PAGE One Magazine, March-April 2020

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March/April 2020

Staying Power Georgia teachers share insights of long-term success in the classroom

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March/April 2020

Vol. 41 No. 4




Staying Power

Georgia teachers share insights on how mentors, life-long learning, a resilient spirit and evidence of their impact have driven their long-term success in the classroom



2  From the President The Answer Is a Question: Why? 4  Guest Columnist Things, Just Things

PAGE News 16  PAGE Future Georgia Educators Days: A College Visit Can Be a Crucial First Step in Becoming a Teacher 20  Advocacy in Action: Day on Capitol Hill 2020 28  PAGE Academic Bowl for Middle Grades: North Gwinnett Middle School Wins State Championship

Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalists 22  Carlos Hernandez, General Ray Davis Middle School, Rockdale County 24  Kiana Willis, Palmetto Elementary School, Fulton County Schools Legal 26  Understanding the Investigative Process

32  PAGE Named a 2020 Top Workplace


20 PAGE One Official Publication of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators Our core business is to provide professional learning for educators that will enhance professional competence and confidence, build leadership qualities and lead to higher academic achievement for students, while providing the best in membership, legal services and legislative support.

March/April 2020



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Editor Meg Thornton

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From the President

The Answer Is a Question: Why? Nick Zomer


ountless sources offer tricks and tips to help teachers overcome the fatigue and struggles that come with our chosen profession, but we can each reignite our passion by answering one important question: “Why?” What is your why? Have you thought deeply about why you decided to become an educator? If not, I challenge you to think about this. Each of us has a why for entering into this profession. Go beyond the immediate reasons that may come to mind and think about how your experiences have helped shaped your “why.” Earlier this year, I had a most refreshing experience. My school held a teacherleader workshop for those interested in honing their skills as a leader inside and outside of the classroom. One session dealt with a seemingly simple but complex question: Why? Participants were asked to think about their why as an educator. Why did they enter this profession? Why do they come to work each day? Most of us did not enter into our noble profession to answer emails, grade the never-ending mountain of papers, or politely disagree with parents. We did not join for test prep purposes or to commit to memory our profession’s never-ending acronyms. Instead, we became teachers to foster a better tomorrow. One teacher’s story particularly inspired me. She relayed that her failed experience as an art major led her to the profession. (It should be noted that this individual is not our school’s art teacher; she is an English teacher.) For as long as she could remember, she


dreamed of becoming an artist, specifically an animator. Eagerly applying for college, ready to embark on her dream, she showed her portfolio to a university advisor who quickly dashed her dreams. Feeling at a loss, she reached out to a high school advisor seeking advice on where to go next. The advisor reminded her of her love of English literature, and challenged her to use this as a stepping stone towards a new opportunity. This teacher was able to take the dejection that she felt towards one possible pathway and has used it to help young students focus on their passion and not let anyone stand in their way. Soon after that session, I was joined in my office by one of my “frequent flyer” students. My stomach hit the floor when I heard what he had done. I was crushed knowing that someone who I had worked hard to support had made such a poor decision. As I counseled him, I found myself explaining my why to him. I told him that I did not become an administrator to fill out referral forms and hand out consequences. I told him that it was kids like him who inspired me to venture into administration. This role provided me with a unique opportunity to help him reach his goals, whatever they might be. I told him that students like him are my “why” as an administrator. My hope is that someday I might be able to help him see the bright future before him, if he stopped getting in his own way. Another teacher’s story has stuck with me as well. When you ask most educators about a teacher who particularly

inspired them, one or two typically jump to mind. But one of our teachers shared that, as a youth, he did not have such a person. He had teachers who he liked, but not one who had poured time and energy into him. After he held a series of unfulfilling jobs, he realized that something was missing. A period of reflection led him to realize that he wanted to be the kind of teacher that he never had. Looking at him now, that is exactly what he has become. He is an exceptionally strong advocate for true learning and growth among students. For him, success is not determined by a score on a test; it is completely based on the growth of the learners in his class. To him, his why is evident every time he interacts with a student. It’s not just about teaching the content — at which he is amazing; you sense his love and daily commitment to each student. That is his why. So now I ask you again — what is your why? Why do you do what you do? What inspires you to enter the schoolhouse every day? When the gray, dreary days follow you — remember your why. When you are feeling down, dejected, or at a loss — remember your why. When you’re celebrating, rejoicing over a student success, or having that proud teacher moment — remember your why. n As evidenced in our cover story on the staying power of veteran teachers, knowing your “why” is essential to remaining inspired in your classroom year after year. See article on page 6.

March/April 2020


On Behalf of the Executive Director The executive director’s column in this issue presents a written version of a recent episode of the Lead. Learn. Change. podcast by PAGE Impact Project Director David Reynolds.

Things, Just Things David Reynolds


drove past a metal recycling center the other day. The place has potential, but it’s quite an eyesore. At first glance there appears to be no rhyme or reason to the mess, and I am sure that passersby — and especially homeowners and proprietors in the area — are happy that a fence that has been erected around the property, a fence that somewhat minimizes the view of what most people would likely call a junkyard. On my return trip, when I slowed down a bit and took a closer look, I realized that there was actually some organization to those piles of rusted and soon-to-berusted discards. Sure, most of the heaps’ contents were unrecognizable, but others were, in fact, easily identifiable, and seemed to be clustered by category. One or two items stood out in particular. For example, in the “appliance section,” I noticed a washing machine, free of visible dents and looking as if it could have been for sale in a department store. Clothes dryers, lawn mowers, pressure washers, oven racks and even televisions were also strewn about in the same general area. During my childhood I would have never believed that people would toss televisions into the garbage as easily as they would a wadded-up piece of paper. But that’s another story. Back to the junk piles. There was a very large, big-ticket item there. It couldn’t be missed. It was a car. A shiny, charcoal


gray, late-model car. Not a wrecked car, mind you. Not a car smashed into a sheet metal pancake. It was nearly new, seemingly ready to be driven right off the top of the dumpster into which it had been dropped. Of course, no one simply throws away a fully functioning automobile. Whatever repairs were needed to address this car’s invisible problems were apparently too costly, and the previous owner ended up selling it. And likely for less than pennies on the dollar. Yet, one day, not too long ago, someone paid good money for that car, brand new, and they were almost certainly very happy with their purchase. New car smell. New sound system. Modern bells and whistles. GPS, Bluetooth technology, maybe even heated seats or customizable colorful interior lighting options. New warranty. That was then, when it was new. Today? Rubbish. Scrap metal. On the list to be stripped of seats, tires and any other useful components or parts that might generate a few bucks. Destined to be melted, crushed, recycled or buried. It’s a car. Despite its capacity to do certain things, primarily getting someone from Point A to Point B (and back, as some people will add), it will not produce true joy or infuse a relationship with meaning. It can’t. It’s a car. It’s just a thing. And things come and things go.

But, connections with others, creating meaningful work, and making a difference? These have long lasting impacts. So that makes me wonder. How am I viewing the things in my life, in my family, in my work? Am I counting on things to make me a better teacher, husband, dad or professional? What if the things were gone? As my colleague and educational philosopher Will Esters says, “Just give me a stick, and some dirt, and I can teach.” Is that me? Is that you? If my mobile phone were gone, could I still make connections with others? If my computer were stolen, could I still write? Communicate? It’s tempting to say, “Absolutely! Of course I could!” Is it true for me? I hope so. What do I need to do to make these things happen? The answer to that question will point me in a direction that will increase the impact of my contribution

Link to audio version of this column. PAGE Impact Project Director David Reynolds produces the Lead. Learn. Change. postcast

March/April 2020

to those in my realm of influence. Sure, technology, whether a pencil or a laptop, or “the cloud,” can make things faster, more efficient, and in many instances more accurate. But meaningful? Does the meaning come from the technology, from the tool, from the thing? Or does it come from the person, the thinking, the heart, from hopes and dreams? Connections, Creativity, Vision The late Dr. Allene Magill1, an educator, leader, mom, wife, grandmother and my mentor and friend, always — and I mean always — emphasized the importance of building relationships. And bridges. The best tools for both? Connections, creativity and vision. Not things. Thinking, acting, interacting and believing the best is yet to come — and that we can help usher in the changes to make it so — is the type of wise counsel

and guidance Dr. Magill regularly shared with us. We need to heed her message, as she profoundly influenced so many people during her life. So, our challenge is this: Make things better. Take a moment right now and reflect on the people who have had the biggest impact on your life. Why did their intersection with your life matter so much? At the core, wasn’t it the relationship that made the greatest difference? Observe, as well, your current situation. Who is around you, at this moment, that you could influence? Or who is it that might influence you? Or perhaps it’s a win-win, with both of you learning from the other. Consider the impact you could have if all of your relationships were intentionally built around serving, leading, learning and making change for the benefit of others.

