Dawson County Junior High School Teacher Natalie Flanagan was recently selected as a 2021 Exemplary English Speakers of other Languages (ESOL) Teacher in Georgia, according to a press release by the Dawson County Board of Education.
“This honor is given to teachers who work endlessly to find effective solutions and teaching practices to meet the needs of the students they serve,” the release said. “Mrs. Flanagan knows her learners and creates conditions for language learning.”
According to the release, Exemplary ESOL Teachers are selected each year by the Georgia Department of Education as an effort to recognize teachers in the state who show excellence in their field.
Flanagan said that winning the honor was an unexpected surprise for her.
“Tracey Compton from the BOE contacted me a few weeks back and was asking me to apply for it, so I did and then they told me at the end of last week that I had been selected,” Flanagan said. “So I was a little surprised cause it’s at the state level so it’s a big deal to be recognized in that fashion.”
Flanagan has been teaching for 13 years, six of which have been in Dawson County. She has been working with ESOL students for most of her career, and has been working with ESOL students at DCJHS exclusively for four years in addition to teaching language arts and reading classes.
She said that the close-knit community in the Dawson County School System is one of her favorite things about her work environment.
“I like the smallness of it and the way that it feels like a family and that I get to know my students pretty well because of that fact,” Flanagan said. “I worked in a larger system prior to Dawson County and it just didn’t have that same feel.”
Flanagan said that, when it comes to teaching ESOL students, her favorite part of the job is seeing the students grow and really learn the language throughout the semester.
“Teaching is a hard yet rewarding job; it’s so fun especially with English learners who come to me, sometimes brand new from another country knowing zero English, and I get to watch them grow and learn in that part of their academia,” Flanagan said. “The kids getting somewhere like that is what keeps me going and teaching.”
According to the release by the school system, Flanagan was selected for the award because of that excellence and drive she exhibits while teaching.
“She designs high-quality lessons for language development and monitors and assesses her students’ language development,” the release said. “Her support, engagement and collaboration with students, parents and fellow teachers creates an exemplary model for achievement.”
For Flanagan, winning the recognition is a kind of validation that she’s doing well in her position.
“The award is validation of the hard work that I’ve put in with these students,” Flanagan said. “And the ESOL students put in a lot of hard work too, so it’s validation that I’m doing something right with them and helping them to meet their needs and their goals while I’m at school with them.”