Tiffany English of Sugar Hill Elementary named 2007 Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year

Tiffany English of Sugar Hill Elementary named 2007 Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year

Tiffany English of Sugar Hill Elementary has earned the title of 2007 Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year. The announcement came at a Nov. 2 banquet at the Gwinnett Center celebrating all of the school system’s local school winners. Also honored were Dana Griffith of Berkmar Middle as the county’s Middle School Teacher of the Year and Matthew M. Winking of Phoenix High as the county’s High School Teacher of the Year. Before being named the county winner, Mrs. English was honored as the school system’s Elementary School Teacher of the Year. Mrs. English was chosen from a field of 105 local school nominees, which had been narrowed to six finalists through a two-phase selection process. The other finalists were Cindy Apley Rose of Shiloh Middle, Charles J. Kachmar of Grayson High, and Sarah Skinner of Peachtree Ridge High.

Tiffany English
2007 Teacher of the Year
Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year and Elementary Teacher of the Year
Tiffany English—Music Teacher, Sugar Hill Elementary
Her last name may be “English,” but make no mistake, Tiffany English teaches music and is proud of it. “I represent the state of music education in Gwinnett County, as I am a product of it. Our children deserve to learn about themselves and their heritage through music while creating their own musical identity. As they begin their venture into the world, it is essential for students to receive a complete and holistic education. The arts are a critical part of this education.”

Mrs. English believes music is the vehicle that can be used to help children learn to process, analyze, and evaluate information in any area of the curriculum. She explains, “There is no other subject that can encompass the cultural aspects of our society while teaching children about language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies in an enjoyable fulfilling environment.”

She elaborates on the connections between music and other subjects, saying, “Students cannot accurately write rhythmic passages without an understanding of mathematical skills. Likewise, the best suited words to a song cannot be written without an understanding of syllables and rhyming words. I try to use my music lessons to teach children a truly meaningful musical concept that they can carry with them into other areas. And, conversely, I teach my music lessons so that children can see how the arts truly are reflected in all areas of study.”

Mrs. English structures her music lessons around the Orff-Schulwerk approach of teaching music to children. She explains, “Children experience concepts and use them long before they are labeled. For instance, just as children can speak in complete sentences long before they can write them, my students improvise melodies long before they can write them. This gives them a rhythmic, melodic, harmonic, and kinesthetic palette to draw from as needed for further, more complex activities.”

In addition to the work with her students, Mrs. English has been involved with the Gwinnett County Elementary Honor Chorus since its inception in 2001. She says, “By volunteering to participate in this optional event, teachers provide students with advanced musical experiences that are not always available at the local school.”

Mrs. English’s leadership in the area of music education allows her to provide unique learning experiences to both Gwinnett and metro-Atlanta music teachers. She serves as a lead teacher for the school system’s elementary music program, and is the president of the Atlanta Area Chapter of the American Orff-Schulwerk Association.

A product of Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS), Tiffany English has dedicated her 12-year career to GCPS, working with students at W.C. Britt Elementary (1994-99), Rock Springs Elementary (1999-2004), and her current school, Sugar Hill Elementary. Mrs. English holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in early childhood education from Piedmont College.
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Middle School Teacher of the Year
Dana Griffith— Physical Education Teacher, Berkmar Middle
Dana Griffith’s path to the teaching profession followed a progression that began with an enthusiasm for working with kids. Yet she says it was her experience in helping to open a new school-- Berkmar Middle-- that turned her into an accomplished career educator. A track at the school, middle school fitness portfolios, and a fitness center are just a few of the contributions this teacher has made to her school community.

Fitness has always been an integral component of her physical education program. Seeing a lack of quality age-appropriate materials for middle school students, she wrote and implemented a “Middle School Fitness Portfolio.” In addition, she obtained grant funds to establish a fitness center at the school to help further the development of lifelong physical activity for a diverse student population. The center is modeled after a traditional fitness club and teaches students fundamentals of safe and appropriate equipment use. In addition to this being a regular part of the physical education curriculum, a student fitness club meets before school and weekly mother/daughter aerobics classes are offered after school.

Mrs. Griffith has demonstrated an unwavering commitment as a leader in physical education— both inside and outside the classroom. She says, “I have continually enhanced my position as an innovative and committed educator through membership in professional organizations, community involvement, curriculum development, and taking advantage of opportunities for professional growth. Perhaps my biggest accomplishment demonstrating my potential as an innovative and lifelong learner is receiving National Board Certification.”

Mrs. Griffith participated in the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program in 1998-99, living and teaching in Hyvinkaa, Finland. This experience helped her develop professionally and gave her a new perspective on education in the U.S.

Mrs. Griffith has served Gwinnett students as a physical education teacher for more than 13 years, first at Snellville Middle (1993-96) and J.P. McConnell Middle (1996-2004), moving to Berkmar Middle in 2004. She also teaches at Georgia Perimeter College. She holds a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Ohio University, a master’s degree in exercise physiology from Georgia State University, and a specialist’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Piedmont College.
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High School Teacher of the Year
Matthew M. Winking— Mathematics Teacher, Phoenix High
Matthew Winking’s original career objective was engineering, but life seemed to lead him down a predestined path. He explains, “While I attended college as a mechanical engineering major, I worked part-time as a mechanic. I excelled in my mathematics classes, and I did acceptable work in the others. I began tutoring other college students in mathematics almost by accident. Before long, I found that tutoring college-level mathematics was much more profitable and infinitely more rewarding than working as a part-time mechanic.”

Mr. Winking’s teaching philosophy is to involve his students in practical applications of mathematics. He explains, “The majority of teacher lectures will be forgotten at some point. Most teacher demonstrations will eventually be lost, but a student-focused investigation will be remembered because the student was involved and engaged.”

One of his favorite student-focused investigations requires students to apply trigonometry to real-world phenomena. In the first lab, students use tools that they create and their knowledge of trigonometry to determine the height of the hotel across the street from the school, without ever leaving the school parking lot. In the next lab, they use mathematics software to create an animation of a Ferris wheel, demonstrating how the height of a rider, over time, produces a trigonometric sine wave. In the final student investigation, students search for and analyze real-world periodic phenomena that might generate trigonometric waves, such as sound, fluorescent lights, televisions, and A/C current.

Mr. Winking has been an educator for almost 14 years, teaching math at Phoenix High since 1996. He also teaches math classes at Georgia Perimeter College. Mr. Winking holds a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in mathematics education, both from the University of Georgia.
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As Gwinnett’s Teacher of the Year, Mrs. English will receive an additional $1,000 in her annual contract for as long as she teaches in Gwinnett County Public Schools. The two level winners for middle and high school each will have $750 added to their annual contracts as long as they remain GCPS teachers. The other three finalists received a one-time award of $500, and each local school winner received a one-time award of $200.
Mrs. English will represent the county in state competition. The Georgia Teacher of the Year will be named after the first of the year.

This year’s corporate sponsors of the Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year competition and banquet are Coca-Cola Enterprises, Georgia Power, Gwinnett Federal Credit Union, Hayes Chrysler Dodge Jeep, Herff Jones, IBM, Lifetouch Photography, and Mellon Global Securities Services.