At the Oct. 12 meeting of the Dawson County Board of Education, board members and school administrators honored the 2021-22 teachers of the year from each school.
Each teacher was invited to come forward, along with an administrator from the school they represented who explained to the board why the teacher was chosen and what makes them amazing at their jobs.
Blacks Mill Elementary School: Stephanie Danuser
BMES Principal Cindy Kinney introduced Danuser as Blacks Mill’s teacher of the year, saying that her heart for her students and her school makes her an asset to the team at Blacks Mill.
Kinney said that Danuser has been in education for 18 years, 12 of which have been in Dawson County. In addition to teaching, she is a member of the school’s PBIS and leadership teams, leads the student council and serves as a mentor teacher to new staff members.
“Her selection as teacher of the year at Blacks Mill is a true reflection of her commitment to the teaching profession, to her boys and girls whose lives she touches daily, and to our school,” Kinney said. “She is considered a vital part of our school and a respected member of our faculty and staff.”
Kinney said that she spoke with several of Danuser’s coworkers at Blacks Mill, who described her as hardworking, creative, caring, a team player, always willing to help, giving and engaging. Kinney, whose own daughter is in Danuser’s class, said that Danuser goes above and beyond her duties as a teacher to engage her students and to show them how much she cares about them.
“Mrs. Danuser engages her students on a daily basis, she builds relationships with them throughout the day, and also by attending their extra-curricular activities after school,” Kinney said. “Anything that they’re involved in she wants to know about and be a part of.”
According to Kinney, Danuser’s love for her students and for her school is evident every day through her interactions with the students, parents and staff.
“Mrs. Danuser possesses the integrity, dedication and leadership skills that’s vital for today’s teachers,” Kinney said. “She has a servant’s heart, and that’s evident when you see her each and every day and what she does.”
Kinney said that she and the rest of the administration and staff at Blacks Mill are incredibly grateful to have Danuser as part of their team.
“We all benefit from having her at Blacks Mill,” Kinney said. “As you can tell, we’re blessed at Blacks Mill to have her a part of her Blacks Mill family.”
Kilough Elementary School: Amy Tankersley
KES Assistant Principal Kim Bennett spoke about Tankersley to the board, explaining that she was chosen as Kilough’s teacher of the year because of her drive to make learning fun and give all she can to her students.
According to Bennett, Tankersley is a graduate of Dawson County High School and has been teaching in the county since 2013. She began teaching grades six through eight at Riverview Middle School, and she is now in her sixth year at Kilough where she has taught every subject in third through fifth grades.
Bennett said that, in talking to Tankersley’s colleagues, she was described positively over and over again.
“Her colleagues say that she is always patient, always flexible, always kind and is always making learning fun,” Bennett said. “Another one says that she always gives her students a hug on the way out, and she’s willing to take on extra responsibilities to help other teachers.”
Tankersley also serves on the PTO at Kilough and is a mom and a foster mom, and according to Bennett everything that Tankersley does she does with a smile on her face.
“She’s the kind of teacher that all the students want to have as their teacher and they all wanna be in her classroom because she just makes learning fun,” Bennett said. “Amy is an integral part of Kilough Elementary and it’s an honor to have her with us.”
Riverview Elementary School: Carson Johnson
RvES Principal Adam Maroney introduced Johnson, who has been selected as both the teacher of the year for Riverview and the teacher of the year for the entire district, saying that she is passionate about her job and about being as helpful as she can to her students and her fellow staff.
Maroney said that, in addition to teaching Special Education classes, Johnson serves as a formal mentor to a first-year teacher and a supervising teacher to a North Georgia intern. He added that she also often informally mentors many teachers in the building about reading instruction.
“She has a passion for teaching and learning, particularly in the area of literacy, and she is a phenomenal teacher of reading and writing,” Maroney said. “Truth be told, some of my best professional development has grown out of the many conversations that Mrs. Johnson and I had about teaching reading and writing.”
Maroney said that Johnson is the kind of teacher that administrators like himself love to watch do their job because she does it so well.
“Mrs. Johnson is the type of teacher that when you’re having a bad day and you just want to go watch some fantastic teaching as a source of renewal, she’s the classroom that you go to see,” Maroney said.
According to Maroney, Johnson’s colleagues described her as someone who has an impact on not just her students, but her peers as well.
“When asked, her peers described her as a rockstar, patient and committed to her job and students, passionate about the needs of others, one who truly cares, amazing in all aspects, a heart of gold for students, staff and teachers, an advocate for all of our students,” Maroney said, “and I couldn’t have said it better myself.”
Maroney said that Johnson deserves the honor of being not only Riverview’s teacher of the year, but the district teacher of the year too, because of the impact she makes every day.
“When I think of the characteristics of a quality teacher of the year, I look to the impact that a teacher has not only on her students but on his or her colleagues in the profession as a whole,” Maroney said. “She has a wealth of knowledge and tools, not only to help our struggling learners but the teachers throughout our building; she makes an impact on us all.”
Robinson Elementary School: Meghan Cantrell
RES Assistant Principal Linda Bearden talked about Cantrell to the board, saying that she is an amazing teacher because of her enthusiasm and her positive attitude.
