Every year, the Liberty County School System chooses a Teacher of the Year from among the 15 teachers chosen at the school level.
The Council of Chief State School Officers describe candidates as one who is an exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable, and skilled teacher in any state-approved or accredited school.
The 2016-17 Liberty County Teacher of the Year is Anthony Johnson, a seventh-grade English/language arts teacher at Midway Middle School.
“To be recognized and chosen by your colleagues is mindboggling,” he said. “I’m still pinching myself to see if this is real. This has opened a lot of doors in the community and is a motivating tool for other teachers.”
Being named Teacher of the Year never crossed his mind. In fact, during high school, Johnson wanted to become a lawyer, despite coming from a family of teachers. But after learning how long it would take to enter the law profession, he decided to take a shorter route and pursue a Bachelor of Business Administration at Savannah State University.
During his last year of undergraduate studies, Johnson ran into Midway Middle Principal Debra Frazier at the Liberty County High School graduation. After a brief chat, she told him his first job would be with her and to see her the following Monday. He remains her employee 10 years later.
At first, he substituted just to see if he would like it, and because he did not have a master’s degree. However, by the second year, he was certified and had received a master’s in teaching from Armstrong Atlantic State University.
“I love teaching students a new concept and experiencing the lightbulb moment — when they finally get it,” Johnson said. “I go the extra mile and do what I have to do to make them learn. If they can’t learn the way I teach, I must teach the way they learn.”
Teachers have great influence over students because teachers see the students more than their parents. Not only do instructors have to teach academic studies, but also social, communication and behavioral skills.
“As a teacher, you are also a parent,” Johnson said. “You are planting a seed you may not see grow into a tree, but you have faith that it will become something bigger than it is.”
Not only does he teach English/language arts, he is also the chorus teacher, the seventh-grade-level leader, and the founder of Real Men Read. As a grade-level leader, he meets with the other teachers once a month to motivate, stimulate and encourage them. He is the liaison between the principal and other seventh-grade teachers.
Real Men Read is a group of 10 students in seventh and eighth grades who are training to be leaders and mentors throughout the community. They have adopted protégés at Liberty Elementary School whom they visit twice a month to teach how to read and become young men. Donations from the community help pay for trips such as college tours.
“Since we’ve started, we have seen the elementary students’ reading scores skyrocket,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have support from Mrs. Frazier and (School System Superintendent) Dr. (Valya) Lee.”
He also will have their support when he travels to Atlanta in May to for the State Teacher of the Year Banquet. The winner will represent Georgia in the National Teacher of the Year competition.
Johnson plans to get an educational specialist degree in leadership and administration from Georgia Southern University. His ultimate goal is to become a principal just like the woman who helped pave the path he is on today.