An elementary school teacher who is honored to teach at the same school he attended as a child has been named the 2018 Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year (TOTY). During the annual Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year banquet, Gwinnett County Public Schools CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks announced Dr. Doug Doblar of Head Elementary School as the recipient of the school system’s highest teaching honor. The announcement took place during the annual celebration on Thursday, November 9, 2017, at the Infinite Energy Forum in Duluth. In all, the school district recognized 138 local school Teachers of the Year who were joined by loved ones, local school and central office administrators, and the Gwinnett County Board of Education.
Prior to earning the school system’s top honor, Dr. Doblar was first named the 2018 Gwinnett County Elementary School Teacher of the Year. He was selected as Gwinnett’s top teacher from a group of six finalists which had been narrowed to three level winners. Cheri Nations of North Gwinnett Middle School is Gwinnett’s 2018 Middle School Teacher of the Year and Amy Crisp of Norcross High School was presented with the 2018 High School Teacher of the Year honor.
The TOTY selection process began at the start of the school year when thousands of teachers from throughout the district nominated and selected 138 teachers to represent their local schools. A selection committee later narrowed the group to 25 semifinalists, and finally to the six finalists. In addition to the three level winners (Dr. Doblar, Mrs. Nations, and Ms.Crisp), the other three finalists were Ebony Flott of Camp Creek Elementary School, John Chvatal of Brookwood High School, and Michelle E. Jones of Gwinnett Online Campus.
GWINNETT COUNTY TEACHER OF THE YEAR AND ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER OF THE YEAR
Dr. Doug Doblar, 4th and 5th Grade Mathematics and Science Teacher
at Head Elementary
Dr. Doug Doblar says that his career has, quite literally, taken him everywhere from kindergarten to college. His 15-year career in education started as a long-term substitute teaching high school, followed by a three-year term teaching middle school. After that, he served four years as a college instructor while he worked full time on a PhD, before returning to a Gwinnett classroom as a local school technology coordinator at an elementary school. And in 2015, he came full circle, returning to the school he attended as an elementary school student to teach math and science. He says, “At every stage I have had huge accomplishments of which I’m still extremely proud to this day. Objectively speaking, some of those contributions (like building a college course for 800 pre-service teachers and leading an entire school’s modernization of its technology usage) may have had wider impacts than those I’m making today. However, the impact I’m able to see now is far deeper. The icing on the cake is that I’m getting to experience these rewarding outcomes teaching at the same elementary school that I attended as a student and that serves the community in which I currently live. Knowing that those contributions impact the very community that has supported me for most of my life is fulfilling beyond explanation.”
One of the tenets of his teaching philosophy is “engagement is paramount.” He explains, “It has been my experience that when learning isn’t genuinely engaging for students, they either ignore it or endure it. The single most inspiring difference in the teachers I admire is the engagement of their students— they love coming to school, never want to leave, and achieve beyond what they ever have as a result. Excellence means not only measurable learning of standards, but also connecting those AKS to students’ curiosity and to what is naturally fascinating about the world. It means learning the AKS and being excited that you did. It means experiencing the AKS instead of receiving them.”
An example of how Dr. Doblar helps his students to experience the AKS by connecting it to the world around them resulted in a unit he calls “Save the Science Trailer.” When he was having a particularly hard time gaining the interest of his students in learning about erosion and weathering he noticed that the science trailer had a substantial weathering and erosion problem beneath it. He took advantage of the students’ concern about the impact on “their” science lab to leverage their genuine problem into a full project-based learning experience. As part of their work showing their mastery of this topic, students participated in an engineering design opportunity and created a video that spotlighted their creativity and maximized their message.
Dr. Doblar has a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from the University of Georgia, a master’s degree in Mathematics Education from Georgia State University, and a doctoral degree in Instructional Technology from Indiana University.
MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER OF THE YEAR
Cheri A. Nations, STEM (Science Enrichment) Teacher
at North Gwinnett Middle School
Cheri Nations will tell you that her interest in teaching can be attributed to a single, passionate physics teacher she had in high school. “He was knowledgeable, fun, and made physics come alive for me,” she says. “He established a relationship with all his students that validated our worth and inspired us to follow our passions. I went on to major in Chemistry at Georgia Tech. I love science, math, and new technology. I have a strong desire to foster this same love of science and math in my students.”
She shares that when she first interviewed to teach the STEM connections class that she had to sell her vision for the STEM program at the school. She says, “I explained my passion for STEM for ALL students. I knew that high science/math students were already motivated to continue on an advanced track. I wanted a chance to show everyone else how cool science could be and how it relates to our fast-changing world.”
She does this by using an inquiry-based, student-driven teaching style in her classroom. She explains, “We are currently preparing our kids for jobs that don’t exist yet, where they will use technology that has not yet been invented, to solve problems that we are not even aware of yet. This means that we cannot teach our students the same way we were taught. Instead, we must teach them the skills to become lifelong learners, problem-solvers, and collaborators… Inquiry-based and project-based learning has always been a part of teaching our gifted students. I believe this instructional approach is beneficial for ALL students and often reaches students who struggle with more conventional, structured classrooms.”
HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER OF THE YEAR
Amy Crisp, English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) - Language Arts Teacher, at Norcross High School
Amy Crisp views teaching as her “calling.” She remembers how as an undergraduate at Furman University, pursuing an English degree, her goal was to work in journalism or public relations. Teaching was not her plan. End of story… or so she thought. However, after graduation while working in the marketing/journalism field her eyes were opened to a different path for her life.
That new path started with a request from one of her mother’s Korean neighbors who asked her to tutor their son who was in 3rd grade. Before long, that student’s father, who was trying to learn English, asked if she would tutor him, as well. To her surprise, she was becoming more engrossed in her “hobby” than in her career. Soon after, she enrolled in Georgia State to become a teacher of English learners and 17 years later she is a proud ESOL teacher and Gwinnett County’s High School Teacher of the Year.
Ms. Crisp started her career at Norcross as an ESOL teacher in 2000. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Furman University, a master’s degree in English Education from Georgia State University, and a specialist’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Piedmont College.
As Gwinnett County’s 2018 Teacher of the Year, Dr. Doblar will now compete for the Georgia title. He will receive an annual award of $1,000 and the other two level winners will each receive $750 each year, for as long as they are employed with GCPS. The finalists will receive a one-time award of $500. The five finalists who did not win the county honor also will receive a $250 grocery store gift card and gift basket. Each local school winner will receive a one-time award of $200.
Dr. Doblar also will receive a crystal peach, a $500 grocery store gift card and gift basket, a commemorative ring, a laptop computer, and the use of a new car for one year. GCPS would like to thank this year’s sponsors, including the presenting sponsor Peach State Federal Credit Union, for their support of great teachers and for making this celebration of outstanding teaching possible. Sponsors include:
Peach State Federal Credit Union
Balfour Hayes Chrysler Dodge Jeep VALIC
Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED, Inc.
J Smith Lanier & Company
Junior Achievement of Georgia
Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation Fund, Inc.