Melanie Spooner, teacher at Kilough Elementary School, remembers the first time she wanted to be a teacher.
"My first grade teacher was very young, pretty and sweet. I think it was her third year teaching and I just thought she was perfect in every way. That was the first year I remember thinking, ‘I am going to be a teacher.' And I never thought of doing something else," she recalled.
Spooner, who currently serves as the gifted lead and ESOL lead teacher, is in her 13th year teaching, nine of which were spent teaching first grade.
She was named the school's 2012-13 teacher of the year in May. She said she was shocked.
"I was so surprised ... I am just so thankful," she said. "I still can't believe it."
Principal Tracey Compton said Spooner was nominated to be teacher of the year because she is an "amazing teacher."
"She is the essence of all the qualities one would look for in a teacher of the year," Compton said.
"She forms genuine relationships with each student she teaches. It is because of these relationships, Mrs. Spooner is able to truly teach a child and help [them] reach [their] fullest potential. Each child she touches knows they are loved, special, supported and unique."
Spooner began teaching in Ashford, Ala., after graduating from Troy University with a bachelor's degree in early childhood education.
Her husband, Tim, who also teaches at Kilough Elementary, moved with her to Dawsonville nine years ago. Spooner taught in Cumming before coming to Kilough.
She said she feels at home in Dawson County since it reminds her of her hometown.
"Dawson County is very similar to where I grew up ... It's much more like home," she said.
Her current position involves her working with more than 36 children every day as she jumps between three programs.
She is the lead gifted teacher, the lead English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher and an Early Intervention Program teacher assistant.
"The hardest part this year has been trying to learn everyone's new curriculum. It is a challenge to say the least," she said.
Still, she said she enjoys working with a spectrum of different ages every day.
"I wasn't ever expecting to teach upper elementary but I love it. I just have to study and ask my husband questions," she said.
Spooner said the most important part of her job is assessing the student's individual needs and trying to meet them.
Later this fall, Spooner 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.