Columbia County's Teacher of the Year came up short of winning the state title at an awards banquet in Atlanta on Friday.
Shaun Owen, a Greenbrier Middle School sixth-grade social studies teacher and Columbia County Teacher of the Year, was one of 10 finalists for Georgia Teacher of the Year. Owen came up short of winning the state title Friday, but she says the recognition already has opened doors for her.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
A finalist for the award, Greenbrier Middle School sixth-grade social studies teacher Shaun Owen fell just shy of winning the honor that would have taken her out of the classroom for a year and sent her around the state speaking with civic groups and conducting seminars for teachers.
Dublin High School teacher Brenda Shuman-Riley defeated Owen and nine fellow finalists to win the state title.
While expressing her disappointment at not winning, Owen said she wasn't surprised and that Shuman-Riley was deserving of the honor.
Owen, 34, was named the county Teacher of the Year in September 2004. In January, it was announced that she was one of 10 finalists for the state honor.
Finishing in the top 10 has already "opened a lot of doors," Owen said.
"Without all the accolades people don't know how good a teacher you are," she said in an interview before the awards ceremony. "When you do win, people begin to assume there must be something unique about you."
One of Owen's most pronounced "unique" qualities is her poor vision. She is legally blind.
"For anyone who sees my classroom they see it is bright and big," she said after the ceremony.
"My eyesight is one of the big reasons it is that way."
Despite her poor vision, Owen said she learned early in life how to overcome adversity. Her father died when she was 13, and her mother raised three daughters on her own.
Her mother took a job on a factory line, but eventually opened a successful business as a truck broker. Her mother's perseverance made a powerful impression on Owen.
"If you have a passion and a sincerity about what you do, then you can do anything," she said.
Her passion for teaching is manifested in the many hours she spends preparing lessons.
Owen teaches using a multimedia presentation, which includes pictures, video clips and music. Her method is designed to keep a pupil's attention by making learning fun, she said.
Although she didn't win, Owen is writing a book about teaching and will continue to teach teachers how to be more effective educators.
"I think learning can be fun," she said. "I think it's supposed to be."
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