The Dodge County School System Teacher of the Year (TOTY) was announced on Friday, March 22, 2013, at the Eastman Rotary Club. Dodge County High School nominee, Heather Cameron, was recognized as the Dodge County TOTY.
Georgia’s Teacher of the Year program annually spotlights the teaching profession and recognizes outstanding public school teachers. The program is sponsored by the Georgia Department of Education. It is a prestigious awards program that focuses attention on excellence in teaching. The first Georgia Teacher of the Year (TOTY) was selected in 1971.
Teachers of the Year are those who “get it.” They realize that their success as an educator is measured by the success of their students and the relationships they establish with all educational stakeholders.
Teachers of the Year are educational ambassadors for our public school systems, our students and our teachers. The heart of a teacher loves for students to succeed and does what is necessary to ensure their achievement. When selected as TOTY, these educators are given another task. They complete an extensive application that details their professional biography and teaching philosophy, professional learning activities, community involvement, their opinions regarding educational issues and trends and the teaching profession. The nominees for the system honor are the Teachers of the Year from each of the respective schools and they were introduced by the individual principals who told why their candidate stands apart and was selected for this prestigious recognition. Teacher of the Year plaques were awarded to each nominee.
Dr. Susan Long introduced Heather Cameron, the TOTY from Dodge County High School. Dr. Dennis also recognized Cameron as the Dodge County School System Teacher of the Year and provided additional information. In her application, Cameron says that she is “ultimately responsible for opening minds and touching the hearts” of her students. She says, “In my heart, I always knew that being a teacher was what I wanted to do; however, more than anything, teaching was what I was supposed to do.” She tells the story of her father walking in to find her as a first year teacher being spread out all over the floor with paper sacks, candy and school supplies. When he asked what she was doing, she explained, “I was naive during my first year of teaching, but the blinders that blocked my vision of society were quickly removed. Not all of my students were like me. They didn’t have families to love them, support them and encourage them to do their best, or even to sit down at dinner with every night. They did not have parents to help them with their homework or to tuck them into bed when it was time to go to sleep.” She told her dad that many of her students wouldn’t receive a Christmas gift and that she wanted them to get at least one. These goody bags were for her students.
Cameron believes that life is like a deck of cards and that every individual plays the hand he’s dealt. Even in these times of furlough days and high accountability, she believes that being a teacher is the greatest job in the world! She also believes that she should model the behavior she wants her students to exhibit. She says, “If I am kind, then maybe they will do the same. If I am eager and enthusiastic, then maybe they will be the same.”
Cameron has taught for seven years and has been nominated for TOTY for five of those years. She has also served as department chairperson for five years and has participated in numerous leadership opportunities at her school. In addition, this is her third year as tennis coach of a team that has advanced to the Sweet 16 during both of the past two seasons. In addition to teaching science, her leadership roles and her coaching responsibilities, Cameron also possesses musical talent. She has shared these by singing the National Anthem at athletic events and at the school’s annual talent show.
The TOTY for the Dodge County Schools realizes her responsibility as an educator and considers every day a blessing. Cameron wrote, “To realize the value of a year, ask someone who has cancer. To realize the value of a month, ask a mother who has given birth to a premature baby. To realize the value of day, ask two people who are waiting to meet. To realize the value of a minute, ask someone who just missed his bus or plane. To realize the value of a second, ask someone who just survived an accident. To realize the value of a millisecond, ask a silver medal winner. To realize the value of a child, ask a teacher. Each day, hour and minute that we are given with our students is precious. So, I will teach like there is no tomorrow.”