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Westmont Elementary teacher honored as Columbia County's Teacher of the Year

Westmont educator is named county's top teacher

Posted: October 9, 2015 - 5:13pm  |  Updated: October 10, 2015 - 11:01pm
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Westmont Elementary School second-grade teacher Jennifer Gurley gets a hug from Superintendent Dr. Sandra Carraway after being named the county's Teacher of the Year.   Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Westmont Elementary School second-grade teacher Jennifer Gurley gets a hug from Superintendent Dr. Sandra Carraway after being named the county's Teacher of the Year.

A second-grade teacher from Westmont Elementary School was named the

2015 Columbia County Teacher of the Year, at the school district’s annual banquet Thursday night.

Jennifer Gurley, who is in her fourth year teaching at Westmont Elementary, said teaching had always been her calling as long as she can remember.

“It’s what I love to do. It’s hard for me not to teach kids at the grocery store,” Gurley said. “I love being creative and fun and making kids excited about learning, I love school and I want to make kids love school, too. I love it. I’m actually excited when summer is over, so I can go back.”

Gurley was among five finalists selected out of more than

30 Teachers of the Year from each of Columbia County’s schools. The other finalists were Heather Graves, of Martinez Elementary, Carolyn Stone, of Greenbrier Middle, William Johns, of Riverside Middle, and Bonnie Belanger, of Stevens Creek Elementary.

Associate Superintendent Jeff Carney said the applications of each teacher were evaluated by a panel of three independent judges, who also observed the teachers in the classroom and interviewed them as part of the selection process.

Tami Flowers, principal at Westmont Elementary, said Gurley is one of the most passionate and productive teachers she has ever known.

“She leads our school,” Flowers said. “She serves on just about every committee because she chooses to. She gets more done in an hour than 10 people do. She is a multitasker like nobody’s business, but she has the heart for this profession like I’ve never seen in a teacher, and I don’t want to discredit anybody, but her goal is to raise the profession.”

Gurley is working to complete her master’s in education, with plans to graduate in May

2016. She then plans to obtain her specialist degree and later a doctorate in education, with a goal to teach on the college level and inspire other teachers to elevate their game in the classroom.

Before coming to Columbia County, Gurley worked in Atlanta area school systems, but she has always taught second-graders, which she says is the “perfect” age.

“This is my 11th year teaching second grade,” she said. “They are getting independent and they are starting to read for themselves and they are starting to really love learning new things and they are excited about school.”

Flowers said Gurley focuses on the “whole child” and brings real life experiences and activities to her classroom each week,

“If you walk into her room, you wouldn’t believe they are second-graders, you would think that they are all in a business doing a job,” she said. “They are all in the room working in different groups; it is amazing what she does.”

As the Teacher of the Year, Gurley was awarded

$500 cash, a $500 gift card to Kroger, a $100 gift card to Sparkle Express Car Wash, as well as a free yearlong use of a new BMW from Taylor BMW in Evans.

Also on Thursday, Maggie Davis, of Grovetown High School, was honored as the district’s School Library Media Specialist of the Year.

Gurley will compete with other teachers from Georgia for state Teacher of the Year, which will be announced in mid-February, Carney said.

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