Special to Fayette Newspapers
After being recognized as a Teacher of the Year finalist, one Fayette County teacher will have one more title to add to the honorable list— the title of Fayette County’s 2019 Teacher of the Year.
Servant leadership is the heart of what drives Michael Wamsley, a third-grade teacher at Robert J. Burch Elementary, to inspire, challenge, and create a passion for learning in his classroom every day – it is no wonder why he was named the 2019 Fayette County Teacher of the Year. From 26 teachers, Wamsley ranked top three to earn his place as a finalist in the Fayette County Teacher of the Year competition; math teacher Bob Spiller of Fayette County High School and English teacher Jillian Bowen of Starr’s Mill High School were the two other finalists. All three finalists were interviewed and observed in their classroom by a judging panel which consists of two retired educators and last year’s winner, Natalia Nizker. Wamsley, Spiller, and Bowen, along with 23 of Fayette County’s finest teachers, were honored at the annual Teacher of the Year ceremony. With astonishment and gratefulness upon receiving the Teacher of the Year honor, Wamsley said, “Wow, it is completely overwhelming to be up here surrounded by so many incredible educators. It is a privilege to work with such dedicated and incredible educators who have made a world of difference within their communities, and who continue to inspire their students and peers alike. It is due to their creativity, passion, and hard work that our students realize their potential in a world with unlimited possibilities.” Wamsley says this is a group effort that would not be possible without the overwhelming support of his colleagues, family, and countless mentors. He says the driving force behind all of this is his students.
“You amaze and inspire me to be a better teacher. For without your openness, your enthusiasm, and your desire, all of these ideas and dreams would be for naught. You are the reason I show up each day.” With 16 years as an educator, Wamsley’s students have changed over the years, but his message remains the same.
“Education is about unity. There is no ‘us versus them’ in public education, we are all united with a common goal of serving our students. The future depends on how well we prepare our students today.” As Fayette County’s 2019 Teacher of the Year, Wamsley will represent the school system next year in the Georgia Teacher of the Year competition. Thanks to the donations from school PTO organizations and local business and community groups, all 26 school-level teachers of the year received a $50 check from the Fayette County Education Foundation. The Coca-Cola Bottling Company also gave each teacher a commemorative plaque. Allan Vigil Ford of Fayetteville presented Wamsley with a $1,000 check, and Spiller and Bowen received $500 checks. The local chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, an international society for women educators, presented Wamsley with a $100 check and the two runners-up with $50 checks. Also, the local chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa, an international organization for women educators, presented Wamsley with a $200 check and Spiller and Bowen with $100 checks.
Additional gifts for Wamsley included a commemorative plaque from the local chapter of Kappa Kappa Iota, a professional organization for educators, and a special teacher of the year ring presented by Balfour.
The annual Fayette County Teacher of the Year ceremony took place at New Hope Baptist Church, South Campus, on April 11.