Renee Thomasson, 2013 Buford City School System Teacher of the Year, a kindergarten teacher at Buford Elementary School, reads a book about pumpkins to her class Tuesday morning. Students including, Luke Vallee, at left, Natalie Barnes, center, Breanna Vold, and Jack Powell, at front right, ask questions. The Buford school district holds their overall teacher of the year program.
BUFORD -- Tuesday was filled with nervous anticipation for the 2013 Buford City Schools teacher of the year candidates.
Representing each of the district's schools, four teachers were recognized by central office administrators during an appreciation breakfast, followed by a meet-and-greet with judges who would stop by classrooms later to observe teaching methods.
It was an all-day process Tuesday which eventually led to the selection of the district's overall teacher of the year.
If they'd only consulted with 5-year-old Tommy Olawole, they would have saved a whole heap of time.
"Ms. Thomasson, she teaches us stuff we don't know," said the boy, taking a break Tuesday during a lesson about pumpkins. "She reads us books about true facts, and she is a great teacher."
After observing the classrooms of Buford's most elite educators, they selected kindergarten teacher Renee Thomasson of Buford Elementary School as teacher of the year.
Her principal, Melanie Reed, said Thomasson is well deserving. "She's the total package. Her students adore her. Her colleagues adore her. She's a great teammate to them. We are just thrilled for her."
Thomasson said the secret to doing the job well lies in "being patient, being creative and being open in communicating with the parents. Also, involving the parents as well ... welcoming them into the room and getting their feedback on everything."
Other educators who were honored as teachers of the year talked about the keys to successful teaching.
Christy Coffey, an eighth-grade teacher at Buford Middle School, said "you have to passionately love instruction and teaching. You have to understand that each student is different and accept that. You have to love your job too. It's different every day."
Principal Rachel Adams said Coffey is "a team player and does whatever is asked of her."
Boaz Clark, a 13-year-old student of Coffey's, said his teacher "makes sure everybody is prepared, and she helps people, which is a great trait for a teacher."
Students of Pam Jones, the Buford High School teacher of the year, also had some nice things to say.
"She interacts well with the kids and explains the material in a way you can understand," said Connor Bennett, a 15-year-old sophomore.
"She's very good at her job."
Principal Banks Bitterman said Jones -- a biology, chemistry and special education teacher -- "does a phenomenal job" at the high school.
In her own words, Jones said "you have to find a good way to explain information to students on their level. You have to break it down to the basics and keep going over and over and over it...but you have to make it fun too."
Stephanie Heard, Buford Academy's teacher of the year, said good teaching involves "teamwork and collaboration. My goal is to try to reach out to kids in a way they can take with them beyond the classroom."
One of her students, Camden DeLano, 10, said he likes Heard because "she's really helpful and sweet to us."
Buford Academy Principal Kaleen Pulley said Heard is "a champion for children. She embraces children that are struggling and helps students feel confident about themselves, so that they can be successful."
Added Pulley: "And she just loves those kids."