Thirteen teachers and one media specialist have been nominated to be this year’s Liberty County School System Teacher of the Year.
Each was chosen as their school’s teacher of the year. The Courier is profiling these educators in a multi-part story before the system-wide teacher of the year is announced Nov. 21.
The educators will be recognized during the district’s annual celebration, “A Night to Remember,” at 6 p.m. at Bradwell Institute. Tickets cost $7 and can be purchased at the system’s central office.
Bradwell Institute ninth-grade math teacher Orelene Rivers said career dreams can change. She once wanted to be a biomedical engineer, but became a teacher instead.
“Growing up, I never thought I would be a teacher,” Rivers said. “In my mind, teachers didn’t make enough money and I wanted to make lots of money. It was my dream to become a biomedical engineer. I just loved the way that sounded. Then something changed. My mother went back to school and became a teacher. I saw how dedicated she was to her students, her drive, the impact she had on her students and how much her students loved her. I wanted to make a difference in a child’s life. I wanted to have a positive impact on the community around me and most of all I wanted to be like my mother.”
Rivers has taught for 14 years. She has a Bachelor’s of Science in math education from South Carolina State University and a master’s in business from Webster University.
Another math teacher, Lisa Knight, was chosen as Liberty County High School’s teacher of the year.
LCHS Principal Paula Scott said Knight is patient, caring and willing to work with students after school.
“She coaches our cross-country team, and she is an excellent role model for her student athletes and can usually be seen running along with them,” Scott said. “We are especially proud of her because she is a graduate of Liberty High.”
Knight has been teaching for more than five years. She has a Bachelor of Science in math and a master’s in arts and teaching.
“These students will grow up and become doctors, lawyers and even the president one day, and I will have had a small part in that,” Knight said. “Teaching mathematics is so important because it allows students to develop their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. I also wanted to teach mathematics because so many students struggle with math.”
Media specialist Tory Baker is Button Gwinnett Elementary School’s teacher of the year.
“In my job, I can provide students and teachers with access to good information, instruction on content areas taught in the classroom, help with research strategies and reading, and the best ways to use their technology,” Baker said. “Spending time with teachers to learn the students’ needs, then creating interesting experiences based on our collaboration, is something that I love to do. It is so rewarding to watch the satisfaction on a student’s face as he sees his new reading zone and he has ‘moved up the scale’ on his library card, or has met his reading goal after we have worked together to select just the right books.”
She has been an educator for 17 years. Baker earned a Bachelor of Science in early childhood education and a Master’s in instructional technology from Georgia Southern University.
Frank Long Elementary School’s teacher of the year is fifth-grade teacher Tracey Moyse, who said she did not choose education, education chose her.
“I started out in college being a biomedical-engineer major, and soon discovered that it was not a feasible career to have when married to the military,” she said. “I changed to education, since I loved interacting with children, and knew that it was an adaptable career to numerous military moves. It has been 24 years and I have never considered doing anything else. Teaching is such a fulfilling challenge that allows me to be a role model and an integral part of stimulating the minds of children.”
Moyse earned a Bachelor of Science in child development/human relations with an area of concentration in special education from Florida State University, a certificate of early childhood education from Armstrong Atlantic State University and a Master’s degree in instructional technology from Cambridge College.
“(Nan) Pedrick deserves the recognition as Joseph Martin Elementary’s teacher of the year because she is truly devoted to the academic success of each of her fourth grade math students,” JMES Principal Dr. Kathy Moody said. “She is a wonderful team player and looks for the good in every student. She is respected by teachers, classified staff, and parents.”
“I became a teacher because I love children,” Pedrick said. “All individuals have gifts. I believe my gift comes to life in the classroom. I love watching each child grow, learn and mature over a school year. I have high expectations for all my students, and it is very rewarding to see students rise to your level of achievement and become intrinsically motivated to learn.”
Pedrick has been teaching for 14 years and has an associate degree in education from East Georgia College, a bachelor’s in early childhood education from Georgia Southern University, and a master’s in education from Troy State University.
Lewis Frasier Middle School Principal Jermaine Williams said LFMS teacher of the year Soncera Barney “epitomizes professionalism, dedication and enthusiasm for teaching.”
Barney teaches eighth-grade language arts. She has been employed by the Liberty County School System since she was 17 years old. Following graduation from Bradwell Institute in 1995, Barney attended evening classes at Brewton-Parker College and began her career as a paraprofessional, first at Lyman Hall Elementary and later at Hinesville Middle. In 1999, Barney officially began her teaching career at Snelson-Golden Middle and taught there until 2012. Last year, she joined the faculty at LFMS.
“I am the teacher who can usually be found dancing in the middle of the hallway,” Barney said. “I hope that when my students and colleagues see me having fun, being creative and not being afraid to take challenges head on, it inspires them to do the same. The reward of being an educator is, quite simply, knowing that I have made a difference.”
Barney has a Bachelor of Science in middle--grades education with a concentration in language arts and social studies. She has a master’s in education and an education-specialist degree in curriculum/instruction management and administration from Nova Southeastern University.
Liberty College and Career Academy’s teacher of the year is engineering instructor Mike Goodson.
“I became a teacher because I believe that knowledge without application is just trivia,” Goodson said. “This philosophy is very personal to me. I was counseled away from a vocational program into academics by my high school counselor just prior to my senior year of high school. After many struggles I did graduate from college, but always felt a strong desire to be a skilled tradesman. When I learned of the opportunity to teach vocational education, I jumped at the chance.”
Goodson said he wants young people to know all the career-preparation options available to them.
He has been an engineering and technology teacher for 20 years. Goodson received a Bachelor’s Degree from Mississippi State University in industrial technology, a master’s in technology education from Georgia Southern University and completed coursework through Valdosta State University for a state endorsement in adult and career education.
He is a former U.S. Army engineer, having served combat tours in the Persian Gulf and performed nation-building work in Central America.