Things are just that. Things. But people. They’re different. Family. Friends. Students. Colleagues. Others. Relationships. These lead to meaningful work and change that matters. Find the others. Invest in the others. Continue making a difference. Reflect. Observe. Influence. Past. Present. Future. Look back. Look around. Look ahead. You can’t change the past, but if you don’t invest in the present, you won’t n impact the future. 1 Dr. Allene Magill was a former executive director of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, superintendent for Dalton Public Schools, Forsyth County Schools and Paulding County Schools, teacher and paraprofessional. PAGE honors her memory with a scholarship for paraprofessionals earning teaching degrees. For more information, visit

Lead. Learn. Change. Think about your greatest experiences. What, or who, made them so memorable? What did you lead, learn, or change, and why did it matter? The podcast Lead. Learn. Change. examines those actions from the perspective of those who have embraced those calls to action to make a big impact. The following episodes, which feature leaders who have participated in PAGE professional learning experiences, are particularly relevant to the interests of Georgia educators. Listen by visiting or scan the QR code. John Tanner: Accountability is About the Future founder John Tanner reframes the idea of accountability. Tanner’s refreshing and pragmatic approach focuses on the contrast between forward-facing accountability and the imposed accountability processes in place today. Hopes and dreams will trump test scores and other

March/April 2020

traditional data if student benefit serves as the focal point of a true accountability structure. Felicia Mayfield: A Class Act: Lessons for All of Us Dr. Felicia Mayfield’s approach to life is deeply embedded in her worldview, her interactions with others, and her hope for the change that relationships and learning can generate. Dr. Mayfield provides insights from the perspective of a self-described “child of civil rights,” her childhood growing up in a mission, nearly half of a century as an educator, and as a key figure in actions taken as a result of litigation addressing desegregation. Mark Garrison — Guilty! Of making a difference Dr. Mark Garrison, founder of NewEdu and research partner with PAGE, shares what he has learned from great teachers, administrators and students in Georgia. He touches on the origins of standardized tests, steps policymakers can take now to support educators, the importance of listening to what teachers have to say, and the value of a new approach to professional learning.



March/April 2020

Staying Power Georgia teachers share insights on how mentors, life-long learning, a resilient spirit and evidence of their impact have driven their long-term success in the classroom By Scotty Brewington


ttracting and keeping quality teachers continues to be a challenge across Georgia and the nation — a problem that can ultimately negatively affect schools, students and the community as a whole. Though recent state reforms have targeted teacher recruitment and retention, addressing everything from compensation to training, more than 3,000 teachers still left metro Atlanta school districts last year. Their reasons for leaving range from the emphasis placed on mandated test scores to a lack of compensation and administrative support to the increased responsibilities they are expected to perform beyond the classroom. Despite these odds, some teachers have managed to stick it out for decades. They are not only thriving, but also mentoring the generation of teachers behind them. Learn how eight Georgia teachers have managed to maintain long-term successful careers in the classroom and the advice they have for teachers just entering the field.

March/April 2020


Tanya Locke Youth Middle School, Walton County Foothills Education Charter High School


ver her 28 years of teaching, Tanya Locke has taught every subject from math to science, social studies, language arts and even P.E. “That first year, I graduated with a math and science certification and my first job was teaching sixth grade language arts and social studies,” Locke said with a laugh. “I remember being really excited to be a teacher and getting to teach. I wasn’t upset at all to be teaching another subject. I just loved the teaching part of it.” Today, Locke teaches math at Youth Middle School in Walton County and also math at Foothills Education Charter High School twice a week. She teaches 130 kids each day on a wide range of math levels, including gifted classes and special education. According to Locke, class size is one of the biggest challenges for all teachers, especially those new to the field. Another challenge for new teachers is finding a healthy balance between family life and school. “There are as many as 33 students in my math classroom. It’s tough to get around to help everyone, and everyone needs help with math,” she said. “You take home a lot of mental stress. I do a lot of work on the weekends and take a lot home with me at night. It’s a demanding job. Kids today deal with so many more issues than they used to. They also bring a lot of those issues with them to school, which is hard.” Locke’s advice to new teachers is to be flexible, over-plan each day to avoid giving students too much downtime in class, and always be willing to learn new things. “Don’t be afraid to ask veteran teachers for help,” said Locke. “Observe different classrooms during your planning time to see what other teachers are doing so that you can model their strategies. I still do that even after 28 years. I have observed other high school and elementary school classrooms to see what they are learning and how they are learning — especially in math. I 8  PAGE ONE

want to see the different models they are using.” Locke’s biggest piece of advice is this: Stay positive. “When a teacher has a rough day and we see them the next day, we always joke, ‘You came back!’ You can’t take it personal,” she said. “All of us have had bad days. You have to remember that every day is different. You walk out and come back the next day and it’s a brand new day. You’re not going to reach everyone, but you are going to make a difference in someone’s life. Don’t give up!”

‘Observe different classrooms during your planning time to see what other teachers are doing so that you can model their strategies. I still do that even after 28 years.’

cessful in academics are not like the students we had when the village was there to embrace Tanya Locke them,” Reed said. Denise Reed “You see a lot of Love T. Nolan Elementary teachers beating School, Fulton County themselves up and burning out, trying to s an elementary school teacher for teach academics when we really have to 24 years, Denise Reed says she has teach students where they are and earn seen a lot of changes in her students their trust, love and respect.” overall — from the issues they face outReed taught elementary school in side of the classroom to what motivates Clayton County for 23 years, where she them to learn. served as the lead Early Intervention “We’re living in a new era. The stuProgram (EIP) facilitator for more than dents we are grooming now to be suc12 years. She just moved to Love T. Nolan Elementary School in Fulton County this year, where she is a fourth-grade EIP teacher. She said it was her own nephew who inspired her to become a teacher. “My nephew was struggling in school and had been labeled a ‘bad kid,’ but he wasn’t — it was just that he had lost his drive and ability to thrive. They were trying to put him into special education,” said Reed. “I did some research and found that a disproportionate number of black males were being put into special education, and that they had just given up on themselves. It really sparked my motivation. I decided I was going to work with inner-city kids and try to be a beacon to show them that no matter what your situation, you can get through it.” Working with kids who are Denise Reed at risk academically and who are not necessarily intrinsi-


‘You have to peel back the onion before you can get to what you need to do, which is teach.’

March/April 2020

cally motivated requires patience and a unique approach — something new teachers may not be prepared for initially, Reed said. “The process has changed a lot over the past 10 years because of the population we are dealing with. You have to peel back the onion before you can get to what you need to do, which is teach,” Reed said. “Now I have to be teacher, friend and mommy. If I can win you over — if you know you can trust me, that I love you and that I expect great things from you — I can develop a better rapport. I want to help them be the best they can be.” Though teaching has been rewarding for Reed — she has twice been named school-level Teacher of the Year — she said it’s also been a long road. She serves as a mentor to new teachers to help with teacher retention, and has seen many teachers leave. “I see a lot of teachers getting tired of not being able to reach the kids and getting burned out. They see it as their fault,” Reed said. “You get out of school

so excited, but then the coursework doesn’t really prepare you for the classroom.” Reed remembers her first job teaching as a long-term substitute in a K-5 special education classroom in an inner-city school. “Nobody really supported me in that building. They handed me the files and pointed me to a room in the basement. I would go home every day crying,” she said. “From then on, I made it a point to tell anyone who walks in my building that I am here for them if they need me. Nobody is perfect — we’re all going to make mistakes. If you go in with the mindset that you are going to do your best, the kids will see it and great things can still happen in the classroom.” Reed said that teacher organizations like PAGE can help teachers feel a valuable sense of community. “I’ve seen teachers get into some sticky situations and sometimes you think you’re all alone,” said Reed. “To be able to open a magazine and realize that you’re not in this by yourself is invaluable. You can see that an issue is not just going on in Fulton and Clayton, but other places, too, and that you’re not a bad teacher — this is just the times in which we live and we have to embrace one another.” Reed’s biggest piece of advice for new teachers is simple: Breathe. “Once you breathe and let it out, you can start over,” she said. “You will have bad days and roller coaster rides of ups and downs, but through it all, know that you are a vital asset. Without us, what would they do? I know not everyone is called to this, but if this is your calling, you will stay in the trenches. And if you

want to make it work, you have to give it your all.”

