MARIETTA, GEORGIA— “I wish that every teacher in the world could feel the way I do today.”
That’s how Dodgen Middle School teacher Fred Veeder reacted to learning that he is the Cobb County School District Teacher of the Year.
Before Superintendent Chris Ragsdale walked into the Dodgen theater to make the announcement, Veeder was sitting with his seventh-grade students waiting to hear from a guest speaker, a ruse that the school principal cooked up to mask the Teacher of the Year surprise.
Despite the room being filled with cameras, Veeder didn’t catch on. He had no idea that all of the cameras would soon be pointed at him as Superintendent Ragsdale named him Cobb’s Teacher of the Year.
The seventh-grade math teacher may have been shocked, but his colleagues and students were not.
Vicki Mullis, who taught with Veeder for more than nine years at Dodgen, was disappointed when she missed seeing her friend crowned the Cobb Middle School Level Teacher of the Year in July. She wasn’t going to miss the celebration if he won it for the entire District. So, Mullis, who now teaches at Simpson Middle School, was at Dodgen when Superintendent Ragsdale made the District Level announcement. She had a hunch he may be the top teacher.
“He is a phenomenal teacher,” Mullis declared. “He has taught me so much. He has helped me grow as a teacher. The students at Simpson are benefiting from the strategies and ideas that Fred taught me. We still collaborate together and share ideas. He’s family.”
Eighth-grader Srinandan Polavarap was also watching when Superintendent Ragsdale announced Veeder as the number one teacher in the District.
“He is one out of seven billion. There is no one else like Mr. Veeder. His class was the best way to end the day. His class was so easy because he was such a good teacher even though the actual material was really complicated,” explained Srinandan, who was in Veeder’s class last year.
Srinandan has talked up his former teacher to his seven-year-old sister. The big brother wants his little sister to have the best and for him, that means Fred Veeder.
“He’s awesome! It is so amazing that he won District Level Teacher of the Year,” Srinandan added. “He deserves it so much!”
After 16 years at Dodgen, the Teacher of the Year has impacted a lot of students. One of those students reached out to him recently to let him know how much her time in his classroom had meant to her.
“She is getting ready to graduate with a double major in economics and mathematics from MIT,” Veeder explained. “She said ‘thank you for everything. I don’t know if I would be here without you.’”
Veeder’s mother, Wende Veeder, who also taught seventh-grade math, was at Dodgen to celebrate with her son. Like the others, she wasn’t surprised by her son’s accomplishment and was easily able to identify what makes her son stand out as a great teacher.
“He doesn’t just teach math. He teaches the whole child,” she said.
Teaching is a second career for Veeder. It’s a career that he fell in love with as soon as he stepped into the classroom.
“I love my job. I’m so lucky to be at the best school, not in Cobb County or in the state of Georgia, but in the entire country,” the District Teacher of the Year said. “I like being a teacher at Dodgen because of the people I get to work with and the wonderful kids I get to interact with and impact.”
He may be a mentor to some, but he views his fellow educators as his mentors.
“Everything that I am as a teacher, I got from them. I learn from them. That’s what family does; They are always looking out for each other. They care about each other, and they support each other,” Veeder professed.
As Cobb’s Teacher of the Year, Veeder will cement his place in history during the annual unveiling of Cobb and Marietta City Schools’ Teacher of the Year handprints in the concrete of Marietta Square. The community will come together to celebrate both at the “Give Our Schools a Hand” event in October.
The Teacher of the Year fanfare will continue at the annual pep rally where Veeder will reach into a bag to select the brand of car he will drive for the next year. Ed Voyles Automotive Group gives Cobb’s Elementary, Middle, and High School Teachers of the Year, along with Marietta City Schools’ Teacher of the Year, the opportunity to choose a new car to drive during their reign as Teachers of the Year. They will pick up the keys to their new cars at an event in November.
Veeder has already been researching what type of car he wants to pick out. So, for now, the Teacher of the Year, who confessed to having a difficult time sleeping from all the excitement, can try dreaming of the new car that he’ll soon drive away.