A conversation with Debi West…GCPS 2005 Teacher of the Year

A conversation with Debi West…GCPS 2005 Teacher of the Year

On Nov. 9, Level Creek Elementary's Debi West was named 2005 Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year. In January, Ms. West got word that she is a finalist for state Teacher of the Year. The state winner will be named in March. In the following profile, you’ll get a hint of Ms. West’s boundless enthusiasm. A regular refrain? “Go, Art!!!”

What about teaching drew you into the profession? “Being able to make a difference in the life of a child! While teaching Sunday School I saw the impact that an enthusiastic teacher could have on kids. I truly believe it is the most rewarding profession there is!”
Gwinnett Teacher of the Year Debi West engages children in active learning in her art classroom.

What’s been your greatest moment in a GCPS classroom? “I wholeheartedly believe that every day is a gift. As the children walk down the hallways that we call the “mini museums” and their shoulders go back a bit and their chin lifts a bit higher, I realize that their art experiences make them feel proud. That is what my job is about, teaching kids to believe in themselves and be proud of their accomplishments!”

What part do you think the fine arts play in overall student achievement? “I think the arts are one of the most important disciplines because they encompass all of the ingredients needed for our students to be successful in school and to be lifelong learners. They play a huge part in overall student achievement because they are hands-on, demand critical- and creative-thinking skills as well as problem-solving skills, and promote self-esteem! The arts are all about setting kids up for success as their answers are the right answers! Research shows that test scores improve when children receive an arts education taught by certified, professional arts specialists!”

What is the most important thing teachers can do to promote their profession? “Be involved by sharing their successful teaching strategies with others! Teachers MUST be leaders. They must showcase their students’ talents and be involved with their professional organizations. If we all taught in vacuums, students wouldn’t be getting the best of us. We are best when we share and learn from one another, and I truly believe our students deserve that from us. Teachers MUST be learners. Students know when we are practicing what we preach, so I think that teachers must take classes, attend conferences, network with others in the field, read and write for educational magazines, and stay vocal and visible!”

What do you hope to see when you look back on your teaching career? “I hope that I did indeed make a difference in the life of a child, or thousands of children, for that matter. I hope that my students learned that the arts are about seeing the world a bit differently and that they continue to believe in themselves, truly knowing that if they try, they can succeed.”