Bearden said that Cantrell has been teaching for six years, three of which have been in Dawson County. She taught two years of kindergarten at Robinson and now teaches fourth grade, in addition to serving on the leadership team and leading the staff events team.
“She’s an integral member of our team at Robinson,” Bearden said. “She is just constantly thinking of others and how she can make others smile.”
According to Bearden, Cantrell shows up to work every day with a smile on her face, and her excitement is infectious to staff and students alike.
“She’s one of the happiest people you will ever meet in your entire life; she just exudes excitement and I’ve never seen her when she wasn’t smiling,” Bearden said. “If you had the opportunity to be a fly on the wall in her classroom, you’d quickly recognize that her kids love her.”
Bearden said that Cantrell is always finding creative ways to make learning fun for her kids and to form relationships with them.
“There’s never a time that I see her that she’s not right with the kids, doing something to help them,” Bearden said. “It’s just very encouraging to me to see the way that she builds those relationships with her kids.”
In addition to putting her students first, Bearden said that Cantrell also prioritizes her coworkers’ needs and strives to bring joy to those she works with through small acts of kindness like leaving positive notes in the staff bathrooms or handing out treats to the other staff members during her break time.
“She brings so much joy to our students and our staff, she’s so deserving of this honor and I could not be more honored myself to stand here with her and to work alongside her every day,” Bearden said.
Dawson County Middle School: Karen Westbrook
DCMS Principal Kim White spoke about Westbrook during the meeting, saying that she deserves the honor of being the middle school’s teacher of the year because of how much she does for the school and how hard she works to meet the needs of both the students and teachers.
White said that Westbrook was raised in Dawson County and raised her children in the county too. While Westbrook always wanted to be an educator, she put her dreams on hold to raise her family. Now, she’s been working in the school system for 11 years, first as a para pro, then in the Special Education department and she now serves as the media specialist for the middle school.
According to White, Westbrook is the media specialist in name but really does much more than that each day.
"She troubleshoots iPads on a daily basis, she troubleshoots every bit of technology,” White said. “Karen is our media specialist but so much more — when things go down and people don’t know what to do Karen is the person you call.”
White said that she spoke to several of Westbrook’s coworkers, and that they described her as a leader, a friend, positive, welcoming, patient, kind, good, loving, genuine, joyful, graceful, caring and compassionate.
“I couldn’t have said it better than that,” White added. “I’m blessed to work beside her, I’m blessed that not only is she my colleague but she’s my friend, and I would like to say that she’s raised an assistant principal. We know that she has done her work, and we are blessed that she gets to continue to do it with us on a daily basis.”
Dawson County Junior High School: Erin Wade
DCJHS Principal Brody Hughes introduced Wade as the teacher of the year for the junior high school, saying that she is an asset to the school.
According to Hughes, Wade has been in education for 15 years, five of which have been in Dawson County. She currently serves at the junior high school as the Special Education lead chair.
Hughes said that he spoke to several of Wade’s colleagues about her and that they described her as helpful, knowledgeable, hard working, passionate, calm, patient, compassionate, supportive, understanding and a role model. He said that personally, he knows that Wade is a teacher he can always depend on.
“Erin is one of my right hand people, she takes care of not only our special education population but also all of the students that she comes in contact with in our classes,” Hughes said. “She does a fantastic job; I can always go to Erin and ask her the pulse of the school.”
Hughes said that Wade deserves the honor of being her school’s teacher of the year, and that he and the rest of the junior high school administration are proud to have her as a part of their school.
“She’s that kind of leader in our building that other coworkers come to her and ask for advice, so she is a big big part of Dawson County Junior High and we are so proud to have her,” Hughes said.
Dawson County High School: Derek Waters
DCHS Assistant Principal Charles Beusse talked about Waters to the board, telling them that he is an exemplary teacher because of his work ethic and heart for his students.
Beusse said that this is Waters’ tenth year in education, all of which has been in Dawson County. Waters is himself a graduate of DCHS, and he currently serves as the high school’s Special Education lead teacher.
‘I can tell you that working with high school kids can be a challenge sometimes, and Derek has the ability to take those kids, sometimes that often struggle, build relationships with them, and get them where they need to be,” Beusse said. “We are so fortunate to have Derek as a part of our team; he is one of those people that I can go to for anything and anytime that I ask Derek to help with something he is always right there and his work ethic speaks to that as well.”
According to Beusse, Waters is an asset to the high school and has left his mark on many of the students he has taught.
“There have been a lot of students that have come through Dawson County High School that have been successful as a direct result of the work that Derek has done, and I think that’s just a testament to not only the type of teacher that Derek is, but also the type of person that Derek is,” Beusse said. “We’re fortunate to have him not just at the high school but in Dawson County and for all that he does for our students.”
Beusse said that teachers like Waters are what really makes the Dawson County school district as amazing as it is.
“Derek is one of those people that his heart is really there for the kids, and when you see a teacher like that who puts so much into it, loves kids so much, that wants them to be successful, that’s when you’re gonna be successful as a school and as a school district,” Beusse said. “He’s soft spoken but he leads by example, and our school is a much much better place because of Derek.”