Clayton County teacher singled out for honor

By Trina Trice

Jonesboro High School teacher Terry Tuck is being honored with a new title and money by two of Georgia's biggest institutions.

Tuck was named 2003 Educator of the Year, part of the Bellsouth Excellence in Education program which is also sponsored by the Atlanta Braves.

As the top winner in the program, Tuck receives a $2,500 grant that will be presented officially Sept. 9 at an Atlanta Braves home game.

Tuck found out he was a finalist earlier this summer.

He was one of 23 other teachers in metro Atlanta nominated to receive the honor, said Pete Meadows, BellSouth representative.

"I thought it was a joke," Tuck said. "I thought it was my friends playing a joke on me."

When he found out as a finalist that he had a chance to vie for the $2,500 grant, Tuck went for it.

"I didn't think I would get it," he said. "Honestly, I think I won because it was summertime and there weren't many other teachers around."

Despite his humility, Tuck got the top honor and is ready to spend the money for his multimedia production class in the spring semester.

"We do everything," he said. "We learn Powerpoint, FrontPage, Flash. (In the class, students) are being creative. They learn something they can use once they go to college. But we're kind of limited to what our budget is."

Tuck is purchasing a digital camera, tripod, wireless microphones, and editing software for the class.

With the purchases Tuck, a 31-year veteran teacher, hopes to bring his students up to speed with expanding technology.

Last year, Tuck had to borrow a digital camera from his wife, a Clayton County Schools media specialist, for two major media projects shown on Jonesboro High School's closed circuit television.

The "Wes School Tackle" project was one such endeavor starring a popular football player who graduated from the school in May.

Tuck showed a videotape of the dress rehearsals of a student production of "Grease" during homeroom in the mornings.

"We did the trailer for ?Grease'," he said. "We sold out the two nights. We had to turn people away."

Tuck attributes the production's success, in part, to giving the student body a taste of the performances.

When Tuck began teaching in 1972, he didn't imagine technology in the classroom would go as far as it has.

For his first job in 1972, he taught typing on manual typewriters.

"I tell students that it was because we didn't have electricity then," he said laughing. "Some of them believe me."

While he tries to keep up with technology, Tuck tries to keep up with the students.

"I've seen a lot of changes," he said. "The kids have got so many more distractions than they had. The family is more dysfunctional. But we've got some great parents and kids at this school. I've been real lucky the last three or four years. I haven't had discipline problems, except for minor ones. You have to give them something to do (in class)."

With the new digital camera, Tuck says his multimedia class could do interviews of the school's Teacher of the Year and students of the month.

The BellSouth Excellence in Education program recognizes educators in the metro Atlanta area for their outstanding contributions to students and peers both inside and outside of the classroom.

Jonesboro High School art teacher Bob Putnam received an Excellence in Education award last year.