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Math teacher making connections in classroom
I-ToY Michelle Gee pic 1
Dawson County High School math teacher Michelle Gee spends time in the classroom with her students. Gee was named teacher of the year last spring. - photo by Amy French Dawson County News

Dawson County High School math teacher Michelle Gee knew early on she loved math.

She also knew that she loved kids, but when she realized where those two loves would naturally lead she initially resisted the thought.

"I kept trying to get away from it," Gee said about the prospect of becoming a teacher.

Naturally shy as a student, Gee couldn't bear the thought of standing up in front of students to speak, much less teach one day.

"Between my sophomore and junior year in college...everything that I kept coming back to was teaching. I thought maybe elementary school, but then I wouldn't get to do the math I liked. I was terrified to come up to the high school," she said.

After getting her degree from North Georgia College, she went to work in Hall County in the solicitor's office and that only confirmed for her that teaching was the way to go.

She got a job at the middle school level in Dawson County in 2000.

It is the same school system where she spent K-12.

Now the Dawsonville native has been teaching math for 15 years at Dawson County High School and this past spring she was named teacher of the year.

"Mrs. Gee is a dedicated educator that strives to see her students be successful. She is a wonderful representative of DCHS as teacher of the year," said Principal Richard Crumley.

When she talks about being chosen by her peers, Gee fumbles for words as she is overcome by the honor.

"It was awesome. It was touching," she said. "I don't even know how to put it in words. It meant a whole lot to me. I was surprised and just elated that they named me.

"I hope that I have represented the school well."

Her own high school math teacher helped her see what it's like when an educator listens and takes an interest in their students, something she believes is critical in helping kids move past their own barriers to learning.

"Whenever I go around and speak to them...ask them how they are, something other than just the math, it's good for me and them too, I hope," she said.

Beyond making the connection, there is still the math. For Gee, that is currently pre-calculus and geometry.

Math seems to be one of those subjects that polarize people: They love it or they hate it.

She reminds herself that it isn't always easy and recalls what it was like when she was in the classroom, afraid to ask questions.

"I realized, I have to go have a voice," she said. "If I didn't ask the question, I wasn't going to do well."

Gee believes that students are more capable than they think when it comes to grasping the difficult concepts.

"I know they have it, but they don't know that. If I can just get them to understand you have just got to keep working at it. I know it will be there. It's hard because a lot of students, they just want to give up and I know they can do it.

"All the students that I've taught, they can all do it. They are all smart. Sometimes they don't give themselves enough credit. It's just them getting over their own walls, in their own heads."

She treasures seeing that light come on and when she talks about her favorite part of her career, it is undeniably the students.

"They are awesome. Even the students that are difficult, if you go and talk to them one-on-one, they are awesome. They are just good kids and you can see the potential. They have their whole lives ahead of them and there is so much goodness they can do," she said.

Gee's plans are to continue teaching and possibly go back to school, even though she's already got a master's degree.

The mother of two spends time with her family outside of school, but coming to work is not a chore and she hopes to stay with it.

"If I finished out in Dawson County, it would be awesome. I would like to finish my career here. I look forward to coming to work and seeing the kids--everyone, every day," she said.