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Clayton Schools salutes top teachers

Photo by Curt Yeomans

Mt. Zion Primary School Kindergarten Teacher Ave Maria Tatum, who is the 2010 Clayton County Public Schools Teacher of the Year, urged her fellow educators to work hard to meet the needs of their students.

Photo by Curt Yeomans Mt. Zion Primary School Kindergarten Teacher Ave Maria Tatum, who is the 2010 Clayton County Public Schools Teacher of the Year, urged her fellow educators to work hard to meet the needs of their students.

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Sixty educators from Clayton County schools strode across the stage at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center to the applause of their colleagues on Thursday night, as the district's teachers of the year were recognized.

The annual ceremony is designed to recognize each school-level Teacher of the Year, as well as the six finalists for the system-wide Teacher of the Year honor. As each teacher's name was called by Mike Brooks, the host of the CBS 46 "Better Mornings Atlanta" show, the educators walked across the stage, and shook the hand of Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley.

Heatley then took to the podium and offered praise to not only the teachers who were being recognized during the ceremony, but to those in the audience as well.

"These are the people who work hard every day to make sure their students are connected to their school, and to their community, and have a chance to go somewhere in life," Heatley said. "We have, on this stage, and in the audience, some of the finest educators anywhere ... We are in good hands, parents. We are rising to the top."

The main honoree on Thursday was Mt. Zion Primary School Kindergarten Teacher Ave Maria Tatum, who is Clayton County's newest overall Teacher of the Year.

As Clayton County Public Schools' Teacher of the Year, Tatum will compete for state and national Teacher of the Year honors later this school year.

After videos of all six county-wide Teacher of the Year finalists were played, Tatum took the podium, and addressed her fellow educators. While the song "Ave Maria" played in the background, Tatum urged her fellow teachers to work every day to meet the needs of their students.

"I'm not asking you to spend a fortune on them, giving them material things," Tatum said. "What I am asking is that you spend time finding out what goes on in their lives and caring about them enough to help them get through whatever is going on in their lives, and caring about them enough to help them get through whatever is going on in their world outside of school.

"So, I ask you tonight, when you go back to your classroom tomorrow and see your students, will you look into their eyes and hearts and understand what they need?" Tatum asked her fellow educators.

Tatum, 35, a resident of McDonough, is in her 10th year of teaching, and her fifth year with Clayton County Public Schools. She started with the district as a first-grade teacher at Mt. Zion Elementary School in 2005. She began teaching kindergartners when pre-kindergarten through second-grade was moved from that school, to the adjacent Mt. Zion Primary School in 2008.

As Mt. Zion Primary School Principal Denise Thompson finished reading comments Tatum's family, co-workers and students offered about her, the school's top administrator, as well as several teachers and other administrators from the school, shouted, "We say she is awesome!"