'Teacher of the Year' seeks to encourage others



While Melissa Sloan, a fourth-grade teacher at Lake City Elementary School, was delivering her math lesson to her students, one day last week, she had no idea what was about to happen.

Unbeknown to her, Sloan was about to be announced as Clayton County Public Schools’ 2011-12 “Teacher of the Year.”

“I was absolutely surprised,” said a cheerful Sloan. “I still don’t believe it has happened.” She even compared the feeling she had to the emotions she felt running her first marathon –– The Flying Pig –– in Cincinnati, Ohio, several years ago.

To be named teacher of the year for the whole district, she explained, starts with a nomination by fellow teachers, then moves to being named teacher of the year at your local school. “Once you win at your school, then, you go for the county,” she said. There, the competition is even stiffer.

Sloan added that during the selection process, she had to answer several questions, and write an essay. School district officials then chose six finalists.

“Melissa absolutely deserves this honor,” said Erica Johnson, her principal at Lake City Elementary School. “She is a wonderful teacher, who challenges her students and keeps them engaged at all times. I have a good feeling about this.”

Sloan, is a veteran teacher, who said her career began 15 years ago in Ohio. She has spent nine of those years in the Clayton County school district.

She earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Dayton, in Ohio; he master’s at the University of Cincinnati.

She said she wants to use this recognition to be a voice for the teachers of Clayton County. She added that among issues of concern for teachers in the county are salaries, because of the strained economy, and at the top of the priority list –– is time. “[Teachers] need time for [classroom] planning, and grade-level planning,” she said.

Now that she has won the honor on the county-wide level, she said, she will seek recognition on the state level. She said she hopes her determination will encourage other teachers in the county to look beyond problems or obstacles, to continue growing, improving and making themselves the best they can be.

“You have to be on your A-game all the time,” she said, “because you are representing other teachers.”

She said the common goal for all teachers is making sure all students are reaching their maximum potential, academically.