Born and raised in Dawson County, Felicia Stephens is a graduate of the local school system to which she is now a part.
Stephens, who is entering her 15th year as a teacher, was announced in May as Black's Mill Elementary School's 2012-13 Teacher of the Year.
"I was very honored and humbled that they would have chosen me when there are so many people here that do just as much, if not more, than I do. I was very, very excited," she said.
Principal Cindy Kinney said Stephens was nominated because she is always willing to help others and is committed to the school, staff and students.
"She makes learning fun for her students and is a positive influence on all stakeholders. She is a valued member of the Black's Mill family," Kinney said.
Currently a second grade teacher, Stephens has spent four years teaching kindergarten and one year as a parapro at Robin-son Elementary.
She said she is proud of her hometown, especially when it comes to the school system.
"I think Dawson County Schools provides its students a really good education. I feel we try to keep the class sizes low so that the children receive the best instruction," she said.
After she graduated from Dawson County High School, Stephens received an associates of science degree from Gainesville State College, a bachelor's degree from North Georgia College & State University and a master's degree and specialist degree in curriculum and instruction from Piedmont College.
She said she loves teaching second grade because the students "are somewhat independent but they are still at the sweet age where they let you love on them."
"They still need a lot of reassurance and help, but they aren't so old that they think they know everything," she added.
In second grade students are learning addition, subtraction, double-digits, reading comprehension and many other subjects.
Stephens tries to keep the material fresh.
"I try to incorporate fun, hands-on type games and activities with whatever scale and concept we are working on. I try to keep it current so it's something the kids want to do," she said.
Having been at Black's Mill since it opened, Stephens feels the school has developed a great reputation and teacher camaraderie.
"Black's Mill is such a special place. The morale is good and we are really just a big family. I am really fortunate to come and work in a place with the people I get to work with," she said.
Stephens, 39, also teaches in the school's 21st Century After School Program.
Overall, she said she hopes to continue working and serving her local school system for many years to come.
"Hopefully this is where I will retire," she said.
Later this fall, Stephens has the chance to be selected as the system-wide teacher of the year from among the 2012-13 nominees at each of the local schools.
An external committee of administrators and teachers from neighboring counties will look at each of the nominated teachers and make a final selection