Christopher Alexander Ben Hill Middle School, Ben Hill County


hristopher Alexander was inspired early on to become a teacher. “When I was in fifth grade, I had a teacher who made a real impact on my life. It was at a time in my life when I needed someone to care for me outside of my parents, and my fifth-grade teacher was that person,” he said. “I wanted to be able to do that for someone else.” That teacher, Carolyn Brown, taught Alexander at Ben Hill Elementary School — the same community in which Alexander has taught eighth grade language arts at Ben Hill Middle School for the past 12 years. In addition to teaching various levels of eighth grade math, Alexander also serves as the Middle School Fellowship of Christian Athletes huddle leader and club sponsor. Alexander has seen new teachers leave the profession for many reasons, including lack of compensation and the increasing demands placed on today’s teachers. “I think one reason teachers leave is that they realize there are other opportunities out there where they can make more money,” he said. “Another issue is that there are a lot of expectations put on teachers. The standards are very high. We constantly hear statistics of how successful or unsuccessful we are, which

continued on next page

‘It’s so important to have someone guide you who Christopher Alexander will also let you be who you are and include you in the decision-making process while giving you tips along the way and allowing you the opportunity to lead and grow as a person.’ March/April 2020


constantly weighs on you and effects your motivation to stay.” Trying to manage all of the additional responsibilities outside of the classroom is also a constant challenge, Alexander said. “As a teacher, things are always being added to your plate and not a lot of things are being taken off the plate. Some people just aren’t willing to do that extra work,” he said. “They get into teaching because they love kids, but maybe don’t realize that there is this whole other aspect to it that they didn’t expect.” Watching and learning from veteran teachers can be an invaluable tool for new teachers, he said. “Coming in as a coteacher, I was able to spend all day in a classroom with a veteran teacher who was really good at what she did. I got to watch her, which had one of the biggest impacts on my career,” said Alexander. “It’s so important to have someone guide you who will also let you be who you are and include you in the decision-making process while giving you tips along the way and allowing you the opportunity to lead and grow as a person. I felt very blessed to have had that.” Alexander cautions new teachers to always remember why you are doing this because it has to be for more than just a paycheck. “If this is just a job for you, then it’s the wrong place to be. There are other things you can do to be more successful financially,” he said. “You have to know there is a purpose to what you are doing or there is no way you can stick with it.” Alexander remembers a particularly low point during his second year teaching. He was struggling with one of his students, and he questioned if teaching was the right path. “I had a kid with a huge barrier to me individually and he was really making my life miserable day to day. I remember thinking; I can’t come to this place and have a person after me everyday. Maybe

‘No matter how hard the day before may have been, it’s another chance to plant seeds that make a child’s future better. It took me a long time to understand that, but the sooner teachers learn to stop stressing over all the could have/ should haves, the sooner they will be able to put that energy towards positive growth.’


I’m not cut out for this,” he to give other students said. “But that same year, those same opportunithere was another kid who ties — that led her to really needed me. One day, teach. she said to me, ‘Thank you Ann Horne Today, Horne is an so much for being who you eighth-grade science are. You’re the best person I have ever known.’ It was a game-changer. teacher at Gray Junior High in Colquitt County, where she has taught for 12 That was enough to remind me that years. Prior to that, she taught two years I’m here to impact who I can. I’m glad I at a high school in Macon County, stuck with it; it’s been a great career.” attended graduate school at Oklahoma Ann Horne State, and taught education courses at Gray Junior High School, Southern Arkansas University for nine Colquitt County years. Horne also spent hough life circumstances prevented four years with the State either of her parents from finishing of Arkansas supervising high school, Ann Horne remembers her agricultural programs and childhood home in Blairsville, which activities all over the state. she shared with her five siblings, always In her 25 years of teachbeing full of books. ing, Horne says she has “They both got their GEDs and learned a few things about education was very important in our what it takes to stay positive house,” she said. “They both read a lot in the classroom. and encouraged all of us to read as well, “You have to love kids and which gave us a good foundation for all know that someone has to of our academics.” help them — especially the Horne, who always loved school, was ones who are hard to love; active with her high school’s agricultural someone has to help them program, which she said gave her a lot of be everything they can be,” opportunities she wouldn’t have othershe said. “It might be hard. wise had in her small hometown. It was Kids might not act like they that love of learning — and the desire appreciate it now, and it


March/April 2020

might not feel like there’s a lot of return on your investment, but every now and then you get a note from a former student who says they appreciate what you did for them or that they got accepted into college.” Horne said that another key to staying motivated is finding positive mentors and colleagues who can help and support you as a new teacher. “It really takes about five years to figure out what you are doing. Firstyear teacher education programs don’t prepare you for the reality of what you will face in the classroom,” said Horne. “It can be overwhelming. It takes a long time to get comfortable in the classroom environment. You never stop learning. I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and I’m always learning how to motivate students and keep them interested. You need experience and a good mentor.” As to why new teachers leave the profession, Horne said she thinks many factors are at play, including the challenges of motivating students to learn and the increasing pressures associated with classroom management and standardized tests. “New teachers need to know that no one is perfect and that we all make mistakes. That’s how we learn and grow,” said Horne. “I’m usually the first one in my building, and when I open the door and walk down the hall to my room, I’m in my happy place. No matter how hard the day before may have been, it’s another chance to plant seeds that make a child’s future better. It took me a long time to understand that, but the sooner

teachers learn to stop stressing over all the could have/should haves, the sooner they will be able to put that energy towards positive growth.” Professional associations such as PAGE can also play a role in helping to support teachers grow in their careers and foster their overall success. “Just getting together with other teachers in your field helps you grow,” said Horne. “Here in south Georgia, we’re in a different world than metro Atlanta. I appreciate that PAGE recognizes that and helps us work on issues that affect us here. Anytime teachers can build community and be around other positive teachers — that helps a lot.”

Dr. Leslie Pourreau River Ridge High School, Cherokee County


r. Leslie Pourreau is an experienced K-12 world languages teacher with an obvious love of learning. She holds a doctorate in teacher leadership for learning with an emphasis on instructional technology, a master’s degree in foreign language education, and a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Romance languages. Today, she’s a part-time professor of instructional technology in the Bagwell College of Education at Kennesaw State University and teaches multiple levels of French to students at River Ridge High School in Cherokee County, where she has taught for the past 10 years. Though she has taught high school for 16 years, during her 24-year career, she has also taught elementary and middle school French, Spanish and ESOL.

“This profession places increasing demands on you, and you have to be willing to be flexible,” said Dr. Pourreau. “When they ask if I would rather teach French or Spanish, my response is always, where do you need me? I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to grow with the profession.” As to why so many teachers leave teaching so early in their careers, Dr. Pourreau believes it is often the result of reality not meeting expectations. “I think teachers often get into teaching with one thing in mind, and then realize it’s not exactly what they signed up for,” she said. “Maybe the job doesn’t mirror their student teacher experience, for example.” Finding a positive mentor can play an invaluable role in helping new teachers overcome these challenges and become successful in the long term. “Years ago, one of my education professors said to ‘find someone who is a bright star and hook your tail to them.’ You have to find someone with a strong classroom presence who will help you because they are invested in helping you become your best,” said Dr. Pourreau. “You also always have to offer your best to your colleagues. Be congenial and sincere and willing to help. It really does take everyone working together as a team to get things done these days.” When things get tough, Dr. Pourreau reminds new teachers to stay positive, be flexible and remember what got you into teaching in the first place. “Remember why you got into education continued on page 13

‘Remember why you got into education — because you love to learn. … You will have to expand your Dr. Leslie Pourreau technology skill set, your teaching repertoire; you have to learn new things to position yourself to be successful.’

