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Buford City Schools has announced the Teachers of the Year for its five schools, Buford Elementary, Buford Academy, Buford Senior Academy, Buford Middle and Buford High School. The North Gwinnett Voice was honored to converse with each of these educators about their teaching experiences and more.

Buford Elementary School Teacher of the Year — Lynn Perkins

Lynn Perkins has taught kindergarten at Buford Elementary School for her entire teaching career of 25 years. 

NGV: What prompted you to pursue a career in teaching? 

Lynn Perkins, center, pictured with Buford Elementary Assistant Principal Christie Brown, left, and Principal Mark Graves. Photo courtesy of Lynn Perkins

Lynn Perkins: I have always wanted to be a teacher. I love kids and watching them learn new things.

NGV: What do you enjoy most about teaching? 

LP: I love watching my kindergarten students learn how to read. That is one of the most exciting things to experience. They always get so excited about their success in everything they do. They are also so loving and I love being their school mom. We learn a lot of educational things during the day but we also teach them many life lessons and basic skills.

NGV: Describe your teaching philosophy. 

LP: I believe in teaching the whole child and that every child can be successful. I love each and every student in my class equally and I hope they leave every day knowing Mrs. Perkins’ cares for them. Teaching is my passion and I want learning to be their passion. If a child feels safe in your classroom environment they will strive to please you. 

NGV: What does it mean to be named Teacher of the Year for your school? 

LP: It is such an honor to represent Buford Elementary school. We have the most amazing staff and they all pour their entire heart into these children. I am just a small piece of this amazing BES family. Like I told them the other day we are all teachers of the year. BES is my family!!!!

Buford Academy Teacher of the Year — Susan Lanza

Susan Lanza teachers first through third grade gifted at Buford Academy. Of her 15 years teaching, she has spent five with Buford City Schools. 

NGV: What prompted you to pursue a career in teaching? 

Susan Lanza, center, pictured with some of her students at Buford Academy. Photo courtesy of Susan Lanza

Susan Lanza: I love learning! I love being part of a learning environment that allows me to continue growing as well as challenges students to reach their full potential.

NGV: What do you enjoy most about teaching? 

SL: The thing I enjoy most about teaching is my students. Kids have such amazing ideas and are so creative. They approach problems with such a different set of eyes than adults do. Acts of kindness and support for fellow students come naturally to them. Their hearts and minds give me so much hope for our future. 

Describe your teaching philosophy. 

SL: I believe that all students have unique talents and that it is our job to discover, nurture, empower, and celebrate them. All children possess some form of genius that is just waiting to be expressed. Creativity, problem solving, out of the box thinking, and scientific exploration must walk hand in hand with structure and routine. Children must be provided with open ended assignments, time to explore, independence to use classroom materials, and opportunities to reevaluate and modify ideas. Failure is an option and it is invaluable in the learning process. It is often what leads to our greatest successes. Nothing is more important to me than creating a classroom environment where all children feel safe, happy and celebrated for all of their unique talents and abilities. Years from now when my students think about me I want them to remember laughter, positive affirmations, and meaningful learning opportunities that helped to create the adults that they have become.

What does it mean to be named Teacher of the Year? 

SL: I work with an incredible group of teachers. Everyone has given their all this year to make this year as normal as possible for our students. It is such an honor to be recognized by my peers, whom I admire and learn so much from on a daily basis.

Buford Senior Academy Teacher of the Year — Sandi Brewer

Sandi Brewer is a fourth grade English/language arts and social studies teacher at Buford Senior Academy, where she has taught since the school opened two years ago. Before BSA, Brewer taught at Buford Elementary and Buford Academy. Prior to moving to Buford, Brewer taught with Dekalb County Schools. She is now in her 25th year of teaching. 

NGV: What prompted you to pursue a career in teaching?

Sandi Brewer

Sandi Brewer: From a very young age, I have always known I wanted to teach. I was very involved helping with pre-school Sunday School classes at my church. One summer I went on a mission trip and was responsible for planning and teaching a group of young children for the week. It was then that I discovered I had a true passion for teaching.

NGV: What do you enjoy most about teaching? 

