Speech pathologist named No. 1 educator in Barrow

BETHLEHEM - A speech pathologist who isn't afraid to get down on the floor with her preschool students at Barrow County Schools' Early Learning Center was named the school system's Teacher of the Year on Thursday.

Amy Dew, who has taught in Barrow County since 2002, teaches prekindergarten students with special needs, including some with disabilities such as autism, Down syndrome or cerebral palsy.

Dew said she was "very honored and very surprised" by the award.

"It's an overwhelming but exciting time," Dew said. "It's been a very interesting and exciting day."

Dew has a straightforward teaching philosophy: "Every child has the ability to learn, regardless of the disability they have."

"I believe in the language of play," Dew wrote in her Teacher of the Year application packet. "Using play as an instructional approach naturally promotes 'showing' and 'doing' - therefore, our students remember and understand the introduced skill/concept."

Cindy Royster, the preschool program specialist at the Early Learning Center, said Dew is "very animated and silly."

"She's willing to get down on the floor (with the children who will) crawl all over you," Royster said. "She embraces those children that have special needs.

"She's very professional and very good with parents and students. I can't say enough about Amy. She's just the best."

Parents of one of Dew's former students wrote a letter recommending Dew for the award.

"She was always trying something new or different to keep Chelbi on task," the letter said. "The positive reinforcement and the encouragement Amy gave Chelbi is how she handled Kindergarten so well. As parents, she provided us with the tools we needed, to help our child with the problems she would face in everyday learning.

"The time and energy she puts into what she does proves it's more than just a job to her. Amy truly wants to help the children she spends time with."

Dew, of Athens, has an undergraduate degree in communication sciences and disorders and a master's degree in speech-language pathology, both from the University of Georgia.

In 2005, Dew was honored by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association for her continued professional studies.