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Garth Potter named Henry County Teacher of the Year


By Melissa Robinson
Contributing Editor 

  In what would be akin to the Academy Awards for teachers, Henry County Schools held its Harvest of Heroes, an employee recognition celebration where teachers are recognized by their peers for outstanding educational contributions. 

  Superintendent Ethan Hildreth was the Master of Ceremonies, announcing each school’s Teacher of the Year, and the district-wide winner. The celebration, which was held last Thursday night at the Henry County Performing Arts Center in McDonough, also honored outstanding personnel in other categories, called the HERO Awards.

L to r: Finalist Jennifer Nelson stands with Garth Potter, Henry County Teacher of the Year at the Harvest of Heroes Celebration held last Thursday.          Photo by Melissa Robinson

  Garth Potter, an economics and world history teacher at Union Grove High School, took top honors and was named Teacher of the Year at the end of last night’s program.

  Potter was one of three finalists up for the coveted award and will represent the Henry County School District in the Georgia Teacher of the Year competition, with the winner to be announced at the state’s annual Teacher of the Year banquet held in May 2014.

  The other two finalists were Jennifer Nelson, a second grade teacher at Hickory Flat Charter Elementary and Joseph Hawkins, an art teacher at Stockbridge Middle School. All of Henry County’s 51 schools were represented with each school’s individual teacher of the year selected by his or her peers.

  According to J.D. Hardin, Communications Specialist for Henry County Schools, after earning the Teacher of the Year title at their prospective schools, each school’s representative submitted an application package for the system-wide award. The application required answers to several questions ranging from their initial interest in teaching, to what they see as trends in teaching and how they impact classroom instruction. Finalists were then considered for the title of Henry County Schools’ Teacher of the Year after a classroom observation and interview process.

  Potter has been educating at the high school level for 16 years and has taught various social science subjects. He was born in Virginia, raised in South Carolina and graduated from the University of Georgia, where he earned his undergraduate degree in History and Social Science Education in 1996, and a master’s degree in Social Science Education in 1998.

  Potter received cash and prizes, including funds for the professional development conference of his choice, totaling just over $4,000. The two finalists received cash and prizes in excess of $1,500. Potter said he was excited to be a finalist and that it was an honor to be named Teacher of the Year.

  “It’s just that I know how talented all of the teachers are in this county, and so to be chosen among so many great people is such a honor,” said Potter, after winning the designation.

  The Harvest of Heroes ceremony also recognized this year’s other outstanding staff members including the Media Specialist of the Year and the classified employees of the year, all known as the HERO Awards. In addition to Media Specialist of the Year, there are four categories for the HERO Award nominations, including Service, School Nutrition, Transportation and Support Personnel.

  In the Service Employee category, this year’s winner was custodian Carolyn Gay from Locust Grove Elementary. Gay has been working in Henry County Schools for 20 years and, according to LGE principal Christi Peterman, is held in high regard throughout the school for her care and compassion for the students and staff.

  Judith Haynes, the School Nutrition Manager at Fairview Elementary, is the HERO Award winner for the School Nutrition category. She has been with Henry County Schools for 12 years, and previously won a HERO award while working at Woodland Middle School.

  Pat Will, school bus driver for Smith-Barnes Elementary School in Stockbridge was named this year’s HERO in the Transportation category. He has been a driver for four years and according to Cliff Shearouse, Transportation Director, is held in high regard for his dedication to the children and in assisting other drivers.

  Amy Tinsley is the Support Personnel category HERO Award winner.  She has been with the school system for 18 years and works as an administrative assistant in the Student Support Services department.

  The Media Specialist of the Year for Henry County Schools is Juli Gilbert, who has been with the school system for 14 years and has been at McDonough Elementary for the past 12 years.

  Hardin said the festive atmosphere that surrounds the Harvest of Heroes event is a well- deserved recognition for teachers and staff.

  “It’s definitely one of the highlights of the year,” said Hardin. “So much centers on student achievement, but that wouldn’t be possible without all of our outstanding teachers and its great to take a night to honor them.”

  For more information on Henry County Schools, visit



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