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Five Southern Crescent teachers to be honored

By Greg Gelpi

Focused on students, teaching and the classroom, she didn't even realize what she was honored for.

Jill Stillions of Riverdale Elementary School was one of five Southern Crescent teachers named teachers of the year by Wal-Mart.

Four Clayton County teachers and one teacher from Henry county were are among a group selected as Wal-Mart Teachers of the Year.

Stillions, Kimberly Gore of Mundy's Mill High School, Kathy Baker of Morrow High School, Denise Pope of Brown Elementary School and Tammy Milner of Mount Carmel Elementary School will be recognized during a breakfast with Gov. Sonny Perdue Tuesday, National Teacher's Day.

In the metro Atlanta area, 53 teachers were recognized as Teachers of the Year.

In her 24th year teaching, 22 years of which were at Riverdale Elementary, Stillions works as the school's literacy coach, moving between classes demonstrating new education models for other teachers as part of a school improvement program.

"I didn't know I wanted to go into teaching, but I have always worked with children," Stillions said.

Standing in front of a kindergarten class, she read an Eric Carle book to the students, part of the author study that she is incorporating into the classroom.

Turning reading to the student into an interactive program, the Riverdale Elementary kindergartners demonstrated their ability to read and write.

"When you say kindergarten, they can't do that," Stillions said. "You just saw them."

She encourages the students to find connections between the books they read in class and their lives, she said.

In creating an environment for the children to learn, they will learn, Stillions said. It is more about getting them to learn than it is about teaching them.

The Wal-Mart/SAM'S CLUB Foundation will donate $1,000 educational grants to each teacher as well as an honorary Wal-Mart greeter's vest.

The foundation is giving $136,000 in educational grants in Georgia and $4.3 million throughout the country.

Baker has already started plans for her educational grant. She said she will give $500 of the grant to Morrow High's drama program and the other $500 to the school's general fund.

The teachers were nominated by members of the community in February and chosen by a committee of store employees.

"We are proud to help raise awareness for excellence in education and to salute teachers, who play such an important role in growing and shaping young people," said Betsy Reithemeyer, vice president and director of the Wal-Mart/SAM'S CLUB Foundation.

The teachers have the opportunity to apply for the state competition for Teacher of the Year. The winners at the state level will automatically be entered into the national competition and the chance for a $25,000 educational grant.