Buford High School language arts teacher Leah Curtright, left, was honored as the Buford City Schools and Buford High School Teacher of the Year at a banquet on Tuesday night at the Buford Community Center. Kindergarten teacher Leanne Tarleton, right, was honored as the Buford Elementary School Teacher of the Year. (Staff Photos: Keith Farner)
BUFORD — When Banks Bitterman needed a “stud” language arts teacher, he found Leah Curtright, but during the preliminary interview process, he learned that there was one problem with her: She was too nice.
So the Buford High School principal shared that thought with Buford City Schools Superintendent Geye Hamby, who was candid with Curtright.
Sitting next to her during an interview, Hamby simply asked her about being too nice.
Curtright then inched closer to Hamby, and said bluntly, “I might seem nice,” she said, “but I sure can take care of business if I need to.”
With that, Hamby winked at Bitterman and Curtright was hired to teach language arts at Buford High School.
Curtright was honored on Tuesday night as Buford’s System Teacher of the Year and the high school teacher of the year. Also at a banquet at the Buford Community Center, the district honored Buford Elementary’s Leanne Tarleton, Buford Academy’s Saresa Williams and Max Duncan of Buford Middle as this year’s recipients of the annual awards.
When she acknowledged her two daughters, Curtright said they are her inspiration.
“They teach me that I want to be the kind of teacher I want my kids to have,” she said.
Tarleton, misty-eyed with her parents in attendance, said she was the first person in her family to attend college. The kindergarten teacher said Monday is her favorite day of the week because she and her students accomplish so much.
“Y’all,” she said, “everyday in kindergarten, something awesome happens.”
When Williams joined Buford City Schools seven years ago, Buford Academy Principal Kaleen Pulley said she came with a sense of loyalty, compassion, enthusiasm, vigor and a wink, just when you need it.
“She’s a pinnacle leader who stands out from the rest,” Pulley said of the gifted education teacher.
Duncan, who offered arguably the driest sense of humor of the evening, had an answer when his principal, Rachel Adams, shared with the audience that they’ve known one another since the sixth grade.
“We attended the same parties in middle school and high school,” Duncan said. “And I know some stuff.”
Duncan, who has taught seventh-grade science at Buford Middle for 24 years, thanked Hamby for listening to some of his ideas for new science labs, and the people who hired him.
“Thank you for giving me a chance to do what I was called to do,” he said.
When Curtright was hired at the school district, someone told her that Buford is a special place, and to find someone who personifies the “nebulous it” and seek them as a role model.
She found it in several people and added, “I’m so glad I got to know part of the nebulous it.”