March/April 2020


‘If you treat kids with respect, while still being firm, that goes a long way. They are more apt to respond. You can still be stern and discipline in your classroom while also showing respect.’

— because you love to learn,” Dr. “At my school, I am Pourreau said. “Be open to learnsupported 100 percent Kevin Kenny ing. You will have to expand your by administration, but technology skill set, your teaching overall, I think younger repertoire; you have to learn new things teachers sometimes feel administrators to position yourself to be successful. Say and parents are not as supportive. If they yes to things you wouldn’t have normally are having trouble disciplining a student, thought you would say yes to. Don’t be for example, they may feel the school is too quick to say no. You never know what not doing enough,” said Kenny. “Also, on experience might give you the perspective the parent side, it’s no secret that in 2020, you need to help you improve your cura lot of parents support their kids and rent practices.” defend them at all costs when, at the end of the day, if your child is not doing what Kevin Kenny they should be doing in the classroom, it Evans High School, Columbia isn’t the teacher’s fault.” County Kenny said that when it comes to stuevin Kenny remembers his first year dent discipline, mutual respect is critical. of teaching. “Kids want to be shown respect. They “It was a tough school and I was don’t want to be called out in front of teaching sixth grade. When the bell rang their peers. If you treat kids with respect, at 4:15 p.m., I sat at my desk exhausted, while still being firm, that goes a long laid my head down and thought, ‘What way. They are more apt to respond,” he am I doing?’ I did that many times that said. “You can still be stern and discifirst year of teaching,” Kenny said. “But pline in your classroom while also showyou get through it. The second year was ing respect.” a lot better. I had more experience and Finding a mentor is also critical to knew the kids, and each year it got better long-term success as a teacher, whether and better. You just have to stick it out, you are new to the profession or a seawhich is easier said than done.” soned veteran. More than three decades later, Kenny “Having a mentor helps because it is still teaching. He’s a 10th-grade world gives you someone you can talk to — history teacher, athletic director and especially if they have been in the same varsity basketball coach at Evans High situation you have,” said Kenny. “I have School in Augusta, where he recently been doing this for 34 years and I still celebrated his career 400th win. learn new things. Don’t be afraid to ask Kenny believes new teachers struggle questions and try new things. That’s the most with a lack of support shown by same thing we tell our students.” some parents and even school adminisAssociations such as PAGE can also tration. help teachers share ideas and best prac-


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tices, he said. “Professional organizations provide a good, positive climate for teachers,” he said. “Any outside help you can rely on for ideas and advice can help.”

Dr. Fulisia Coleman-Lewis Oakcliff Traditional Theme School, DeKalb County


r. Fulisia Coleman-Lewis didn’t always know that her passion for teaching would lead her to being recognized for impacting the lives of so many teachers, students and families. The 28-year veteran teacher has a distinguished resume: Beginning Teacher of the Year for her school (1997), Teacher of the Year for her school (2003 and 2011) and Region 1 Educational Support Person of the Year for her district (2019). “I went to school for business management and was working at an after-school program where I connected with this one student,” she said. “I was the only one who could connect with him, and once I did that, I knew that teaching and motivating children was going to be my journey. I went back to school, changed my major to elementary education, received my degree and began my career a kindergarten teacher in Miami.” Since then, Dr. Coleman-Lewis has taught from pre-K to fifth grade in both Florida and Georgia. She currently serves as the academic coach at Oakcliff Traditional Theme School in DeKalb County. She’s seen a lot of teachers leave the profession due to the pressures around continued on next page PAGE ONE  13

testing, paperwork, data analysis and an overall lack of parental and administrative support. She’s also seen the important impact that positive mentors can make, helping to encourage, motivate and retain new teachers. “The education field has changed drastically over the past several years and testing has taken over. When new teachers enter the profession, they are so fearful of not being successful,” said Dr. Coleman-Lewis. “In our district, we mentor teachers at the district-level and teachers are paired with a mentor within their schools so that they don’t face these hurdles alone. Mentors are there to help with the planning of effective lessons, to model lessons, and to be there for moral support. It has made a big difference for teachers in our county and provided an extra layer of support resulting in an increase in teacher retention.” Mentoring is an issue that hits close to home for Dr. Coleman-Lewis, who didn’t have the benefit of a strong mentor when she began her teaching career.

‘You have to take it one day at a time, absorb those nuggets of advice and just keep moving.’

Dr. Fulisia Coleman-Lewis

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March/April 2020

“My mentor was the type of person who said, ‘If I can do it, you can do it.’ She wasn’t that inspirational, motivational or encouraging,” she said. “So, when I was afforded the chance to become a mentor, I wanted to provide the opportunities to someone else that I didn’t have. I completed my doctoral dissertation on ‘How Mentoring Impacts Teacher Retention’ because that’s how important it is to me. I believe it is a powerful tool to keep teachers in the profession.” As a first-year teacher, Dr. Coleman-Lewis remembers struggling with classroom management, navigating how to effectively discipline students and communicating with parents. “I had one teacher at my school who I considered a mentor,” said Dr. Coleman-Lewis. “She eaching middle said, ‘Know who you are serschool math — vicing because they are your though she has done it customers; get to know them.’ now for over 20 years — is That helped me to establish Erin Jezerinac Erin Jezerinac’s second a rapport with my students profession. She graduated and parents. The second year from Georgia Tech with a went a little smoother and degree in business management. then it became easier each year.” “I originally went into restaurant manFinding a good mentor is absolutely agement, but didn’t feel it was right for critical to success, especially for those me. I knew I wanted to help people in a new to the teaching profession, Dr. different way,” said Jezerinac. Coleman-Lewis said. She went back to school in her late “You must find someone at your twenties, earned a provisional teachschool who can help lead you to sucing certificate while at Lost Mountain cess. You can’t do this alone,” she said. Middle School in Cobb County, and “Teachers go through a wave of emotaught sixth grade math there for five tions the first three years of teaching. years until McClure Middle School They are excited about teaching, then opened. She has been at McClure teachdisillusioned, then reflective, and the ing a mix of eighth grade math levels process starts all over again. You have to now for 17 years. take it one day at a time, absorb those “I love math, and when you start nuggets of advice and just keep moving.” teaching, you think, I love this so I Erin Jezerinac should be able to teach someone else McClure Middle School, Cobb how to do it. But then you get into the County classroom and realize there’s an art to breaking things down in a way to get

kids to understand it,” said Jezerinac. “That process was interesting and challenging to me and part of the reason I fell in love with teaching.” Jezerinac attributes the high rate of new teacher turnover in part to a lack of attention on the “total child” in today’s teaching programs. “In our profession, there is a lot of focus on things like testing and box-checking that have nothing to do with the child,” she said. “When I feel stressed, I think about why I chose to do this. When I think about the why — and what is best for the kids — and keep that in the forefront, that is what keeps me coming back. I’m not sure all of the programs out there are encouraging teachers to look at the whole child and what is best for them.” Jezerinac also pointed to the importance of a nurturing school environment and leadership that supports its new teachers. “Mentors are very important. I can list at least 10 people I have worked with who have nurtured my love of the job,” she said. “Working alongside strong teachers who love it and good leaders can always help you remember why you chose the profession. None of us is in it for the money. Being part of a strong support group — the team of teachers I work with — is a huge reason I continue to thrive in the job.” Jezerinac’s advice to fellow teachers is to take a breath and not react impulsively. “When something happens or when decisions are made, don’t react immediately. Give it a minute, let it settle, and then go to the team of people you confide in,” she said. “Those are the people who can help you through the hard times. It’s not perfect. Sometimes, you n have to go with the flow.”

‘When something happens or when decisions are made, don’t react immediately. Give it a minute, let it settle, and then go to the team of people you confide in. Those are the people who can help you through the hard times.’


