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Students applaud Teacher of the Year selection

By Greg Gelpi

"She expects the best, and that's what we try to give her," Ishmael Kaikai said.

And now Adamson Middle School sixth grade teacher Anita Thomaston has been recognized as the best. The Clayton County school system announced Thomaston as the system-wide 2005 Teacher of the Year.

Thomaston, who teaches reading and gifted language arts, said this was her third time to be nominated for the honor and was hoping that this would be her year to win.

"I think it comes as no surprise because she's a great teacher," Shanae Thompkins, one of her students, said. "She takes time not just to grade work. She takes time to show what we did wrong and why."

Thomaston prides herself on her teaching style, not only teaching facts, but teaching how to learn as well.

How to think, analyze and come up with answers cannot be looked up in a book, Thomaston said, calling her teaching "facilitated" learning.

She teaches "more than just facts because facts can be looked up," she said. "Children learn the best when they figure it out themselves."

Her students respond to her teaching style and soak up what she teaches and the jokes she injects into her lessons.

"I was really happy for her," Tiffany Reid, 11, said. "She's a really good teacher and deserves to win."

Thomaston puts time into teaching and demonstrates her care for her students, Reid said.

"She listens to us if we have a problem," she said. "She breaks things down so we can learn."

And she teaches her students by making learning fun, Jason Daniel, 11, said. Her students recently created scenes from J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit."

"She makes everything we learn fun," Daniel said.

Thomaston, a 28-year veteran of teaching, said she is "very excited" about the recognition, but added the best reward is "when your children do well."

"My mother was a teacher, and I love children," Thomaston said, adding that her mother taught in the Clayton County school system for 32 years. "Everyday they make me smile. They lift me up everyday."

She has taught for 10 years at Adamson, and taught for the previous 17 at Arnold Elementary School.

"I want them to succeed," Thomaston said. "I want them to do well. I stay after them to make sure they do what they need to do. Failure is not an option."

Thomaston also serves as a teacher mentor, helping new teachers entering the profession and starting careers at Adamson.

"I hope it's an omen for the rest of the year," said newly hired Adamson interim Principal Douglas Hendrix.

Hendrix said he recognized Thomaston's gifts as a teacher immediately.

On the job for two days, he called her "very deserving" from what he knows so far.

"My immediate impression is that she is deserving of everything she has," Hendrix said. "It's apparent she's a leader on the staff."

Thomaston was chosen from among the teachers of the year from each of the county's schools. The other finalists for the honor were Iris Bryan-Blevins of Hawthorne Elementary School, Dan Lloyd of Forest Park High School, Irene Mauss of Morrow Middle School, Makesha Murray of Lake City Elementary School and Chris Tucker of Kendrick Middle School.

The teachers of the year from each school will be honored at a banquet set for Jan. 13.