Northgate High School English teacher Hilary Perry was announced as the 2021 Coweta County School System Teacher of the Year (TOTY) Thursday night, at the annual TOTY ceremony hosted by the Coweta County Board of Education.
Perry was chosen as Coweta’s top teacher from among 31 Teachers of the Year and from among three finalists including Sarah Trotter, a Special Education teacher at Willis Road Elementary School, and Amanda Bowles, a Math teacher at East Coweta High School.
The annual TOTY ceremony was hosted by the Coweta County school board at the Nixon Centre for Performing and Visual Arts. The annual program honors some of Coweta County’s most accomplished educators, and also featured 2019 Teacher of the Year Ahley Nelson, of Ruth Hill Elementary School. Nelson was the school system’s nominee for state Teacher of the Year, and served as the keynote speaker for the June 3 TOTY ceremony.
All 31 Teachers of the Year honored Thursday night – and Nelson, as the system’s state TOTY nominee – served as both honorees for the past two years. The Coweta Teacher of the Year ceremony was missed last year following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the state’s suspension of the TOTY program at that time, and recognitions were held over until this year.
Northgate’s Perry has served as a 9th-12th Grade English Teacher at Northgate High School since 2013. She also serves as the chair of the school’s English Department and as a member of Northgate’s School Building Leadership Team. Perry began her career in 2003, teaching high school English in Rockingham County Schools, in Virginia, and has also taught English in Marshall, Missouri, Hazelton, Pennsylvania, and at East Coweta High School.
“Hilary Perry is a ‘students teacher’,” said Ken Kesselring, a Coweta Schools administrator and Perry’s former principal. “When a student looks at their schedule in August and they see Hilary Perry is their English teacher, a smile appears on the face of the student. That is because the student knows they will be loved and respected every day they walk into English class.”
Kesselring shared a letter that a student of Perry’s had sent her recently. The student said that, during the transition from online learning – during the early days of the pandemic – to in-person learning in the fall “Mrs. Perry’s teaching never changed. It didn’t matter if we were online or in person, we were all equally engaged and checked on. I look back at this… difficult year and couldn’t imagine a better teacher teaching me. I feel that I have learned so much from her class, and I think we all learned so much from her because we knew she cared about us.”
“Because her students feel loved and respected, they will do their best to succeed because they don’t want to let Mrs. Perry down,” said Kesselring.
Coweta County’s 2020 and 21 Teachers of the Year were all honored Thursday night by members of the Board of Education, Superintendent Evan Horton, and outgoing Coweta Teacher of the Year Ashley Nelson. Vice-Chairman Andrew Copeland served as master of ceremonies during the event.
The teachers honored included:
Dani Kelly, Special Education (Arbor Springs Elementary)
Adrienne True, Pre-Kindergarten (Arnco-Sargent Elementary)
Dana Lovvorn, 4th Grade Math (Atkinson Elementary)
Dana Miller, 2nd Grade (Brooks Elementary)
Becky Lowery, 3rd Grade (Canongate Elementary)
Shannon Millard, Special Education (Eastside Elementary)
Laura Bass, REACH/Gifted Education (Elm Street Elementary)
Catherine Drake, 4th Grade English and Language Arts (Glanton Elementary)
Regenia Ware, 5th Grade Math (Jefferson Parkway Elementary)
Kiesha Carroll, 4th Grade English and Language Arts (Moreland Elementary)
Barbara McDowell, 1st Grade (Newnan Crossing Elementary)
Dede Rowan, Early Intervention Program (Northside Elementary)
Mechelle Geter, 5th Grade (Poplar Road Elementary)
Mary Thompson, REACH/Gifted Education (Ruth Hill Elementary)
Jen Scruggs, 2nd Grade (Thomas Crossroads Elementary)
Kristie Stewart, 1st Grade (Welch Elementary)
Patsy Hart, 5th Grade Science (Western Elementary)
Viveca Edwards, Kindergarten (White Oak Elementary)
Sarah Trotter, Special Education (Willis Road Elementary)
Melanie Smith: 8th Grade Science, (Arnall Middle)
Katie Bott, 8th Grade English and Language Arts (East Coweta Middle)
Rebecca Bowman, 7th Grade Science (Evans Middle)
Jerilyn Robinson, 6th Grade Math (Lee Middle)
Alonza Wood, Math (Maggie Brown Middle)
Matt Nash, Health/Physical Education (Madras Middle)
Kelley Ritter, 7th Grade Special Education (Smokey Road Middle) (2020 only)
Pat Patten, Audio Engineering (Central Educational Center)
Amanda Bowles, Math (East Coweta High)
Chris Swanson, Economics (Newnan High)
Hilary Perry, English (Northgate High)
Angela Dettmering, Social Studies (Winston Dowdell Academy)
Teachers of the Year are selected by their fellow certified educators at each school for the quality of their teaching, professional development, teaching philosophies and methods, community involvement, contributions to education, and their ability to inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn. Honorees represent grade levels from Kindergarten through 12th grade and a range of educational disciplines including elementary grade instruction, math and English, special education, gifted education, physical education, sciences, arts, language arts and media specialists.
Ruth Hill’s Nelson addressed the 2020-21 Teachers of the Year at the event, noting that it had been two years since the last Teacher of the Year ceremony, whenj Elm Street music teacher Josh Tate addressed TOTYs “and shared a profoundly inspirational message about teachers being the lights of our community – the beacons of hope. Little did any of us know that night just how significant his message would be as we moved into the 2019-2020 school year.”
“Each of you are here tonight because your fellow educators chose you to represent your school,” said Nelson. “Of all the dedicated, hard-working, purposeful teachers at your school, They chose you. They chose you because you are a difference maker. They chose you because you don’t just teach your students, you love teaching your students. They chose you because you make your school a better workplace.They chose you because in the words of Mr. Tate, you all are the lights – the beacons of hope.”