Even though she has reason to be stressed, Kathy Neal is on the road to happiness, according to one young man.
Mrs. Neal, who is McDuffie County's Teacher of the Year, received a treat last Wednesday from Blue Bell Creamery.
Blue Bell representative Chris Orman delivered four half-gallon cartons of Rocky Road ice cream to Mrs. Neal in her classroom.
"She should be really happy because she'll be on Rocky Road for the next few nights," Mr. Orman said to the students in the class.
Thomson High School Assistant Principal Lynn Cato said Mrs. Neal did not even hesitate when she asked what was her favorite ice cream flavor.
"I love marshmallows, and I love Rocky Road," Mrs. Neal said. "It reminds me of cold hot chocolate."
Each year, Blue Bell delivers ice cream to teachers who are finalist for state Teacher of the Year. Mrs. Neal was named McDuffie County Teacher of the Year last October. Two weeks ago, she was selected from 148 districts to be one of the 10 finalists for the statewide honor.
"One of the first things I thought about was 'Oh goody, all the kids will get ice cream again,'" Mrs. Neal said.
Not only did Blue Bell treat Mrs. Neal, but all students, faculty and staff at the high school also received a cup of vanilla ice cream. And one science class got a double treat. Mrs. Neal saved her cartons of Rocky Road and shared with those students Monday after a panel of judges sat in their class to observe her teaching. Following their observation, the judges interviewed Mrs. Neal.
State finalists were chosen based on their biographies and essay responses to questions ranging from personal teaching philosophy to the issues facing education. All the finalists will give a speech at a luncheon in Atlanta on March 26, and will be honored at a banquet at the Georgia Aquarium on May 14.
"I have to congratulate your teacher and how she connects with you makes her such a great teacher," Mr. Orman said to the students. "It's important to have a great teacher. I just graduated from college, and I can remember all the teachers who were an influence on me."
Mrs. Neal is the fourth teacher from McDuffie County to make the top 10 in the last 12 years. She joins the ranks of Robin Dudley, Kelly Flanders and Sherry Allen, according to previous McDuffie Mirror reports.
"We're extremely proud of Mrs. Neal, and having four teachers go to state is awesome for Thomson High School," Ms. Cato said.
Although she teaches chemistry and college preparatory physical science at Thomson High, Mrs. Neal began teaching sixth-grade science at Thomson Middle School only eight years ago. Mrs. Neal said she was a registered pharmacist for 25 years before she felt called at age 50 to become a teacher.
All state finalists will serve on the state superintendent's advisory council next school year. The winner will spend the school year traveling around the state and nation, serving as an ambassador for the teaching profession.