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Axton Elementary teacher named county's best of year
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Axton Elementary School teacher Joyce M. Ashworth (left) was named the division’s teacher of the year on Thursday. She received use of the Nelson Automotive car in the background for three months as a reward. She is seen with first runner-up Karen C. Cecil (center) and second runner-up Cynthia S. Finney. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Friday, April 18, 2014

By BY PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Joyce M. Ashworth, a fourth-grade teacher at Axton Elementary School, was named Henry County Public Schools’ 2015 Teacher of the Year at a banquet Thursday night at Chatmoss Country Club.

Karen C. Cecil, a guidance counselor at Magna Vista High School, was named first runner-up, and Cynthia S. Finney, a special education teacher at Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School, was named second runner-up.

The other top-five finalists were Velaine G. Bonebright, school librarian at Drewry Mason Elementary, and Mary Y. Hall, a third-grade teacher at John Redd Smith Elementary.

Other individual school Teachers of the Year are Penny M. Decker, an English teacher at Bassett High School; Sara G. Dean, a first-grade teacher at Campbell Court Elementary; Lynn Stone, a kindergarten teacher at Carver Elementary; Robin D. Gravely, an adult education teacher at the Center for Community Learning; Sarah A. Whitlow, a second-grade teacher at Collinsville Primary; Danielle A. Trotter, a math teacher at Laurel Park Middle; Amy W. Mitchell, a third-grade teacher at Mount Olivet Elementary; Kimberly H. Clark, a second-grade teacher at Rich Acres Elementary; Jodie K. Rakes, a reading specialist at Sanville Elementary; and Susan M. Bousman, a special education teacher at Stanleytown Elementary.

Nearly 85 people attended the event.

Each school selected its Teacher of the Year. A committee from the division’s central office narrowed the list to five finalists, and a committee of school division administrators, a school principal and community representatives selected the division’s Teacher of the Year, said Christy Landon, the school division’s director of human resources.

Ashworth, Cecil and Finney each got to select a new car to drive for three months and provided by Nelson Automotive.

“... We appreciate the dedication, hard work and sacrifice that all educators put forth over the course of a school year. We sincerely hope that this small token of our appreciation conveys the respect we hold for the teachers and support professionals of the Henry County School System,” Barry Nelson of the dealerships, who was unable to attend because of a prior speaking engagement, said in a statement read by schools Superintendent Jared Cotton.

A Toyota Camry and two Kia Souls waited outside the building, and film was shown on a screen in the banquet room as the three educators made their choices outside.

Ashworth selected the Toyota Camry, making her choice known by honking the horn.

“I am thrilled and honored” to be selected as the division’s Teacher of the Year, she said in an interview. With 18 years as a teacher, she thanked educators who mentored and guided her in her career, and she praised colleagues and administrators.

“I have the most wonderful job in the world,” she said. “I go home at night and know I had the opportunity to change the world.”

“I love teaching!” Ashworth was quoted as saying in the banquet program. “Teaching allows me to build relationships, engage minds and connect students to the world while they discover their skills and passions ... .”

Cotton quoted Axton Principal Jo Ellen Hylton as saying: “Mrs. Ashworth strives to meet not only the academic needs of her students but also their emotional, physical and social needs. She is truly an asset to our school and our school division. Her community spirit and drive are evident in all that she does.”

Ashworth’s husband, Jimmy, and children, Lane, 13, and Carlee, 10, watched as she selected the Camry. Jimmy Ashworth called both his wife’s being selected division Teacher of the Year and getting to drive a new car for three months “awesome.”

First runner-up Cecil called it “such an overwhelming honor.” She said she is a product of Henry County Schools. She said she was “humbled” to be in the banquet room with “wonderful teachers and administrators.”

Joe DeVault, chairman of the Henry County School Board, told the Teachers of the Year: “Tonight you are being recognized by your peers. That is the ultimate recognition. ... Who more than teachers has the opportunity to make the world a better place?”

Cotton said, among other things, “I visit our classrooms and schools often and know firsthand that we have excellent teachers. ... Making a positive difference in teaching all children requires great skill, patience and a dedicated team. This evening we are going to celebrate 15 team members who are making a positive difference in the lives of students, parents and their co-workers each and every day.”

Cotton read a quote from a principal, co-worker, student or parent about each school Teacher of the Year. Each principal made comments about his or her school’s Teacher of the Year. More than 20 local businesses and community partners donated gift certificates and/or prizes that were awarded to school Teachers of the Year, the top five finalists, the top three and division Teacher of the Year. Ashworth also will receive a trophy.

Trey Harris, who was HCPS’ and Region VI’s 2014 Teacher of the Year, gave congratulatory remarks to the school winners and talked about memorable teachers when he was growing up.

Ashworth will go on to represent HCPS at the regional level of competition. The winner of the region goes on to the state level, and the state winner goes to the national level.


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