March/April 2020


PAGE Future Georgia Educators Days

A College Visit Can Be a Crucial First Step in Becoming a Teacher

By Mary Ruth Ray, PAGE College Services Representative


o you remember the first time you ever set foot on a college campus? As the youngest of seven children, I was only four years old when my oldest brother went off to college — and freed up a seat at the dinner table so I could finally get out of my high chair! I began at that early age to visit college campuses to see my siblings. However, that isn’t the case for many students who visit Georgia college campuses for PAGE Future Georgia Educator (FGE) Days. Many of these high schoolers are seeing a college campus for the first time, and for some, it is the first trip they have ever taken outside their home county. Introducing these aspiring teachers to a college where they can walk the campus, experience the dining hall, collaborate with peers in the classrooms, and meet college faculty and students is a large part of PAGE’s purpose in

hosting FGE Days. Putting them into a position where they can truly begin to envision themselves attending college is a big first step toward their becoming an educator. Inspiring them is another important goal. During an FGE Day, students hear from award-winning educators, such as Tracey Pendley, 2020 Georgia Teacher of the Year. She has motivated hundreds of

FGE Day attendees with her remarkable story of how she overcame obstacles in her journey to become a teacher. Students also participate in interactive workshops where college faculty and teacher candidates discuss teaching strategies, innovative technology and college life. But FGE Day benefits more than just the students who attend. Partnering with the state’s colleges of education to help aspiring teachers on their journey to the classroom is one way PAGE is helping to address the teaching shortage in Georgia. According to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (PSC), school systems in Georgia reported an average of 3,953 vacant teaching positions during academic years 2018 and 2019. A significant number (1,354) of these vacancies are in early childhood, leaving some 29,000 young children in Georgia underserved. Admittedly, the teacher

Introducing aspiring teachers to a college where they can walk the campus, experience the dining hall, collaborate with peers in the classrooms, and meet college faculty and students is a large part of PAGE’s purpose in hosting FGE Days.


March/April 2020

shortage does not affect all communities equally. When comparing the number of vacancies in a school system to the size of the system, PSC reports six school systems are above 20 percent, and 10 systems are in the range of 10-20 percent. This makes the “grow your own” strategy of recruiting teachers all the more crucial. School systems are beginning to turn to initiatives like FGE Day to encourage their own students to fill these vacancies in the next few years. Indeed, hard-to-staff schools are smart to recruit from their own students. A 2011 Stanford University study showed that nearly 60 percent of teachers live and teach within 20 miles of where they went to high school. That number jumps to 81 percent in urban communities. Inspiring young people to become educators is at the heart of FGE Day. Hopefully stepping foot on a college campus for an FGE Day will be an important first step.

During this school year, PAGE has hosted a Future Georgia Educators event at nine colleges and university throughout Georgia. These photos are from 2019-2020 FGE events at Dalton State College, Georgia Southern University, University of Georgia and University of North Georgia.

continued on page 19

March/April 2020



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The number of Georgians completing the Baccalaureate Initial Teaching Program is trending downward. Whereas 3,622 completed the program in 2014, the number dropped to 2,349 by 2018.

From 2015 to 2020, 7,869 high school students have participated in a PAGE Future Georgia Educators Day at one of the following colleges or universities throughout the state:

Dalton State College Berry College

Georgia Gwinnett College University of Georgia Clark Atlanta University University of Mercer University North Georgia University of West Georgia Augusta University

Middle Georgia State University Columbus State University

Georgia College and state university Georgia Southern University

Georgia Southwestern State University

Valdosta State University

March/April 2020

•  Augusta University •  Berry College

•  Georgia Southwestern State University

•  Clark Atlanta University

•  Mercer University

•  Columbus State University

•  Middle Georgia State University

•  Dalton State College

•  University of Georgia

•  Georgia College and State University

•  University of North Georgia

•  Georgia Gwinnett College

•  University of West Georgia

•  Georgia Southern University

•  Valdosta State University


Advocacy in Action:

Day on Capitol Hill 2020


t was an exhilarating day of education-focused advocacy beneath the Gold Dome this February as PAGE hosted Governor Brain Kemp and more than 200 teachers, administrators, and students from throughout the state at our annual Day on Capitol Hill event. As attendees engaged in one-on-one advocacy with lawmakers outside the Senate and House chambers, their common purpose was clear: communicate with legislators about the issues that matter most to Georgia educators – TRS, testing, private school voucher expansion, and more. And all was in keeping with remarks delivered by Governor Kemp during the event: “We’ve got to keep our best and brightest in the classroom. We also have to be able to recruit the best and brightest

to come into the classroom.” ‘We want to hear from Advocacy is essential to the fulfillment of this goal. PAGE you. Not just when you are advocates daily when the General here at the Capitol. Back Assembly is in session. Our leghome as well.’ islative team attends every education-focused meeting beneath — Sen. P.K. Martin, Chair of the Gold Dome, offers testimony, the Senate Education Committee speaks with the media, and produces reports, bill analysis, and advocacy alerts. Beyond this, PAGE partners annually with GAEL (Georgia Association voter registration, legislator contact of Educational Leaders) and GACTE information, and more. (Georgia Association of Colleges for We encourage you to take advantage Teacher Education) to produce this Day of these resources and add your voice to on Capitol Hill advocacy opportunity for education-focused conversations beneath n Georgia educators. the Gold Dome. As always, we invite and encourage you Photos by Chris Savas to make your individual voices heard by and Dolly Purvis. legislators year-round. As reiterated by policymakers addressing assembled educators at this year’s event, your input is vital to the ‘We don’t know what’s process: important to you if we don’t Visit hear from you. Tell us your legislative for advocacy-focused information and resources that concerns. There are many will enable you to influence voices of advocacy at the education policymaking in Capitol. Be the loudest voice!’ Georgia. Here, you can sign up to receive PAGE Capitol — Rep. Dave Belton, Chair of the Reports and access links to

House Special Rules Committee


March/April 2020

‘We’ve got to keep our best and brightest in the classroom. We also have to be able to recruit the best and brightest to come into the classroom… I’m committed to getting the pay raise done, and we’re going to continue to work with you as we work on standards and testing, and all the many other things that you’re dealing with. We know that all of you will do the same as well with us.’ — Governor Brian Kemp in his address to attendees of Day on Capitol Hill 2020

March/April 2020


This is a continuing series of PAGE One profiling throughout the school year Georgia's 2020 Teacher of the Year finalists.

Carlos Hernandez

General Ray Davis Middle School, Rockdale County By Meg Thornton, PAGE One Editor


ockdale County veteran teacher Carlos Hernandez does not fear a world in decline. Quite the opposite. His knowledgeable, techno-savvy and caring eighth-grade social students and their generation at large have imbued him with a strong faith. “I have great hope that they will rise up and answer many of the questions that have been unsolvable,” said the General Ray Davis Middle School teacher. “I see a future, a generation that is going to take care of me, and I am not scared. … After my years of teaching are up and I am enjoying retirement, I believe my quality of life will be improved by the innovations in healthcare and overall lifestyle that this generation will [develop].” Hernandez sees his role as fostering that potential. As such, he deftly uses technology to break lessons into menu-like offerings to engage students and accommodate


varied learning styles and abilities. Students showcase their talent and abilities through journaling, storyboards, poetry, songs, interpretive dance and more. “[They have] tools at their disposal to create things that former generations could only imagine,” said Hernandez. “And they have the ability to multitask in ways that leave me jealous. … The potential that lives within them is ready to be tapped into and explored.” Hernandez encourages fellow educators to think about the possibilities afforded by advancements in this changing world and “adjust our teaching to reach this new generation of thinkers.” His social studies students are already action-oriented. In studying current events, they often discuss what they can do to help. After Hurricane Matthew barreled through Haiti, for example, his students mobilized to assist a national Food

for the Poor initiative. “My first-period class very quickly started to organize within the classroom, and we hatched out a plan,” relayed Hernandez. “Before we knew it, we had our school videography class involved in filming a commercial, we had students creating posters and signs, we had students making donation containers for each homeroom, and classes all over the school joined in creative ways to raise money for this effort. Over the next several weeks we raised three times the amount that we set as a goal.” Hernandez believes such activities connect students with the larger world. “Our students are able to think outside of themselves … and make a great change as far away as Haiti and beyond.” Such experiences prompt students to recognize needs in their own community as well. Hernandez said he has March/April 2020


