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Vidalia BOE Celebrates Teachers of the Year

Vidalia BOE Celebrates Teachers of the Year
TEACHERS OF THE YEAR – This year’s Teacher of the Year awardees were honored at the regular monthly meeting of the Vidalia City Schools Board of Education on Tuesday, November 14. Front row, L to R: Rhett Carter, Margaret Pournelle, Ruby Bryant, Sonya Allmond. Back row, L to R: Principals Eric McDonald, Bruce Mulkey, Brandon Boston, Charlene Norfleet.Photo by Makaylee Randolph
Vidalia BOE Celebrates Teachers of the Year
TEACHERS OF THE YEAR – This year’s Teacher of the Year awardees were honored at the regular monthly meeting of the Vidalia City Schools Board of Education on Tuesday, November 14. Front row, L to R: Rhett Carter, Margaret Pournelle, Ruby Bryant, Sonya Allmond. Back row, L to R: Principals Eric McDonald, Bruce Mulkey, Brandon Boston, Charlene Norfleet.Photo by Makaylee Randolph

Family and friends filled the meeting room at the Vidalia City Schools Board of Education as the school system’s Teacher of the Year awardees were honored during the Board’s regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, November 13. “This is always an exciting time for us. This is a time when we get to recognize our best and our brightest,” Superintendent Garrett Wilcox began. “I hope you are as excited about getting recognized for your efforts as you are that your peers – the folks you work with every day — have recognized you. That means a lot. For them to say that you are the person they want to represent them, I hope that means a little bit more today than just this recognition and what comes with it.” J.D. Dickerson Primary School J.D. Dickerson Primary School Principal Charlene Norfleet and Assistant Principal Beth Wiggins not only introduced the 2023 J.D. Dickerson Primary School Teacher of the Year Sonya Allmond, but also presented her with a t-shirt which featured several words which Allmond’s colleagues used to describe her.

“The person that I want to talk to you about has dedicated 27 years to J.D. Dickerson Primary School,” Norfleet emphasized. “Just visualize all of the lives that she’s touched, all of the families that she’s touched, and the beautiful children that she’s touched along the way. On any given morning, you might walk down to her room and she’s in her classroom singing with her babies – that’s how she gets their day started. She’s invited me in several times to do that with them or to listen to them sing, and that just says a lot about how she creates that loving community for her students.”

Norfleet continued, “She communicates with her parents; she makes them feel welcome in her classroom. She sincerely cares about the wellbeing of each individual student that she has in her class. She appreciates the collaboration that she has with her teammates, and she constantly works with her teammates to ensure she’s there for any task that needs to be completed. She has a lot to say about it all, and we appreciate that because you can’t grow and change without everyone’s input.”

“Thank you for who you are,” Norfleet told Allmond, before returning to address the crowd. “Her colleagues say that she is the backbone of Kindergarten, so that says a lot within itself.”

Wiggins read off some of the descriptions from the shirt, which included words like “kind,” “funloving,” “compassionate,” “passionate,” “cheerful,” “dependable,” and “welcoming.” She also shared an acrostic poem which one teacher wrote about Allmond. “She is VITAL – she is vital to Kindergarten, she is vital to JDD, she is a vital part of her family. For all of that, she is versatile, impactful, thoughtful, approachable, and loyal to our school,” Wiggins said.

Allmond reacted to this recognition, as she shared, “I just want to say thank you to everyone. It is true that it takes a family, especially at J.D. Dickerson.”

She highlighted two colleagues – Harriet Smiley and Ashley Weinberg – who helped her during her transition to Kindergarten. “I had taught 2nd grade for 10 years, so when I moved to Kindergarten and said, ‘All right, boys and girls, write your name on your paper,’ Mrs. Smiley looked at me and whispered, ‘They can’t do that.’ I was like ‘What?!’ But Mrs. Smiley was with me forever in Kindergarten and we had the best time,” she reminisced. “Now, I have Mrs. Wineberg with me, and I hope I don’t lose her soon — her husband is in the Army, so they may have to leave us. But I couldn’t do it without them. If I’m ever sick, both of them take my class and keep going.”

Allmond also spoke of her gratitude to her family, who she said has offered unwavering support throughout the years, as well as her colleagues and administration, who she said has never failed to step in and support however needed.

Sally D. Meadows Elementary School

Sally D. Meadows Elementary School Principal Brandon Boston and Assistant Principals Michael Johnson and Ben Helms, all spoke about the 2023 Sally D. Meadows Elementary School Teacher of the Year Ruby Bryant.

“Our motto at Sally D. Meadows is ‘All In,’ and we are here to celebrate one of our teammates, Mrs. Ruby, who embodies that every single day at our school — she’s all in,” Boston remarked. “We have a lot of new at SDM — and with all the new that we have going on, she’s all in. She’s a great teammate; she’s a great friend, and she’s awesome to have on our team. She loves our kids, and we are all about trying to give our kids the best school experience possible — she does that every single day.”

Johnson added, “When I think about Mrs. Ruby, I think about 2019 – [it was my] first year in administration — she was definitely one of those in the building that would come by, check in on you, pray with you, and encourage you. I’ve seen that spread everywhere that she’s been throughout the building, whether its 4th grade or 3rd grade, where she is now. Her teammates describe her as that ‘mother hen’ that calls and checks in on them, whether it be the evenings, first week of school, etc. She’s just that kind of person, and I see that love go into the classrooms to her students and in every capacity that she’s worked in. This is well deserved.”