SB: There are so many things I love about teaching! It is very hard to choose one thing. I love introducing my students to new ideas and concepts and seeing their excitement and enthusiasm. I love bringing Social Studies alive in my classroom with fun and engaging activities. It is so rewarding to see students choose to read books on Social Studies topics we are currently studying or bring in a project they created independently at home where they researched more facts about a historical event. It is truly fulfilling to see my students excited about learning!

NGV: Describe your teaching philosophy.

SB: I believe the foundation for teaching begins with establishing supportive and encouraging relationships with students. Students will thrive in an environment when they know their teacher truly cares about all of their needs. I also believe in setting high expectations for students. Students are reminded daily that I believe in them and they can succeed if they work hard. I believe providing support can help build confidence so they can achieve their goals.

NGV: What does it mean to be named Teacher of the Year for your school?

SB: It is truly an honor to receive this recognition.  I am surrounded with many hard-working, talented, and deserving teachers. It is very humbling to be recognized by my peers in this amazing school system.  I consistently strive to be the best version of myself every day. Being named Teacher of the Year provides me the opportunity to inspire greatness in others, especially my students, as well as serving as an advocate for them and my colleagues.

Buford Middle School Teacher of the Year — Cassie Bro

Cassie Bro has been teaching for nine years, with five of those spent at Buford Middle School, where she teaches PE and health. 

NGV: What prompted you to pursue a career in teaching? 

Cassie Bro: I had spent many years coaching college basketball and recruiting student-athletes to the institutions where I coached and would see the frustration in them when they realized they were unable to qualify academically. I decided I wanted to be on the other side and help kids be able to position themselves so they can take advantage of the opportunities that are available to them. 

Cassie Bro

NGV: What do you enjoy most about teaching? 

CB: The relationships that I get to build with the students and my coworkers. Every day is different and provides an opportunity to have a positive impact on a life. 

NGV: Describe your teaching philosophy: 

CB: I believe that education comes in many different forms and occurs through all aspects of life. It is a continual process and regardless of age we should all strive to be lifelong learners. As a teacher it is my goal to model this for my students. I believe that all children have the ability to learn and should be awarded that opportunity. Creating an environment that fosters learning and growth is a top priority. I want students to have fun with the learning process as well as see success early so they can build confidence in themselves knowing they are capable of being a lifelong learner. I strive to bring energy, joy, and passion into the classroom of life and teach my students how to Win the Day!

NGV: What does it mean to be named Teacher of the Year for your school? 

CB: It is an honor and privilege to be recognized by my peers. I work with some of the most extraordinary educators in the state and every day I learn something from them, whether it’s how to be a better teacher, communicator, or person.  I am thankful that I have the opportunity to work in such an amazing school system with an administration that fosters an environment where we are supported and can pour into our students. 

Buford High School Teacher of the Year — Melissa Green

Melissa Green teaches honors chemistry and AP biology at Buford High School, where she has taught for 14 years of the 20 total years she has been teaching. 

NGV: What prompted you to pursue a career in teaching? 

Melissa Green: I enjoyed science, I had a natural ability to convey information and had a desire to make a difference in a young person’s life. Teaching was a career choice that let me combine all three. 

Melissa Green

NGV: What do you enjoy most about teaching? 

MG: Definitely the students. They constantly make me laugh. 

NGV: Describe your teaching philosophy. 

MG: Students learn best in a structured and empathetic environment. Operating a successful classroom requires a solid routine and some basic classroom ground rules. All students can find success when they know the game plan and know the rules to the game. Empathy is important to increase student achievement. Chemistry is not the easiest subject for all students so I work to acknowledge the struggles that come with pursuing academic excellence and encourage students to keep pursuing THEIR best not someone else’s. 

NGV: What does it mean to be named Teacher of the Year for your school?

MG: There are many excellent teachers at BHS so it is an honor to be selected by my peers as TOTY. 

CORRECTION: The North Gwinnett Voice’s print publication for Friday, May 21, 2021, includes the incorrect photo for Ms. Melissa Green, Teacher of the Year at Buford High School. Ms. Lisa Cole’s photo was printed mistakenly. The North Gwinnett Voice extends its apologies to Ms. Green and Ms. Cole and our readership. We strive to publish an error-free newspaper and will continue to work toward that goal every edition. 

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Deanna Allen has served as editor of the North Gwinnett Voice since June 2021. Effective communication and creative design are her passions.

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