The Bryan County Schools Board of Education recognized the teachers of the year from each building at its meeting Thursday night.
Each school’s principal gave a short explanation about why the honorees were selected.
John Melcher of Richmond Hill Middle School was named not only that building’s teacher of the year but also for the entire district.
“John is a teacher parents beg for their children to have and who other teachers want to be associated with on projects,” said William McGrath. “He drives 60 miles each way to work every day that’s just a small indication of how much he loves his job.”
McGrath said Melcher, a STEM educator, was teaching students problem-based learning long before it became popular.
“There are kids who will walk down the hall and not say a word to anyone, but they always say hi to Mr. Melcher,” McGrath said. “He has that kind of connection with students.”
Richmond Hill Primary School: Brooks Bicknell. Nancy Highsmith said Bicknell, who served eight years in the Army before becoming a teacher, has been with the district since 2015 and has spent 11 years in education. “Some of the words her colleagues used to describe her are distinction, grace and value.”
Lanier Primary School: Randi Lynn Creech. Eileen Emerson said Creech, who also was nominated in 2013, is part of Lanier’s leadership team. “She is vital to our school and is always brave enough to embrace new trends that will benefit out students.”
Richmond Hill Elementary School: Salina Furlong. Walt Barnes said Furlong has spent 24 years in education, including 10 at RHES, where she teaches in the gifted program. “She insisted a student, let’s call him ‘Jimmy,’ be in her classroom, even though he struggled with behavior last year and didn’t meet the criteria for the gifted program. He hasn’t been to the office once this year. She is changing lives.”
McAllister Elementary School: Holly Patselas. Bivins Miller said Patselas has been a teacher for 15 years, nine of them in Bryan County, and has been at McAllister since it opened three years ago. “She is passionate about the kids. She has a way to find something positive in every person and in every situation.”
Bryan County Elementary School: Rachel Trombly. The instructional technology specialist has been with the district 15 years. “She does an amazing job with whatever she is tasked with,” Jeff Hodges said. “She spends countless hours making sure our students feel comfortable on the computers so they can perform better on the state tests.”
Carver Elementary School: Jennsey McGee. She is now a two-time recipient of the award and has spent 26 years in education. “She leads by example through poise and grace and brings people together to solve problems,” said Karen Smith.
Bryan County Middle School: Blaine Ennis. Liz Raeburn said the 11-year veteran and Bryan County native is “everything you want in an educator” who has taught multiple subjects at all three middle-school grades.
Richmond Hill High School: Sarah Lemmons. The science teacher introduced both AP physics and oceanography to the schools, both of which are popular enough to require multiple sections, according to Debi McNeal. “We received a letter from MIT after they asked their freshman about their most influential teacher,” McNeal said. “They said we are lucky to have her and I couldn’t agree more.”
Bryan County High School: Blake NeSmith. David Tucker said NeSmith has received accolades as both an assistant football coach and track coach in his 14 years, but also is well respected for his algebra teaching. “He gets excited talking about radicals and that’s not easy to do when you get home late from an away game and have to be ready early the next morning.”
School Board President Eddie Warren said the designees represent the district’s cream of the crop.
“You can have all the superintendents and school board members you want, but when the rubber hits the road it is the teachers who make all the difference,” he said.
Also during the meeting, representatives from several student groups at Bryan County High School gave an update on their activities. Principal David Tucker said because the high school has such a high percentage of bus riders — about 70 percent — participation in after-school clubs has been lacking.
Tucker said the school instituted a “club day” that gives students an hour during the day every other week to take part in extra-curricular activities that would normally occur after school.
Representatives from the FFA, SADD, Spanish Honor Society and others talked about their activities. Kate Butler of SADD, for example, said membership has increased from five students last year to 60 this year with the change.