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been “honored to stand side by side with many of these students cooking and preparing meals for other students in our county and homeless shelters.” His overarching viewpoint is that “Our students are amazing and simply need the opportunities to show it.” Hernandez also knows that the road to success for many students is filled with obstacles. Thus he relishes his role as his school’s Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) coach. His main objective is to help colleagues see behaviors differently. “This initiative is challenging because there has to be a collaboration with all teachers, staff, administration, students and families … but I am happy to say that it is happening at our school,” he said. After a year of planning, his school went live with its PBIS initiative, and the “day was amazing,” he reported. Teachers were



Hernandez deftly uses technology to break lessons into menulike offerings to engage students and accommodate varied learning styles and abilities. Students showcase their talent and abilities through journaling, storyboards, poetry, songs, interpretive dance and more.


dancing and playing games with students, and students were having a blast. After the program, teacher comments included: “I have never had so much fun at school,” and “My face hurts from … laughing.” More importantly, General Ray Davis educators report that the program is working. Straight away Hernandez saw students “who would customarily be in trouble for their actions get an opportunity to learn to do better, instead of getting punished immediately. I have heard other students correct and encourage their classmates with our behavior goals, S.O.A.R. (Self Control, On-Task Behavior, Appropriate Attitude and Responsible Actions),” he added. Hernandez has a personal connection to helping students overcome poor behavior. “I wasn’t always the best student, but I had teachers who saw beyond my mistakes to believe in the potential that was within me. And I see the same things in my students,” he said. Fighting the Affluence Disparity Breaking the cycle of poverty through education is also central to Hernandez. In his 20-plus years of teaching in three different states, he has witnessed time and again the disparity between affluent and poor communities.

‘The look on most people’s faces when we tell them what we do, is like “oh, no” this would be their worst nightmare; for us, we love it.’

March/April 2020

“I was a first-grade teacher in a high poverty area for four years where most of my first graders had not mastered most of their sight words nor phonics skills. I moved to another state and a more affluent area where I taught kindergarten for two years. Most of my students came to kindergarten with many of the skills that I was teaching in the first grade at my other school,” he noted. A child of poverty himself, Hernandez knows the struggle that lies before these children. In describing his work environment, Hernandez said: “I currently work in one of the largest trailer parks in the state where very few adults have graduated much less been to college. The dreams and aspirations of many of the students do not go beyond the trailer park.” He added that “Success for many is simply to help the family in some way to get the basics in life: food, clothing and shelter. … I also understand that there is a way out of the cycle of poverty through education. Key people in my life’s journey helped me strive for better things in life. I have found success in being the first in my family to go to college. “Education can help stop the cycle of poverty.” In response to being named a Georgia Teacher of the Year finalist, Hernandez thanked his fellow educators. “The look on most people’s faces when we tell them what we do, is like ‘oh, no’ this would be their worst nightmare; for us, we love it.” And he thanked his students: “For our students, we have the ability to speak life into them. We can tear kids down or lift them up. Sometimes, I’ve had bad days, and you know who lifted me up? My eighth-grade students.” Hernandez, who is fluent in Spanish, grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, and near Panama City, Florida. He earned a bachelor of science in education degree from the University of West Alabama and a master’s in biblical counseling and a master’s of divinity specializing in apologetics from Luther Rice University and Seminary. In addition to chairing his school’s social studies department, he serves on his school’s teacher leadership team and on the Superintendent’s Teacher n Advisory Council.


Kiana Willis

Palmetto Elementary School, Fulton County Schools By Meg Thornton, PAGE One Editor


iana Willis, a pre-K through fifth-grade teacher at Palmetto Elementary in Fulton County, aims to bridge the gap between content, application and activism. Her S.T.E.A.M classes encourage students to use their knowledge to create change in their communities, and her lessons allow students to grapple with difficult concepts. The goal is to encourage students to ask “Why?” One lesson that brought all of her goals into play involved access to clean water. The Georgia unit of study for fifth grade asked that students be able to identify microorganisms and whether or not they are harmful. When a student brought in an article on contaminated water, Willis began to build lessons around water as a human right. The class generated the following questions: Who has access to clean water? Why are there people who do not have access? Should we consider access to clean water as a basic human right?” The class researched, watched TedTalks and engaged in critical discourse.

“As the unit progressed, we discussed the idea of water poverty in the United States and the disparity in resources based on race, class, gender and socioeconomic status,” said Willis. “Students were amazed that there were people living only minutes from them who did not have clean water,” she added. That led to an understanding of the Flint, Michigan, water crisis. “I expressed to my students that it is not enough for us to be outraged and upset. As scientists, engineers, technology specialists, mathematicians and artists, it is important for us to act and use our collective knowledge and acumen to create change,” she added. The students then progressed to the

next logical step: exploring solutions. After studying the research of Deepika Kurup, the students decided that the most environmentally friendly and costefficient solution was to create water filters. In small groups, students planned, constructed and tested multiple models of water filters using recyclable and easily accessed materials. Once they found their most efficient model, they created a “Shark Tank” presentation and presented their filter and findings to a school community panel that had to decide whether or not to invest in their product. They created a plan for distribution, public service announcements, posters and more to enhance their presentation. Each student played a vital role in the process.

‘Before, when I asked students to draw me a picture of a scientist, they drew a stereotypical Caucasian man in a white coat with big hair. Now, when we ask students to draw a picture of a scientist, they draw themselves.’ 24  PAGE ONE

STEAM Week Is a Big Hit Willis believes that when you see a need, you address it. To that end, she is a charter member of the School Governance Council, which sets and moniMarch/April 2020


20 20

along with the curriculum, that’s what we do,” she said. And as a teacher leader, Willis is a mentor, collaborator, coach and a prolific speaker, including as a guest lecturer for Emory University pre-service educators. A member of the National Science Teachers Association, she is in her 12th year of teaching. “There is nothing else on the face of the planet as cool as being a teacher,” said Willis, who uses humor daily in her classroom. Her favorite quote: “Teach anyway.” Willis earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Spelman College, a master’s degree in reading, language and literacy from Georgia State University and a specialist degree in educational leadership from Columbus State University. She has both a gifted and science endorsement and is currently developing a curriculum called Activistn Driven Inquiry.




constructivist lessons, I allow my students to take ownership of their own leaning. This empowers them to use the knowledge and information they have been grappling with in class and apply it to real-world scenarios. The young woman in the book is experiencing racial injustice at the tender age of nine. As we read the book, students are making connections to their experiences with bullying and have been asking and reflecting about what they can do to create a safer and more accepting school community. Authentic learning transforms learners and inspires them to effect change in their communities.” Willis’ overarching approach to teaching is to build off of student interests. “Whatever they’re interested in that goes


March/April 2020



‘There is nothing else on the face of the planet as cool as being a teacher,’ said Willis. Her favorite quote: ‘Teach anyway.’ tors the strategic direction of the school. The council sought to increase student proficiency in math and science, but also agreed that there was an element of creativity, individuality and social-emotional learning missing from the curriculum. In response, they chose STEAM as a school-wide initiative, and through a grant, received funding. Willis’ most influential part of the initiative was STEAM night. To attract parents, she created a committee and collaborated with stakeholders to create a funfilled evening full of experiments, musical performances, prizes, speakers and demonstrations. “With a typically low turnout for all events at the school, we were blown away at the overwhelming response we received from parents, students, teachers and community members,” she recalled. “The turnout was unexpected.” The successful event is now a weeklong annual celebration. For the past three years, STEAM Week is the most anticipated week for students, teachers and parents. It’s full of engaging lessons, hands-on activities, professionals from the community and more. “Before, when I asked students to draw me a picture of a scientist, they drew a stereotypical Caucasian man in a white coat with big hair. Now, when we ask students to draw a picture of a scientist, they draw themselves,” said Willis. “The greatest student outcome is offering students the opportunity to see themselves full of potential. With the implementation of STEAM, students are now excited about math and science. They no longer see failure as final. They are actively engaged in the construction of their own knowledge, because they see it as a valuable.” Willis’ students also experience content through the eyes of those who have been marginalized. Here’s how she described a lesson on The Great Depression: “Instead of (simply) reading out of a book, we are living The Great Depression through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl, Cassie Logan, in the book "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry." By constructing engaging, authentic,






