Sara Taylor, pre-kindergarten teacher with Liberty County Pre-K Center and a top 10 finalist for the 2013 Georgia Teacher of the Year, got a sweet surprise Thursday afternoon.
Taylor received a plastic foam tub filled with several half gallons of her ice cream from Blue Bell Creamery, including her favorite flavor, cookies and cream.
The ice cream was presented to her by Steven Payne, Blue Bell territorial operations manager for the Savannah-Hilton Head Island area, in the school cafeteria, where the entire student body and faculty assembled for the occasion.
“We wanted to congratulate you on your nomination for Teacher of the Year,” said Payne as he read a letter to Taylor by Paul Kruse, president and CEO of Blue Bell Creameries and great-grandson of E.F. Kruse, who founded the company in Brenham, Texas, in 1907. “A lot of people don’t know it, but just before E.F. Kruse founded Blue Bell Ice Cream, he almost became the superintendant of Washington County (Texas) School System.”
Because of the senior Kruse’s association with education, Payne said his company always has been supportive of education and learning. Each year, he said, Blue Bell gives away ice cream to the student body and faculty of those teachers who’ve placed in the top 10 for that state’s Teacher of the Year competition.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” said Taylor, still blushing after receiving her ice cream award. “I thought the Easter Bunny was coming. I mean, we have spring break next week, and this seemed like a day to do that. I was trying to prepare my kids for that.”
Liberty County Pre-K Center Principal Dr. Shelby Bush smiled as she overheard Taylor talking about the Easter Bunny ruse.
“That’s why you see so many students wearing (paper) bunny ears,” she grinned. “We didn’t tell anyone (the Easter Bunny was coming) and I didn’t say he wasn’t. I didn’t say ‘yes,’ and I didn’t say ‘no.’ We wanted it to be a surprise.”
It was indeed a surprise for their Teacher of the Year nominee, fellow teachers and faculty members, and all 490 students.
Taylor was nominated by her school, then went onto the county level of the competition, then onto the state level. She said the top 10 finalists had to submit a video of their teacher observations to the state.
The winner of the top 10 finalists will be announced June 1, she said. The winner of the state competition will represent Georgia in the 2013 National Teacher of the Year competition.
“I’ve been in education for six years, but only in the classroom for five years,” Taylor said. “I started out teaching sixth grade, then I became an administrator for a while. I’ve been teaching here for two years.”
Taylor said she completed her undergraduate degree at Arizona State University, then completed two master’s degrees at Lehman College in New York and another master’s at the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock, Ark.
While Taylor talked to reporters and thanked the representatives from Blue Bell for their generous gift to her and her school, scores of students sat quietly in small circles outside, busily eating their free ice cream. Little vanilla mustaches were visible on some students. Other 4-year-olds had ice cream all over their faces as they licked their cups and enjoyed every last morsel.
“I think every age group has its challenges,” Taylor said. “It’s all about achievement for all students. That’s what’s important.”