Helms followed, "I'll say this about Ruby – I worked with her in Tattnall County Schools many, many years ago, and when I got to Sally D. Meadows in 2019, it was more of a together again kind of thing. If you don’t know Ruby, if you haven't been blessed to meet her, that is your loss. She is a fantastic person, she is a fantastic teacher, and we are honored to get to work with her every day.”

After accepting her award, Bryant addressed the crowd. “I would like to first start off by saying I am truly grateful and honored to be the Teacher of the Year at Sally D. Meadows. I am also honored and grateful to work with such great people. They had to put their confidence in me to allow me to be able to stand here today. I also would like to thank my colleagues and all of the educators that I work for, because they all work hard. We all work very hard every day to make sure that students are prepared for what they need in the future, and for that, I am grateful. It’s not always easy — I can tell you that. But when you have people to support you and back you up, it makes it all worthwhile.”

She continued, “I would just like to say that teaching is a passion and a calling. If I had not been called as a teacher, I don’t think I could be standing here today because it is truly a calling and a passion. I pray every day that God continues to instill in me what I need to give the students what they need to be successful.”

Bryant concluded thanking the Board, her colleagues, and her husband, whom she said has helped to support her throughout her years as an educator.

J. R. Trippe Middle School J.R. Trippe Middle School Principal Eric Mc-Donald had the opportunity to speak about not just the J.R. Trippe Middle School Teacher of the Year, but also the Vidalia City Schools District Teacher of the Year, as Rhe Carter took home both awards.

“To be named Teacher of the Year at J.R. Trippe is a tremendous honor because the competition is extremely stiff,” McDonald began. “The hardest thing I have done so far as principal is dig through everything we had to dig through to determine who would be our Teacher of the Year.”

He continued, “Coach Carter does a phenomenal job inside of the classroom. The students are engaged bell to bell, and they actively learn every day — the activity that goes on in that classroom is tremendous. It is most evident by how his students respond when people enter his classroom. We had a Department of Education review a few weeks ago, and one of the things that came back from that is that one lady said, ‘I went in this man’s classroom, and that is the most engagement I have ever seen in any classroom anywhere.’ I said, ‘It had to be Coach Carter,’ and she agreed. I said, ‘He got Teacher of the Year,’ and she said, ‘Well, he deserves it.’” “When you go in that door, nothing changes. It is as seamless as you get every day from him,” Mc-Donald added. “He has middle school wit, and he uses humor with students and is able to do so because of the relationship he has with them.”

The principal highlighted Carter’s fun and enthusiastic spirit, explaining that he took his school picture as Clark Kent with a superman shirt also visible due to picture day being on Superhero Day during a dress-up week. “The students and staff feel that enthusiasm — it’s contagious. Students love Coach Carter; he holds them accountable, but gives them opportunities to take risks, to fail, and to try again. That was evidenced by the response in the hallway when he was announced. The students lined up throughout the hallways as Coach Carter ran through high-fiving them as they hollered and cheered for him.”

McDonald concluded by highlighting Carter’s work as a new teacher mentor and as a sponsor of the Young Gentleman’s Club, which provides young at-risk males with positive influences. “This just speaks volumes to his heart,” he emphasized.

Carter also addressed the attendees. “If you stick around somewhere long enough and you have a good support system around you, stuff like this is possible,” he commented. “I’m proud of what I do, and grateful for the opportunity to do it. I appreciate everything.”

He thanked his colleagues and former coworkers for the knowledge and support which they gave him throughout the years, along with his wife, who is a fellow teacher, and family without whom he said the honor would not be possible.

Vidalia High School

Vidalia High School Principal Bruce Mulkey spoke on the Vidalia High School Teacher of the Year Margaret Pournelle during her recognition. “We are very fortunate to have her. I had the opportunity recently to talk to her about how she ended up at Vidalia City Schools and how long she had been here — if you hear her story and how she ended up with Vidalia City Schools, you would truly understand how fortunate we are that she is with us,” he told the attendees.

Mulkey explained that not only does Pournelle teach English at the high school, but also leads the Literary and One Act Play teams. “If you follow [the school] closely, you know she has won 10 straight Literary region championships and eight out of 10 region championships in One Act Play,” he continued. “These are outstanding results. What she does with our kids is truly amazing, and we are blessed to have her. There are teachers at our school who I have a lot of respect for; then, there are teachers at our school who we admire. But every now and then, a teacher comes along that inspires you. Margaret inspires me. She inspires me when watching how she interacts with the students; she also inspires me with the way she goes about her business. I think that she is at the top of her game, but what inspires me about her is that she is consistently trying to get better. She is a leader in our building, she inspires teachers and kids around her, and we are very fortunate to have her.”

This award marks the second time that Pournelle has received Teacher of the Year, and she came to the podium to share her gratitude for the recognition. “I am so grateful to be at Vidalia High School. Just like Mr. Mulkey said, my story of being here is crazy. It’s a long story, but I got hired in October of the year, so I started at the end of October very unexpectedly. But I do feel like the Lord just opened up this job, and I’ve never wanted to leave or felt like I was supposed to leave,” she emphasized. “I’m just so thankful to be here and blessed to teach the kids I teach. I think we have the best kids in the state, I really do.”

Other Business

The bid for 22 interactive panels for the school system was awarded to EdTech12 for a total cost of $90,546.

Resignations were ac –

cepted for Reading Spe cialist Tina Anderson and J.R. Trippe Middle School Teacher Abigail Genereux, while Tyler Maybin was hired as a J.R. Trippe Mid dle School Teacher and Jodie Branch was hired as a Sally D. Meadows Elementary School teacher.

The Board also set in place several norms and protocols for board meetings, which may be viewed online on the district’s website.

Recent Death Notices