404.865.7100 441 JOHN L EWIS F REEDOM P KWY NE, A TLANTA , GA 30307



Understanding the Investigative Process By Sean DeVetter, PAGE Staff Attorney


ttorneys in the PAGE legal department guide PAGE members through investigations on a daily basis. While we are very familiar with these investigations, frequently, our members are not. Most educators we speak with have never been in any type of trouble. The lack of familiarity with the investigative process adds another layer of anxiety. This article seeks to familiarize members with the investigative process, and alleviate some anxiety. A typical investigation begins when an educator is notified that there is an allegation. Usually, this is done by the principal. He/She will let you know of the accusation, which generally begins with, “Someone said you did X.” Any or all of the following steps may take place: Someone in the district will question you about the alleged event. This may be your administrator during the initial meeting when she tells you of

Just because the district questions you does not mean you have done anything wrong; this is overwhelmingly the case. An accusation is not a conviction. Remember, the district is obligated to investigate allegations of wrongdoing. 26  PAGE ONE

the accusation. Or, it could be someone from human resources. It will just depend on your district’s specific protocol. You may be required to provide a written response to an allegation. If the allegation is of a more serious nature, especially if it involves harming a student, an educator will most likely be placed on paid administrative leave while the district investigates. This is typical protocol and is not indicative of guilt. If there is an allegation of harming a student, the district may make a referral to Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) or the local police. Usually, somewhat later in the investigative process, if the district believes an ethics violation occurred, it refers the case to the Professional Standards Commission. Questioning The most important first step when dealing with any investigation is to remain calm. Just because the district questions you does not mean you have done anything wrong; this is overwhelmingly the case. An accusation is not a conviction. Remember, the district is obligated to investigate allegations of wrongdoing. If a district fails to conduct an investigation, it opens itself to liability. If you suspect you’ll be questioned by the district, and you have time, call the PAGE legal department first. In most cases you won’t have any warning you are going to be questioned. Most school districts do not allow you

to have representation present during an initial investigation. Don’t let this catch you off guard. It’s important when speaking with admin that you remain calm and professional. Answer questions honestly and allow administrators to sort out fact from fiction. When speaking with administration, answer the question that is asked of you; do not provide extraneous information. At this point in an investigation you are your best advocate. If you believe pertinent information should be given, by all means, provide that information. Nervous people tend to ramble. If you are nervous, saying less is better than saying more. The investigator will ask you the questions they want answered. Don’t guess at what they are after. We can always supplement a statement after the fact but we cannot retract information once it has been shared with administration. When the questioning is over, as soon as you have time, call the PAGE legal department. If you’ve forgotten to provide any information we can help you supplement your statement to the investigator. If the police or DFCS want to question you, remember, you have the right to have an attorney present for the questioning. If this situation arises, we recommend you tell the police officer or DFCS investigator that you are happy to speak with them but want to make sure your attorney is present for the questioning. Written Statements When educators are asked to write a statement, they are usually given ample time by the investigator. This means you will have time to consult with an attorney before submitting a statement. March/April 2020

We suggest you take advantage of this opportunity. On the rare occasions you are not given much time to submit a written statement, your written statement should match the answers you’ve already given to the investigator. Again, contact an attorney as soon as you are able; if we need to supplement your statement, we will. Paid Administrative Leave Educators are frequently placed on paid administrative leave while the district conducts an investigation. I cannot stress enough how often we see this commonly employed tool of school districts. Most educators placed on paid administrative leave have never heard of this process and are terrified. This protects you as much as it protects the district and the children. Having you out of the building allows the district to conduct their investigation while ensuring you aren’t facing accusations from students, faculty or parents. If colleagues reach out to you to find out what is going on, it is best to not communicate with them regarding

the underlying investigation. This is to avoid a second accusation that you are attempting to influence the investigation. During this time you are still an employee of the district and may be recalled to work any time during normal working hours. You may be asked to complete certain duties, such as grading papers, creating lessons and communicating with parents over email. You must remain ready and able to work during normal business hours. While you are on paid administrative leave the district will conduct its investigation. Once the investigation has concluded, you will either be returned to work or presented with the district’s disciplinary decision. You will be notified of the district’s decision by an administrator or HR representative. Referral to the PSC Teachers regularly tell us that their administration threatened to report them to the PSC. Know that school districts are required to report ethics violations to the PSC. Failure to make a report is a

violation of the code of ethics. If you are under investigation by the PSC, you will have ample time to contact an attorney and provide a response to the investigator. The PSC mails its letter of investigation to the address it has on file for you in their database. Make sure your address with the PSC is up to date. Make sure you abide by the dates in the letter and always respond to the PSC. Failure to respond can lead to serious consequences, including loss of certification for refusing to participate in an investigation. Please note the above information is not intended to provide specific advice for your situation. All legal situations are different and fact-specific. This information is intended to familiarize you, on a very basic level, with the investigative process. If you are under investigation, you have enough stress to deal with. There is no need to add stress to the situation because you don’t know what is happening, or why it is happening. As always, if you have a legal issue, call the PAGE legal department first or as n soon as you are able.

Where will you lead? Advance your career with UNG. Earn your graduate, certificate or doctoral degree from a university that is nationally recognized for innovation, affordability and academic quality. Designed with the needs of busy professionals in mind. Contact the Office of Graduate Admissions | 706.864.1543

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March/April 2020


PAGE Academic Bowl for Middle Grades

North Gwinnett Middle School Wins State Championship Yes, they’re real! North Gwinnett team members celebrate by biting their medals.


kids a little extra above and beyond the curriculum. I can’t wait to see what these kids can do at Nationals in May.” All eight teams competing in the final rounds earned medals and awards. The teams include: 2nd Place: Forsyth County Schools’ Lakeside Middle School, coached by Cheryl West; 3rd Place: DeKalb County School District’s Chamblee Middle School, coached by John Donegan and Cathy Hirsch; 4th Place: The Paideia School, an independent school in DeKalb County, coached by Wilson York; 5th Place: Fulton County School System’s River Trail Middle School, coached by Scott Fowler and Sarah Roberson; 6th Place: Bremen City School District’s Bremen Middle School, coached by Denice Steed and Karee Payne; 7th Place: Muscogee County School District’s Aaron Cohn Middle School, coached by Rebecca Perez;

orth Gwinnett Middle School team has evolved so much this year — not won top honors at this year’s just in knowledge but in teamwork and PAGE Academic Bowl for mental focus.” Her coach, Scott Johnson Middle Grades State Championship. The added, “This team has been amazing since hard-fought championship event was held day one, both in their dedication to acain January at the Georgia College & State demics but most importantly, having fun University (GC&SU) in Milledgeville. just hanging out together. I’d like to thank During the morning session, 24 semithe other coaches, Scott Kim and Kelly finalist teams from across the state comLorenz and all the teachers at North, for peted in a round-robin competition. The helping develop their skills and giving the eight teams of finalists then battled it out in the afternoon single-elimination competition. Members of the winning North Gwinnett team are Ipsita Bhattacharya, Jack Hunsaker, Nagayuvan Ayyachamy, Srishti Sood and Thomas Jenkins. The team is coached by Scott Johnson, Scott Kim and Kelly Lorenz. Following the victory, North Gwinnett team captain Ipsita Bhattacharya said, “Without teammates like mine, this state championship would not be possible. North Gwinnett and Lakeside battle it out during the exciting championship round. I feel like North Gwinnett’s


March/April 2020

Audience awaits the announcement of the top eight teams after the morning round-robin competition.

