Fred, you are going to win! You are going to win!’”
Veeder still didn’t believe it.
“When he said my name, my head got light. I had chills. It was just an amazing feeling,” said Veeder, who has been teaching at Dodgen for 15 years.
For Veeder, the honor of being named the Middle School Level TOTY means he has the opportunity to represent many amazing teachers throughout the county, especially his Dodgen colleagues.
Like Veeder, the High School Level TOTY also praised her fellow educators.
“We have an incredible, collaborative team,” Rachael Sanford declared. “I have been at Harrison for about 12 years, and I stay here because I love the teachers and the rapport we have with one another.”
Teachers of the Years are selected by their colleagues and Sanford thinks she knows why she stands out to her fellow teachers at Harrison.
“I think people appreciate my servant leadership and that I model what I speak. When they walk into my classroom, they see what is going on with the students and when they meet with the students outside of the classroom, there is a parallel there,” Sanford explained. “The students talk about enjoying being in my class, not just serving their academic needs, but their emotional needs and helping them be better citizens of the world.”
Veeder thinks the Dodgen teachers voted for him because they know how much he loves his job and working with students.
Looking back to her time as a student, Sanford credits her own teachers for inspiring her to become an educator. She has been teaching for almost two decades, and still loves it.
“Being a teacher means serving others, serving children, serving parents, serving other teachers,” the Harrison English teacher added. “One of the most important things you can do is to share your knowledge and your experience with other people.”
One of the highlights of being named a Cobb Teacher of the Year is that in the fall Ed Voyles Automotive Group gives the teachers an opportunity to pick out and drive a new car for a year. Superintendent Ragsdale broke the news to the 2018 Teachers of the Year before also sharing some advice on how to pick out the best cars.
“On the way to lunch, I was just saying that I would love to go car shopping, but I don’t want a car payment because our cars have been paid off for three to four years,” High School TOTY Sanford said. “I’m so excited!”