Although the youngest instructor in the school, sixth grade language arts teacher Caroline Bridges, 26, has been named Dawson County Middle School's 2012-13 Teacher of the Year.
Bridges said she was surprised and humbled to win the honor.
"The teachers I was up against are the teachers who put up the highest scores and put in so much time after school as coaches and club sponsors," she said.
Principal Dr. Mark Merges said she was chosen for her dedication and enthusiasm.
"She is always going above and beyond. She is a great representative of our school," he said.
Assistant Principal Nicole LeCave agreed.
"She is a leader and is definitely well-respected by her peers. She builds good relationships with her students. They really respect her," LeCave said.
Bridges, who has wanted to be a teacher since she was 13 years old, originally pictured herself teaching high school.
While studying for a bachelor's degree in English education at North Georgia College & State University, Bridges did student teaching at Dawson County High School.
Yet, Bridges said she enjoys teaching middle schoolers.
"I love it here. It is a great school environment. The kids are so excited and are still passionate about learning. It is great to see the discoveries they make through the learning process," she said.
She said middle schoolers are in a special, transitional time, one that she understands. Having been raised as "an army brat," she lived in various locations and was often in transition.
"I want to make my classroom a safe and comfortable environment for my students. I want them to feel loved by me," she said.
Bridges, in her fifth year teaching, said she seeks to "make learning fun, even the boring parts."
Since the class curriculum revolves around writing and grammar, many students are intimidated. Bridges said she seeks to help them through it.
"I think it helps them a lot to write their thoughts out because their brains are developing so fast right now. A lot changes for them from day to day ... So I try to cash in on that as the language arts teacher because I want them to use those experiences," she said.
"I can then take that raw middle school energy and focus it and polish it into a skill that hopefully they can then take with them."
In addition to teaching, Bridges runs the school's Georgia Reading Bowl chapter, a statewide reading competition held each winter.
In the spring, she was given a rocking chair from Cracker Barrel, a school tradition, for receiving the honor.
Later this fall, Bridges has the chance to be selected as the systemwide teacher of the year from among the 2012-13 teachers of the year 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.