GLE teacher named FCS Teacher of the Year
Garden Lakes teacher named Floyd County Teacher of the Year
Posted on 10/13/2010
Michelle Plemons Sanders, a third-grade teacher at Garden Lakes Elementary, has been selected the Floyd County Schools Teacher of the Year for 2011. For Mrs. Sanders, teaching is not just a job or even a career. For her, teaching is a passion. That passion for teaching young children and letting it show in her work in the classroom is what led to Mrs. Sanders’ selection as the Floyd County school system Teacher of the Year. “Children are the center of learning and certainly teaching and learning is not about me,” Sanders said. “I am a huge believer that children must construct their own learning and together we create an atmosphere of sharing and exploration.” To accomplish this, Sanders uses what she calls a workshop model. In this model, she spends a short time setting-up the lesson for the day and introducing the concept by relating the topic to something that is meaningful to the children in her class. Then, she designs a variety of learning centers that allow the young learners to explore and work together to build on their knowledge. “For learning to take place, the children have to know that they are going to be doing learning activities they enjoy during the school day,” Sanders said. “They must have time to share their thoughts and ideas and know that their contribution is valued.” 

When you enter Mrs. Sanders’ classroom at the end of the hallway at Garden Lakes Elementary, you are entering a calm, relaxed atmosphere of learning. Mrs. Sanders rarely turns on her overhead lights. She has small lamps to lightly illuminate the classroom and you hear the soft sounds of calm music filling the air. “I want the physical atmosphere of my classroom to be comforting and entertaining for the mind,” Sanders said. “I have found that it is unbelievable what a difference I see in my student’s achievement and desire to learn using a calming and tranquil atmosphere compared to a more rigid, standard class atmosphere.” The students in Mrs. Sanders’ class respond positively to her modeling of respect for other’s ideas and her philosophy of active learning. “She is real exciting and funny,” beamed Nicolas Johnson, a student in Mrs. Sanders’ class. “She just brings happiness to our class.” Mrs. Sanders finds it a challenge to combine fun and learning. She said, “When I see them smiling, happy and excited about coming to school each day I know that they are learning – they are not just playing they are truly learning.” 

Michelle Sanders is in just her third year of teaching but her commitment to taking the time to understand the individual child and how each learns more than makes up for her limited time in her craft. “It is amazing what children can do when you just take the time to value a child, to validate and appreciate who they are inside,” Sanders said. “Each has the drive to succeed academically and socially and that can be tapped when you take the time to let them be themselves and show them that they are valued as a person.” Mrs. Sanders is one of the youngest teachers selected Floyd County Teacher of the Year but system leadership is excited about her prospects in the state competition. “Mrs. Sanders possesses a rare combination of youthful exuberance, a passion for children and an understanding of how children learn,” said Dr. Lynn Plunkett, superintendent of Floyd County Schools. “I look forward to seeing what the future holds for the children in her classroom for whom she illuminates the pathway of learning.” 

Michelle Plemons Sanders started her career at Garden Lakes in 2008. She is a graduate of the University of West Georgia with an undergraduate and a master degree. She also holds an art degree from Georgia Highlands College. 

Sanders was selected as the top teacher for Floyd County Schools from three finalists. The finalists were: Dr. Amy Tilley-Allee, a grade 6-12 science teacher at the Floyd County Education Center, Deanna L. Hackney an eighth-grade physical science teacher at Coosa Middle School, and Sanders. The finalists were selected by a review committee from the Georgia Teacher of the Year Association. This is an association made-up of former Georgia Teachers of the Year. The committee made the selections from written applications submitted by the Teacher of the Year representatives from each school in the Floyd County School System. Questions asked in the application were taken from the Georgia Teacher of the Year application form. 

Mrs. Sanders was selected as Floyd County’s Teacher of the Year by a selection panel made up of retired educators from the Rome/Floyd Retired Educators Association. The finalists participated in personal interviews and classroom observations as a part of the selection process. For her selection as Floyd County Schools 2011 Teacher of the Year; Michelle Sanders will receive $500.00, a plaque for her classroom, and a "Teacher of the Year" commemorative display from the Northwest Georgia Credit Union. Each finalist also will receive $100.00 from Northwest Georgia Credit Union, sponsor of the Floyd County Schools Teacher of the Year recognition.

Mrs. Sanders will now represent Floyd County Schools in the Georgia Teacher of the Year recognition program. The Georgia Teacher of the Year will be announced by the Georgia Department of Education in the spring.

Sanders and the rest of the individual school Teachers of the Year will be honored at the November Floyd County Board of Education meeting. Local school “Teachers of the Year” are: Jodye Newbern Butler, Alto Park Elementary; Dr. Ann Marie House, Armuchee Elementary; Michaele Flynn, Armuchee High; Katie Hulsey, Armuchee Middle; Val Featherston, Cave Spring Elementary; Robert Cummings, Coosa High; Deanna Hackney, Coosa Middle; Dr. Amy Tilley-Allee, Floyd County Education Center; Joe Carter, Floyd County Schools College & Career Academy; Michelle Plemons Sanders , Garden Lakes Elementary; Amy Hyde, Glenwood Primary; Amber Hembree, Johnson Elementary; Rod Sizemore, McHenry Primary; Diane Lumpkin, Midway Primary; Lyn Davis, Model Elementary; Dana Tarter, Model High; Wendy Hall, Model Middle; Teri Michelle Pendley, Pepperell Primary; Robin Cole, Pepperell Elementary; Richard Pryor, Pepperell Middle; and Norma Williams, Pepperell High.