8th Place: Cobb County School District’s Dodgen Middle School, coached by Kay Tabor and Linda Caballaro. “It takes skill and cooperation to create a successful academic bowl team, and all the students who participated in the state championship competition should be proud of that accomplishment,” said PAGE Executive Director Craig Harper. “We understand the months of study and hard work exhibited by these students and their coaches, and we applaud them. We also appreciate the support of parents

and school administrators, all of whom contributed to the success of each team. Finally, I’d like to thank GC&SU and the Collegiate Middle Level Association for hosting our competition at this outstanding university.” The PAGE Academic Bowl features teams of middle school students fielding questions on subjects ranging from Georgia history to mathematics, science, literature and the performing arts. Opposing teams compete against the clock to answer toss-up and bonus ques-

tions in order to score points. The goal of the program is to inspire students to excel academically, to enhance student selfconfidence and self-esteem through high achievement and develop both a team and competitive spirit. Statewide, more than 1,000 students competed at the local, regional and state levels of the PAGE Academic Bowl for Middle Grades. To see team photos, please visit www. n

Photos by Sam Ratcliffe

Earn your graduate degree at a pace that fits your life and budget. With a team to support you every step of the way, Georgia Southwestern’s College of Education will prepare you to take the next generation by storm. Master of Education (M.Ed.) Elementary Education Middle Grades Language Arts Middle Grades Mathematics Special Education Education Specialist (Ed.S.) Elementary Education Middle Grades Education Teacher Leadership

Learn more at sacs | NCATE/CAEP | Gapsc

March/April 2020



Certified Educator Job Fair Who Should Attend? • Certified educators • Those eligible for teaching certification for the 2020-21 school year

What to Expect: • Information about South Metro Suburban Region & Schools

What to bring with you: • At least 15 copies of a onepage resume to provide system human resources and school reps

• Meet staff and representatives from eight (8) South Metro Suburban Region & School systems representing 125+ schools and more than 100,000 students

Saturday, April 25, 2020 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Luella High School 603 Walker Drive, Locust Grove, GA 30248 Pre-registration is not required For more information contact Griffin RESA at 770-229-3247 or visit Representatives from the Griffin RESA TAPP (Teacher Alternative Preparation Programs) will also be on hand to answer questions for eligible participants. To check eligibilty requirements, please visit and click on “GaTAPP” and then click on “Information Brochure.”

PAGE Named a 2020 Top Workplace The Professional Association of Georgia Educators earned a Top Workplaces 2020 honor by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The award is the result of stellar rankings by PAGE employees, who responded to an anonymous third-party survey designed to measure top drivers of engaged workplace cultures. Of the nearly 3,000 contest participants, PAGE ranked 13th among the 65 total winners within the “small companies” (fewer than 149 employees) category. “PAGE earned recognition as a top workplace because of excellent people who enjoy serving educators and Georgia public education,” said Executive Director Craig Harper. “We take care of one another and our members like family.”

OFFICERS President: Nick Zomer President-Elect: Lindsey Martin Treasurer: Lamar Scott Past President: Dr. Hayward Cordy Secretary: Megan King DIRECTORS District 1 District 8 Dr. Oatanisha Dawson Joy Robinson District 2 District 9 Brecca Pope Jennie Persinger District 3 District 10 Mary Case Khrista Henry District 4 District 11 Rochelle Lofstrand Amy Carter District 5 District 12 Dr. Shannon Watkins TaKera Harris District 6 District 13 Dr. Susan Mullins Daerzio Harris District 7 Lance James DIRECTORS REPRESENTING RETIRED MEMBERS Vickie Hammond Dr. Sheryl Holmes


PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION OF GEORGIA EDUCATORS LEGAL DEFENSE INC. CONSOLIDATING STATEMENTS OF ACTIVITIES FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDING JUNE 30, 2019 UNRESTRICTED NET ASSETS REVENUES, GAINS AND OTHER SUPPORT PAGE CONTRIBUTION FOR LEGAL DEFENSE CLAIMS.................... $1,300,050 PAGE CONTRIBUTION FOR LEGAL DEFENSE RESERVE FUND.......... $350,000 INTEREST INCOME................................................................................... $14,713 TOTAL................................................................................................... $1,664,763 EXPENSES LEGAL EXPENSES................................................................................... $687,915 LICENSE RENEWAL........................................................................................ $500 TOTAL EXPENSES................................................................................... $688,415 INCREASE (DECREASE) IN UNRESTRICTED NET ASSETS................ $976,348 BEGINNING UNRESTRICTED NET ASSETS...................................... $1,763,877 ENDING UNRESTRICTED NET ASSETS........................................... $2,740,225 PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION OF GEORGIA EDUCATORS LEGAL DEFENSE INC. BALANCE SHEET JUNE 30, 2019 ASSETS CASH, CASH EQUIVALENTS, SHORT-TERM INVESTMENTS AND DOI RESERVE FUND.................................................................................... $3,510,692 TOTAL ASSETS..................................................................................... $3,510,692 LIABILITIES & EQUITY LEGAL CLAIMS PAYABLE.......................................................................... $62,579 LEGAL CLAIMS LOSS RESERVE.............................................................. $659,138 TAXES PAYABLE......................................................................................... $48,750 TOTAL LIABLITIES................................................................................... $770,467 UNRESTRICED NET ASSETS................................................................ $2,740,225 TOTAL LIABLITIES AND NET ASSETS............................................... $3,510,692

The articles published in PAGE One represent the views of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, except where clearly stated. Contact the editor: Meg Thornton,; PAGE One, PAGE, P.O. Box 942270, Atlanta, GA 31141-2270; 770-216-8555 or 800-334-6861. Contributions/gifts to the PAGE Foundation are deductible as charitable contributions by federal law. Costs for PAGE lobbying on behalf of members are not deductible. PAGE estimates that 7 percent of the nondeductible portion of your 2019-20 dues is allocated to lobbying. PAGE One (ISSN 1523-6188) is mailed to all PAGE members, selected higher education units and other school-related professionals. An annual subscription is included in PAGE membership dues. A subscription for others is $10 annually. Periodicals class nonprofit postage paid at Atlanta, GA, and additional mailing offices. (USPS 017-347) Postmaster: Send address changes to PAGE One, P.O. Box 942270, Atlanta, GA 31141–2270. PAGE One is published five times a year (January, March, May, August and October) by New South Publishing Inc., 9040 Roswell Road, Suite 210, Atlanta, GA 30350; 770-650-1102. Copyright ©2020 .

March/April 2020

2020 IS YOUR GA SOUTHERN GROW! COLLEGE ED AD YEAR TO Upgrade your teaching certification and enhance your classroom.

Georgia Southern University College of Education offers several programs that are approved by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (PSC) and meets the PSC’s certificate upgrade requirements in varying graduate program levels.

Master of Education (M.Ed.) Programs Curriculum and Instruction – Accomplished Teaching online Teaching Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students online Educational Leadership online

The COLLEGE OF EDUCATION at Georgia Southern University offers a wide-range of high-quality, innovative master’s, specialist’s and doctoral degree programs as well as endorsements and certificates. Designed to accommodate busy, working professionals, many programs are available online. The college’s offerings are ranked in the top tier of U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Online Graduate Education Programs.”

Master of Education (M.Ed.) and Education Specialist (Ed.S.) Programs Instructional Technology online Reading Education online Elementary Education online Middle Grades Education online Secondary Education online Special Education online

Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) Programs Curriculum Studies Hybrid STATESBORO • SAVANNAH HINESVILLE • ONLINE


in Education Continue your journey as a transforming leader in a way that fits your schedule. At Mercer University, we prepare you to lead with excellence: • Learn from highly-credentialed faculty alongside experienced professionals • Develop expertise to tackle unique challenges in education administration • Hone leadership skills to inspire others to reach their full potential Our education programs prepare you for leadership roles in various educational settings.

DR. KELLI McCAIN ’14 Ph.D. in Educational Leadership Principal, Partee Elementary School Gwinnett County

Leadership Degrees & Programs • Curriculum and Instruction, Ph.D. • Educational Leadership (P-12 Tier One), M.Ed. • Higher Education Leadership, M.Ed.* • Educational Leadership (P-12 Tier Two), Ed.S. • Educational Leadership, Ph.D. ↗ Higher Education Leadership* P-12 School Leadership • Educational Leadership Tier One Certification Only • Educational Leadership Tier Two Certification Only • Teacher Leadership, Ed.S.

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↗ GRE required for this program. *These programs do not lead to initial certification or certification upgrades.


A T L A N T A •



Mercer University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Education programs that lead to initial and advanced certification are approved by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GaPSC).