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Meet Cassandra Donaldson, BCMS top teacher
Cassandra Donaldson stands with some of her students
Meet Bryan County Middle School Teacher of the Year for 2010-2011, Cassandra Donaldson.

Congratulations on winning teacher of the year honors at BCMS. Please introduce yourself to our readers.  
This year marks my fourth year teaching. All of my teaching experiences have occurred at Bryan County Middle School. I was born and raised in Statesboro. I have been married to my husband, Reggie, for two years. We do not have any children of our own, but we do have two dogs that we cherish dearly. Their names are Sleepy and Droshky.  
I also love sports. I am the head coach for the BCMS girls’ basketball team, as well as, an assistant coach for the BCHS girls’ basketball team. When I am not coaching, I enjoy watching my nephews’ sporting events, playing basketball, and spending time with my family.

What’s your educational and professional background?
I graduated from Statesboro High School in 2002. In May 2006, I graduated from Georgia Southern University with a degree in middle grades education. During my years at Georgia Southern, I was named to the dean’s list on numerous occasions. For my academic excellence, I was inducted into Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society. I received my master’s degree in elementary mathematics from Walden University.  In March 2009, I was selected as a WTOC Top Teacher. This award is very special to me because I was nominated by a former student.

Why did you get into teaching?

I think I was destined to become a teacher. My parents would tell stories of how I would read our family’s encyclopedias and then return to my room to teach my dolls and my younger brother. They always told me that I was either going to be a teacher or a lawyer. They supported and believed that I would succeed in whatever path I chose.  
It was not until high school that I was truly inspired to become a teacher. Each teacher left an impression on my life. They demonstrated characteristics needed to be an exceptional educator.  Ms. Gerald, my American history teacher, left the most lasting impression of all. Ms. Gerald was a veteran teacher with 25 years of experience. She was very knowledgeable of her content area. She could recall important dates and events without opening her teacher’s manual. Ms. Gerald made history interesting and personal. Seeing her passion made us want to learn more about our American history. From my educational experiences, I realized the value of a teacher. Wanting to influence great minds, I chose to become a teacher.

Why are good teachers important?
Teachers play a critical role in students’ development. Everyday, we touch the lives of young students. Many do not realize the impact teachers have on the communities. Teachers prepare students with the knowledge needed to be successful. With this, students are equipped with the skills necessary to become productive citizens. Whether they become a doctor or a cashier at Walmart, each student will play a role in society.

Do you have a teaching philosophy on teaching? If so, can you share it?
I believe that knowledge is power. This was my seventh-grade team’s motto when I was in middle school. At such a young age, I did not understand the significance of that statement. Now that I am older, I understand that importance of an education. I believe all students should be given the opportunity to learn. Students enter our classrooms with various learning styles. It is the responsibility of teachers to nurture these differences, and encourage students to become lifelong learners. I also believe that when students feel appreciated, they will strive to reach their maximum potential.

Bryan County Schools have a reputation for excellence. Why do you think that is?
The teachers of Bryan County schools hold their students to a higher level of learning. They push not only the students for excellence in education but also themselves. If teachers are knowledgeable and passionate, students will be inspired to engage in the learning process.  This is evident in our schools.

What is the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part of my job is time. There are not enough hours in the day to complete all the responsibilities of a teacher. We have to learn how to prioritize. Our main priority is our students’ productivity. I have to ensure that my students are successful, not only, in the classroom, but society. Teaching is a very demanding job. When you see your students succeed, it becomes evident that all of your hard work made a difference.

What is the easiest part about your job?

The easiest part of my job is creating a positive rapport with my students. With strong rapport with students, students begin to trust you. This attribute assists in the creation of a positive learning environment.  In a safe learning environment, students feel respected and more willing to take risks in order to develop their understanding. When students construct their own knowledge, they are more likely to retain what they have learned. When we do not allow students to develop into independent thinkers, we are hindering them from succeeding in life.  

What is it about Bryan County Middle School that makes it special to you?
I feel truly blessed to teach at Bryan County Middle School. The faculty and staff are all welcoming and supportive. Being a young teacher, I have excellent role models to ask for advice and suggestions. Our school’s community is like one happy family. The students are amazing to work with. Everyday, I learn something fascinating about the teaching profession. There is never a dull moment.

Is there anyone you would like to recognize?
First, I would like to thank my BCMS family. From the teachers to the students, everyone has played a role in my success as an educator. With so many outstanding teachers, I feel honored that they selected me to represent our great school. I would also like to thank my husband, Reggie. Teaching is not an eight-hour profession. There have been numerous of occasions where I have brought school home with me. He never once complained. He knows how much I love my job.
Last but not least, I would like to thank my parents. My parents have always been my support system. They believed in their hearts that I was destined for success. They always supported all of my dreams. Although my mother has passed away, I know that she is smiling down from above.
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