Other teachers of the year
• Amy Swafford, Robinson Elementary School
• Sandra Tankersley, Kilough Elementary School
• Debbie Boyd, Riverview Elementary School
• Patrick Johnston, Riverview Middle School
• Rick Land, Dawson County Middle School
• Deneen Trammell, Dawson County High School.
Kerri Whitmire discovered her passion for education at a very young age.
"I have an aunt that is special needs and watched how she struggled," said Whitmire, a kindergarten teacher at Black's Mill Elementary. "She was six years older than me, but she was learning a lot of the same skills that I was learning at a different age, and that was hard."
As a child, Whitmire couldn't understand how the two were learning to tie their shoes at the same time.
"I saw that teachers in her life made a huge impact," said Whitmire, a Dawsonville native.
After a few years at a special needs school in Atlanta, Whitmire's aunt was able to return to public school in Dawson County and be successful.
"She was successful because of the teachers that she had. That really touched me," Whitmire said. "That's one of the reasons I chose to teach school in Dawson County."
Lisa Perry, assistant superintendent of personnel for Dawson County schools, said Whitmire's passion is one of several qualities that led to her recent selection as systemwide teacher of the year.
Whitmire is a fourth-generation educator, following in the footsteps of her grandmothers, mother, aunts, sister and most of her first cousins.
"Teaching is what I know. When we get together at a family dinner, it's all still school related," she said. "We never turn it off."
Whitmire taught third grade for nine years before transitioning seven years ago to kindergarten, where she sees learning triggered every day.
"I love teaching third grade, but kindergarten is my passion, because these kids are coming to school passionate about school and ready to learn," she said.
"Every day is a blessing to work with these little kids because they are learning so much and they're so excited about learning."
Matt Warrick, assistant principal, said Whitmire's impact on the students can be felt through every hallway at Black's Mill.
"Kerri also goes above and beyond with kids not only in her kindergarten class, but the entire building," he said. "She's essential to our staff. We couldn't have a day without her. We are so proud of Kerri for winning this."
A committee chose Whitmire for the system honor from among the 2011-12 teachers of the year at each of the local schools.
Perry put together an external committee of administrators and teachers from neighboring counties.
Whitmire called the recognition "surreal."
"I believe that I am a great teacher, but very rarely are you outwardly recognized where other people say you've made a difference in the lives of kids," she said.
"To be recognized is wonderful. But whether there's any recognition or not, you're going to keep doing your job, because the students that we teach, they know that what they've learned is special. "
Perry said Whitmire is in good company with the other 2011-12 honorees.
"It's quite an honor to be selected as your school's teacher of the year," she said.
The other teachers of the year for 2011-12 include: Amy Swafford, Robinson Elementary; Sandra Tankersley, Kilough Elementary; Debbie Boyd, Riverview Elementary; Patrick Johnson, Riverview Middle; Rick Land, Dawson County Middle; and Deneen Trammell, Dawson County High.
Whitmire will be eligible for statewide teacher of the year, which will be announced in May.