Vicki Tarleton guided her Grovetown High School students through an exercise on Friday to determine the area of a hexagon.
But that day's lesson came from more than just her students' Math II teacher. It came from the new Columbia County Teacher of the Year.
Part of Tarleton's exceptional teaching ability likely stems from a talent she possesses to recognize when her students don't quite understand her lesson, but are too timid to seek aid.
"I still see some blank stares, like this is bothering you," she said to her students while pointing at an equation on a white board.
"You really want me to do this," she said while working through the problem in front of the class of sophomores. "You just won't ask."
Helping students overcome their math struggles is the most rewarding aspect of her job, Tarleton said.
"I really believe every child can be successful in high school," she said. "I think it's my job to get them to believe that. I don't think a lot of them come into high school with the belief that they can succeed."
Not only is Tarleton the school system's Teacher of the Year, but she is also her school's first Teacher of the Year. Although Grovetown High opened in August 2009, this is the first year it was eligible to nominate a Teacher of the Year. Principal Penny Jackson said Tarleton's win and Media Specialist of the Year honors for school librarian Angela Dallis speak to her faculty's desire to succeed.
"Both of these educators really bought into what we wanted to do here right off the bat in creating a tradition of academic excellence," Jackson said.
Before coming to Grovetown High, Tarleton was a 15-year math teacher at Evans High School. However, she met Jackson while working as a business teacher at Hephzibah High School.
The chance to work with Jackson again led her to transfer to Grovetown High.
"Our vision for this school was the same," Tarleton said. "We wanted a school where we could start some new traditions that focused on student success."
So dedicated is Tarleton to establishing academic success for Grovetown High that she volunteered this summer to help the school make adequate yearly progress after it initially failed to do so in the area of math on the Georgia High School Graduation Test.
Just 13 more passing grades were needed to make AYP. Tarleton persuaded 13 students who nearly passed the test in its first administration to retake it this summer.
She then devoted two days of her vacation tutoring those students, who all passed.
However, Tarleton has responsibilities beyond the classroom. As her school's Math Department chairwoman, Tarleton is also the instructional coach for 10 other math teachers at Grovetown High.
"Next to teaching students, there's nothing I love more than curriculum," she said. "Collaborating with other teachers, all of us working together toward a common goal -- student achievement -- is so rewarding."
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