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Top teachers, class sizes on agenda
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The envelope, please.
Bryan County’s top teacher for the 2010-2011 school year will be named at the Board of Education meeting Thursday night in Pembroke.
The winner will be chosen from a group of nine educators who were named teacher of the year at their respective schools earlier this year.
All are already winners, according to Bryan Schools’ top officer.
“I don’t think there’s a greater honor than being selected by one’s peers,” said Superintendent John Oliver. “That is how these teachers are selected. They really are the best of the best.”
In the running for the system teacher of the year are Alison Holcombe, Lanier Primary; Kimberly Long, Bryan County Elementary; Cassandra Donaldson, Bryan County Middle; Ginnie Sherrod, Bryan County High; Teresa Deneen, Richmond Hill Primary; Marianne Zamjohn, Richmond Hill Elementary: Mary Matthews, George Washington Carver Elementary; Mary Jo Fina, Richmond Hill Middle; and Wes Valentine, Richmond Hill High.
School-level winners were picked by their fellow teachers.
The systemwide top teacher is selected by a three-person committee, which can be comprised of former teachers of the year, retired teachers, curriculum specialists and on occasion college professors, according to Billy McGrath, the assistant superintendent with Bryan Schools.
Before making the selection, committee members independently evaluate and score each teacher on a number of criteria. The teacher with the highest combined score wins top prize, which includes a $500 stipend from the Board of Education.
So what makes a top teacher?
“You have to be energetic ... and you have to enjoy being around young people,” said Oliver. “But it really is one of the most rewarding and challenging professions you can enter.”
BoE’s regular monthly meeting, which is at Bryan County High School. It begins at 6:30 p.m.
The BoE also is expected to adopt a resolution that will allow an increase in maximum class sizes by up to five students per class. The state mandates class sizes based on a range of factors varying from grade to subject and more.
Many districts have reportedly passed similar resolutions, which proponents say allow districts to accept more students without having to add more teachers.
It’s in part an economic solution to dwindling budgets, but it also keeps from having move students into new classrooms when new teachers are added, Oliver said, noting that is of special benefit to the district’s youngest students.
“Our smallest people have already formed relationships with their classmates and teachers ...” he said. “When new kids arrive and a new class arrives, you begin to have to tear down other classes and move kids around to fill out the new class. That’s not something we want to do.”
Ultimately, though, the resolution simply gives the school system flexibility it didn’t have before.
“It doesn’t mean we start putting 30 kindergarten kids together in a class, no,” he said. “But it means that if I need 22 kindergarten kids in a class together, we can do it.”
The flip side of that coin is advanced placement classes, where “we can increase it with a waiver to 35 students easily because they’re capable of functioning in that environment,” Oliver said.

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