This past week, Columbia County presented the Teachers of the Year from the county's schools, and named five finalists for county Teacher of the Year.
These educators are the best of the best - and one of them is my favorite.
As inspiring now as she was 32 years ago - and every bit as pretty - Sherry Hodge was named a finalist for the county's top award, to be given in September.
Hodge, who now teaches second grade at Blue Ridge Elementary School, was my fifth-grade teacher at North Columbia Elementary. Back then, she was a young educator coping with classrooms full of boisterous boys (the girls attended school at North Columbia's now-extinct Appling Building).
I'm not sure how all my classmates turned out, but thanks to Hodge's kind attention on one particular essay assignment, I was inspired to become a writer.
Over the years I've occasionally told her how much her influence meant to me; I'm sure it's embarrassed her terribly. On Tuesday, I was thrilled that she posed with me for a photo. I've had my picture taken with lots of famous people - from Jesse Jackson to Oliver North - but posing with my fifth-grade teacher was rock-star cool.
There are four other outstanding teachers in the running for Columbia County Teacher of the Year, and any one of the five will make a great representative for our community.
Whatever the outcome, Sherry Hodge has my vote for Teacher of the Century.
Incidentally, our former school, North Columbia Elementary, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Their librarian, Misty Christiansen, sent a great commemorative T-shirt to me to mark the occasion.
A new president
A former Greenbrier High School teacher also is in the spotlight, having been chosen recently as president-elect of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators.
Judy Teasley, who now is a social studies teacher and athletic director at Washington County High School in Sandersville, becomes PAGE president in January.
PAGE and its counterpart/competitor, the Georgia Association of Educators, took a big hit recently when the state legislature found a way to provide teachers with classroom liability insurance. Before that law went into effect, many educators joined PAGE or GAE just to get access to low-cost insurance - the same reason many otherwise-conservative seniors join the liberal AARP.
PAGE and GAE now have to work harder to remain relevant and attract members. Teasley, who had to take a day off from work this past week to work Columbia County's run-off election as a poll manager, isn't one to shy away from challenges, and the PAGE presidency likely will provide plenty of them.
A salsa search
Speaking of challenges, I got an unusual request for help the other day.
U.S. Navy Petty Officer First Class Robert Oborne, in Dahlgren, Va., is with a class of candidates for promotion to chief petty officer. Their evaluators can't really do "initiations," he said, so the candidates are instead given near-impossible tasks to complete - essentially, a scavenger hunt for non-existent items.
One such item is a 17.5 ounce jar of Laredo and Lefty's mild salsa. Oborne found an old story about the condiment on The News-Times Web site, and thought maybe we could help him find it.
The stuff apparently isn't made any more, but he's hoping to find someone with a jar still sitting on a pantry shelf. If you have one, let me know; Oborne's deadline for his group's list is in just a couple of weeks - and they'll have to substitute pushups for any items they can't find!
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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