Staff Photo: Keith Farner Riverside Elementary third-grade teacher Lynne Franks recently earned the school's Teacher of the Year honor, and will compete with other teachers around Gwinnett for a county-wide award.
Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of profiles of the Teachers of the Year at the North Gwinnett cluster schools.
SUWANEE -- To be honored as her school's Teacher of the Year was especially gratifying for Lynne Franks because it was voted on by her peers, but also because it serves as an inspiration for her two daughters who are beginning their careers in education.
Franks, a third-grade teacher at Riverside Elementary, said she has been nominated several times, and occasionally felt like she was running for homecoming queen. But in her ninth year at the school, Franks won the award last week, and now will compete with other teachers around Gwinnett for the county-level teacher of the year.
"It's an honor and I do feel like everything I do has been added to by everybody around me," Franks said. "I'm just pieces of a lot of other people."
Franks said her first glimpse at being a teacher was when she was a child and helped her twin brother, who had dyslexia. "I was confused and frustrated, because he couldn't do what I could do," she said. "As a young child, I would sit with him, and help him with his homework, and I think those were the first steps of me becoming a teacher. I didn't know it back then, but it really was the first time I thought I liked working with people who struggled, and trying to help them learn. And it made me feel good."
Franks began her career teaching kindergarten through sixth grade in Louisiana, but has taught in Gwinnett for 17 years. Franks earned a home economics degree from Berry College, and is certified to teach kindergarten through 12th grade, but third grade is Frank's favorite age, and she's taught it for 14 years, she said.
Frank said she's anxious for every school day, and even writes reminders on a sticky note to prepare.
"I wake up every morning just loving what I do," she said. "It really does bring me joy to be a teacher. I don't know that everybody is in teaching to do that, but I know it's what God called me to do. I am in the right place."
Franks appreciates the leadership style of Riverside Principal Craig Barlow, and said she gains knowledge and skills from other teachers.
"Good teachers are made by the teacher next door," she said. "You learn from each other. It's like any job you're doing, the higher the expectations, you rise up."
As changes to curriculum and advances to technology have come along, Franks has taken them in stride because she said, "if you have a passion for what you do, you're going to do your best to figure it out."
Barlow said Frank is always willing to mentor young teachers, and help guide them through their first year and settle into the routine of the school. That's what sets her apart from other teachers, Barlow said.
"That's a big difference," he said. "And that's a lot of extra work that she takes on that's over and above the call of duty."
Franks said she doesn't teach to earn awards, and even wondered to her family if she should go through the application process again. But her youngest daughter reminded her of Frank's own advice to her daughters, which was to follow through when an opportunity comes.
"To be an inspiration to them and for any people who are looking to be a teacher," Franks said. "Where else do you get to truly change lives? Every job is not like that."