FORT VALLEY -- As the Peach County school board named the school system’s Teacher of the Year on Tuesday, one attribute stood out to the board members about the candidates: passion.
Raymonia Mathis of Fort Valley Middle School was selected for the countywide honor.
“You have what we used to call a ‘fire in the belly’ for teaching,” board member Virginia Dixon said of the group of contenders.
Mathis is a 1993 graduate of Peach County High School, and that made the award even more special, she said.
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“It is an honor, especially since I’m a product of the Peach County school system and to be able to just come home and do what I love to do and try to make a difference in the lives of the students in the county that I grew up in,” she said.
Mathis teaches math to sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders and was introduced by Principal Damika Glover. Glover, who also is a Peach County graduate, knew Mathis in high school.
“I never would have dreamed in a million years that I would be principal of a school (where) Ms. Mathis was teaching,” Glover said.
Glover said Mathis was selected by her peers, likely because she is a “team player” willing to fill whatever role is needed.
“What stands out the most is her excellence in everything that she does,” Glover said.
Mathis holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbus State University but came to the education field after five years working for the Secretary of State’s Office.
Mathis said she tries to take away some of the intimidation factor that comes with math for many children.
“Just to make my children feel comfortable and to help them understand that math, specifically, doesn’t have to be that hard,” Mathis said.
The other Teacher of the Year nominees were Byron Middle’s Kristie Hill, Peach County High’s James Lassetter, Hunt Elementary’s Kevin Rivers, Byron Elementary’s Wanda Sullivan and Kay Road Elementary’s ShaWanda Williams.
Board member Donald Williams said that, as a former educator, he recognized the importance of passionate teachers in education.
“You have to have a passion for what you do to get out of the bed and do what you do each and every day,” he said.
Williams and board member Robert Hammack, whose terms are up at the end of the calendar year, also were honored for their four years of service. The board also recognized the Peach County High softball team for its 19-win season.
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.