PERRY — Northside Elementary School teacher Beth Sciarro was named the 2010-11 Houston County systemwide Teacher of the Year during the district’s opening session Wednesday.
Sciarro, who teaches early intervention program reading, received cash and gifts valued at nearly $12,000 for holding the distinction, including $3,250 in cash, all donated from local businesses, said Beth McLaughlin, director of community and school affairs.
Other prizes included a school supply basket from Wal-Mart, 52 weeks of free meals at Stevi B’s, two rounds of golf at the Houston Lake Country Club and a one-year lease on a Honda Accord from Hughes Honda, as well as complimentary maintenance on the car during that time.
“I can’t tell you what an honor it is to represent the teachers and staff of Houston County,” Sciarro said at the event, held at the Miller-Murphy-Howard Building at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter. “It’s the best school system in the world, not just Georgia.”
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A product of Houston County schools herself, Sciarro said she was proud to be a teacher in the community where she grew up.
“I wanted to give back to Warner Robins, back to the county that gave me so much,” she said.
Sciarro also mentioned her son was among those in the audience, back home all the way from Afghanistan, prompting the crowd of about 2,500 to give a standing ovation.
Throughout the year, sponsors from the local business community donate $64,000 for several major systemwide events, McLaughlin said. About $40,000 of that amount funds gifts for teachers of the year during the opening session.
Teacher finalists who made the short list for the systemwide Teacher of the Year Award were: Larissa Beecher of Bonaire Elementary, Demetria Thomas of Feagin Mill Middle, Laura Sanders of Hilltop Elementary and Wally Shaw of Houston County High.
Several other teachers were among the top 10 finalists: Monica Padgett of Lake Joy Primary, Angela Goodwin of Perdue Primary, Sherry Johnson of Perry High, Laura Lamberth of Quail Run Elementary and Julie Wiley of Pearl Stephens Elementary.
After celebrating the achievements of Houston County’s students and teachers and encouraging employees to have a positive attitude in the new school year, Superintendent Robin Hines shared a personal anecdote telling teachers to be mindful of their impact on students.
While in high school, Hines said he was enrolled in an upper-level English course. His teacher, however, encouraged him to drop down to a lower-level class, saying that he wasn’t college-bound material.
Unquestioningly, he did, and the experience stuck with him for years. Later, Hines said, he was initially unmotivated to go to college after finishing high school. He eventually did at his parents’ urging.
“Words are powerful,” Hines said. “What you say or do can leave a mark on a child.”
Hines encouraged the teachers in the room to learn from his own experience.
“It’s up to you to be a positive role model, to make a difference ... to be like the teacher you most admire,” he said.
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.