Northgate High School English teacher Hilary Perry has been named the Coweta County School System’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Perry’s selection was announced Thursday at the annual Teacher of the Year ceremony, hosted by the Coweta County Board of Education at the Nixon Centre for Performing and Visual Arts.
Perry was chosen as Coweta’s top teacher from among 31 school-level Teachers of the Year and from among three finalists including Sarah Trotter, a special education teacher at Willis Road Elementary School, and Amanda Bowles, a math teacher at East Coweta High School.
The ceremony featured 2019 Teacher of the Year Ashley Nelson of Ruth Hill Elementary School. Nelson was the school system’s nominee for state Teacher of the Year and served as the keynote speaker.
All 31 Teachers of the Year honored Thursday night – and Nelson, as the system’s state TOTY nominee – served as both honorees for the past two years. The Coweta Teacher of the Year ceremony was canceled last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the state’s suspension of the TOTY program at that time, and recognitions were held over until this year.
Perry has served as an English teacher for grades 9-12 at Northgate High School since 2013. She is chair of the school’s English department and is a member of Northgate’s leadership team. Perry began her career in 2003, teaching high school English in Rockingham County Schools in Virginia. She also has taught English in Marshall, Missouri; Hazelton, Pennsylvania; and at East Coweta High School.
“Hilary Perry is a ‘students’ teacher,’” said Ken Kesselring, a Coweta Schools administrator and Perry’s former principal. “When a student looks at their schedule in August and they see Hilary Perry is their English teacher, a smile appears on the face of the student. That is because the student knows they will be loved and respected every day they walk into English class.”
Kesselring shared a letter that a student of Perry’s recently sent. The student said during the transition from online learning during the early days of the pandemic to in-person learning in the fall, “Mrs. Perry’s teaching never changed. It didn’t matter if we were online or in person, we were all equally engaged and checked on. I look back at this … difficult year and couldn’t imagine a better teacher teaching me. I feel that I have learned so much from her class, and I think we all learned so much from her because we knew she cared about us.”
“Because her students feel loved and respected, they will do their best to succeed because they don’t want to let Mrs. Perry down,” Kesselring said.
All school-level teachers were honored during the ceremony. They include:
Dani Kelly, special education (Arbor Springs Elementary)
Adrienne True, pre-kindergarten (Arnco-Sargent Elementary)
Dana Lovvorn, fourth grade math (Atkinson Elementary)
Dana Miller, second grade (Brooks Elementary)
Becky Lowery, third grade (Canongate Elementary)
Shannon Millard, special education (Eastside Elementary)
Laura Bass, REACH/gifted education (Elm Street Elementary)
Catherine Drake, fourth grade English/language arts (Glanton Elementary)
Regenia Ware, fifth grade math (Jefferson Parkway Elementary)
Kiesha Carroll, fourth grade English/language arts (Moreland Elementary)
Barbara McDowell, first grade (Newnan Crossing Elementary)
Dede Rowan, early intervention program (Northside Elementary)
Mechelle Geter, fifth grade (Poplar Road Elementary)
Mary Thompson, REACH/gifted education (Ruth Hill Elementary)
Jen Scruggs, second grade (Thomas Crossroads Elementary)
Kristie Stewart, first grade (Welch Elementary)
Patsy Hart, fifth grade science (Western Elementary)
Viveca Edwards, kindergarten (White Oak Elementary)
Sarah Trotter, special education (Willis Road Elementary)
Melanie Smith: eighth grade science, (Arnall Middle)
Katie Bott, eighth grade English/language arts (East Coweta Middle)
Rebecca Bowman, seventh grade science (Evans Middle)
Jerilyn Robinson, sixth grade math (Lee Middle)
Alonza Wood, math (Maggie Brown Middle)
Matt Nash, health/physical education (Madras Middle)
Kelley Ritter, seventh grade special education (Smokey Road Middle) (2020 only)
Pat Patten, audio engineering (Central Educational Center)
Amanda Bowles, math (East Coweta High)
Chris Swanson, economics (Newnan High)
Hilary Perry, English (Northgate High)
Angela Dettmering, social studies (Winston Dowdell Academy)
Teachers of the Year are selected by their fellow certified educators at each school for the quality of their teaching, professional development, teaching philosophies and methods, community involvement, contributions to education, and their ability to inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn.
Honorees represent grade levels from kindergarten through 12th grade and a range of educational disciplines including elementary grade instruction, math and English, special education, gifted education, physical education, sciences, arts and language arts; media specialists also are eligible.
Nelson addressed the 2020-21 Teachers of the Year at the event, noting that it had been two years since the last Teacher of the Year ceremony, when Elm Street music teacher Josh Tate addressed his fellow teachers, calling them “beacons of hope.”
“Little did any of us know that night just how significant his message would be as we moved into the 2019-2020 school year,” Nelson said.
“Each of you are here tonight because your fellow educators chose you to represent your school,” she said. “Of all the dedicated, hard-working, purposeful teachers at your school, they chose you. They chose you because you are a difference-maker. They chose you because you don’t just teach your students, you love teaching your students. They chose you because you make your school a better workplace.They chose you because, in the words of Mr. Tate, you all are the lights – the beacons of hope.”