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School system names teacher of the year

DULUTH - Trickum Middle teacher Aimee Burgamy says she strives to be an advocate for the arts.

She's also an example of excellence in teaching. The former college professor was selected Thursday as the 2009 Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year.

"My cup runneth over," said Burgamy, who has also been named the Georgia Art Education Association's 2009 Outstanding National Junior Art Honor Society Sponsor Award recipient.

Burgamy, who has been at Trickum Middle since 2005, said she is proud and privileged to work for Gwinnett County Public Schools, a district that "understands there's more to education that just core subjects."

"Students deserve more than just the basics," she said.

Burgamy previously said she teaches art because the subject exercises parts of the brain needed to be successful in life, such as the abilities to solve problems, to invent, to be creative, to be patient, to analyze, to learn how to work together with others and to design.

"Middle schoolers are the audience most in need of an arts advocate," she said. "I am a middle school arts teacher because to be truly great, we must persuade our toughest critics, teens and preteens."

Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks announced Burgamy had been chosen the district's top teacher during a banquet honoring the 112 local school Teachers of the Year.

"Creativity, flexibility and commitment are the hallmarks of great teachers," Wilbanks wrote in the event's program. "Exceptional teachers also have high standards, embrace accountability and use sound instructional practices. As educators, you have exhibited all of these characteristics, and thereby attained a level of success not reached by many.

"Tonight, we express our appreciation to you," the message continues. "We honor you because each of you has embraced excellence - for yourself and for your students - by continually striving to achieve at higher levels. Teaching is a part of your heart and soul; and, you are the heart and soul of our school system."

Wilbanks also announced the district's Elementary School Teacher of the Year, Jodi Sanchez of Bethesda Elementary, and High School Teacher of the Year, Todd Shultz of Phoenix High.

Shultz began his teaching career in an inner-city school in Oakland, Calif.

"Though the situation proved challenging, I found myself absolutely loving it," the social studies teacher said. "Being given the opportunity to play a positive role in helping students whose life circumstances were far more difficult and extreme than what I had ever experienced helped me to see that a profession in teaching should in no way be considered 'less,'" he said. "On the contrary, it was at this time that I decided that I not only wanted to be a teacher, but had to be one."

Shultz has taught at Phoenix since 2000.

"It's an incredible honor to be a teacher and particularly a teacher in Gwinnett County," he said after receiving the award.

Sanchez, a science specialist at Bethesda Elementary, said she teaches children through the process of discovery.

"Children gain knowledge from their own exploratory actions," she said. "They are natural scientists attempting to understand the world around them. As educators, it is our job to guide them along a pathway of discovery provided with rich experiences and thought-provoking questions that allow them to reach their own learning potential."

Sanchez joined Bethesda Elementary in 2006 after seven years of teaching fifth-grade students in Louisiana and Illinois.

"I am truly honored to serve the children of Gwinnett County Public Schools," Sanchez said after receiving the award. "This award really belongs to them, because if it weren't for them, this wouldn't be possible."