Pollitz is a finalist for Georgia Teacher of the Year
Pepperell Middle's Shannon Pollitz is a finalist for Georgia Teacher of the Year
Posted on 03/11/2013
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Shannon Pollitz, an English/language arts teacher of gifted eighth-graders at Pepperell Middle School and the 2013 Floyd County Schools Teacher of the Year, has been named a finalist for 2014 Georgia Teacher of the Year.  Pollitz was one of 10 finalists announced today by State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge.  The finalists were chosen from a pool of 155 applicants selected as the Teacher of the Year in their school districts.  This is the second consecutive year that the Teacher of the Year from Floyd County Schools has been named a finalist for the state honor.  Alana Ellenburg, a teacher at Pepperell High School, received both honors last year. 

Pollitz is a second generation Teacher of the Year as her mother, Connie Pollitz, received the honor ten years ago. Pollitz credits her parents, both teachers, with sharing the joys of teaching with her. "It was the examples my father and mother lived in sharing their passion for learning with children that slowly pulled me into the profession," she said. "I did not start out to be a teacher, but I could not get away from what I seemed destined to do with my life." Pollitz is in her twelfth year on the career path she inherited.  However, she did not follow the interests of her parents in subject matter - they were math and science teachers. English and literature are her passion and she seeks to share her love for the subjects with the students in her classroom. "I want my students to be critical thinkers, problem solvers and open to exploring knowledge at a higher level," Pollitz said. "To be effective learners, students must do more than memorize dates and facts but understand why information is important to them and be active seekers of knowledge."  

A class period in Shannon Pollitz's classroom is busy and interactive for the students. The desks usually fall into multiple formations as the class may begin in rows to watch a video about an event in history, move into pods of four for small-group work, and then end in a large circle for discussion and debate of the day's topic. "I want my class to be active and fun," Pollitz said. "My students know that a simple yes or no response is unacceptable in our discussions because they must share with me the evidence they have examined and how that has impacted their view." The students in Shannon Pollitz's class have embraced the higher expectations she has for them. "She gets everyone in the class involved in discussion, and I like being able to talk about my feelings and what I liked about a question or whatever," eighth grader Allie Williams said. "It is fun in her class and not like some drag to have to go - I really like it!" A classmate Jaxon Croy added, "She asks very critical questions and she makes us think beyond the classroom." Eighth-grader Jake Ross agreed, "She likes to know what your thoughts are and I love that about the class because I like to express my ideas." Pollitz sees the teens responding to the heightened expectations. She said, "As teachers, we need to change the way we view teaching or how we have traditionally believed that we should run our classroom and let the children take responsibility for discovery and learning - they have not disappointed me."

Over the next several weeks, a panel of judges will conduct video observations and interview each of the finalists for Georgia Teacher of the Year. The finalists will also give a speech at a luncheon sponsored by Georgia Power in April. The winner will be announced at the Georgia Teacher of the Year banquet on May 3, 2013, at the Georgia International Convention Center. The banquet, paid for through donations from sponsors, will honor each local district Teacher of the Year. A reception hosted by United Healthcare will be held prior to the banquet.

The 2014 Georgia Teacher of the Year will travel around the state and the nation, serving as an ambassador for the teaching profession. The winner will also be entered in the National Teacher of the Year competition.