PERRY — Superintendent David Carpenter looked over the assembled throng of teachers, administrators and staff of the Houston County school system and told them he saw life savers.
"The medical profession saves lives, and we do, too," Carpenter said at Monday's opening session at the Miller-Murphy-Howard Building at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter. "We save children."
School system employees were urged to keep in mind the system's beliefs.
"I challenge you to meet these standards every day," Carpenter said. "Failure is not an option."
After going through a list of state and national awards and accomplishments of the previous school year, Carpenter reminded educators that while he is proud of that, he wants educators to remove all barriers to student success.
Floyd Jolley of Mossy Creek Middle School, last year's systemwide Teacher of the Year, introduced this year's honoree, history teacher Alan Bowers of Houston County High.
In his remarks, Jolley quoted from "Success," a 1904 poem by Bessie Anderson Stanley, and urged fellow educators to live well, laugh often and love much.
"Love much is the greatest measure of a successful teacher," Jolley said.
"Those who truly love their students will make a difference."
Then, taking a cue from Georgia comedian Jeff Foxworthy, Jolley went through a "You know you're a real teacher" list, including such gems as "You know you're a real teacher when you can sense gum," and "You know you're a real teacher when you dream about your bulletin boards in class or have nightmares about losing control in class."
The guest speaker, former national Teacher of the Year Chauncey Veatch from California, compared educators to patriots, saying he didn't know of any undertaking that was more patriotic than being a teacher.
Veatch began his teaching career about a week after retiring as a colonel with 22 years in the Army. He taught in the Coachella Valley school district in California, overwhelmingly agricultural and Hispanic.
"I teach in a community of dreamers," Veatch said. "They came to the U.S. for a better life, and want a better life for their children."
He sought for his class the problem children — discipline problems, girls in trouble, those in gangs or leaning toward gangs, he said — and helped them become productive students and citizens.
"Am I my brother's keeper? Yes, we are," Veatch said. "This profession is a calling and I feel truly blessed."
Classes start Monday in Houston County, and Aug. 7 in Peach and Bibb counties.