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I felt called to teach
Army veteran Mary Matthew named top teacher at Carver Elementary
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Editor’s note: Bryan County Schools are naming their top teachers for 2011. Announced first was Carver Elementary’s Mary Matthew.

Here’s her story, in her words:


In August of 1998, Joye Johnson hired me to replace Gary Odom’s vacated 5th grade position. I have stayed in 5th grade all 11 years and currently teach Social Studies, Language Arts, and my favorite-mathematics. Before becoming a teacher, I worked in quality control as an electronic technician and before that I served four years active and three years reserve in the Army. I was born and raised in upstate New York where my three sisters and much of my extended family still live.

My husband and I moved to Richmond Hill in 1994 when he was first stationed at Hunter Army Airfield. Because he was deployed and sent on many unaccompanied short tours, we were never relocated. Now he is retired and enjoying his free time. We have two children; Brandon, nine and Nicole, 18.

Why did you get into teaching?

When we moved to Georgia I worked for awhile longer in electronics, but was not happy. I felt called to teach and once I took Jane Barnard’s mathematics course I knew I had found my calling.

3. Why are good teachers important?

Teachers affect the students not just in the year they have them. The experiences, learning and habits last and impact their future attitudes. By giving the students solid skills, positive experiences (this does not always mean the students are happy with what you are having them do), and helping them to be more self motivated they will be positioned for success in the subsequent years. For an example, Dr. Jane Barnard and Dr. Ed Wheeler demonstrated excellent mathematics instruction and taught me the background and methods which helped me develop a passion for teaching mathematics.

4. Do you have a philosophy on teaching? If so, can you share it?

I believe all students can learn. Method, mode, and motivation all play into the learning process as do individual strengths and weaknesses. Begin with the end in mind and continually verify you are on the path toward that end goal.

5. Bryan County Schools have a reputation for excellence. Why do you think that is?

I feel it is because of the sweat equity of the staff, students and parents. The focus has been on doing what is best for the children. Historically in Bryan County Schools academics have come first and the community has made the needs of the children a priority. As teachers at Carver we have a strong collaborative atmosphere. With this team mentality we accomplish more by working smarter.

What is the hardest part of your job?

There are so many ideas for activities I would love to do with and for the students. Deciding to focus on one and not another due to time constraints is the hardest.

7. What is the easiest part of your job?

The actual direct instruction of mathematics is the easiest and my favorite part of each day.

8. If you want to share the credit or give thanks to anyone for the award, you’re welcome to do so.

Thank you to my colleagues both past and present especially the "oldies" who have lead by example. If it were not for them I would not be receiving this award.

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