After a long selection process and a night of impassioned remarks, Thomson Elementary School third-grade teacher Stacee Leslie received the title of 2013 McDuffie County Teacher of the Year.
"I'm just really excited about it," Leslie said. "It's nice to know you're being rewarded for your hard work. I feel that I will do a great job of representing the county with integrity."
The award was announced at the annual banquet honoring the teacher of the year candidates from six county schools. The nominees, family members, friends, students, teachers and board of education members gathered Monday evening at Thomson-McDuffie Middle School for the ceremony.
"I'm really proud of Stacee," said McDuffie County School Superintendent Jim LeBrun. "She is an outstanding teacher who will represent our school system well."
Thomson Elementary School Principal Anita Cummings said Leslie is a go-getter who takes the time to prepare lessons, work with students and find grants to get money for her students and her school.
"The things that she brings to her profession are a combination of the old school qualities you need in a teacher - integrity, honesty, work ethic - and a newness and freshness," Cummings said.
In her years at TES, Leslie has implemented a health and fitness program, offered after-school tutoring and contributed in grant-writing to bring money to McDuffie County elementary schools.
The other five candidates were Jeana Aycock, Dearing Elementary School; Larry Dunn, Thomson High School; Elena Lamar, Maxwell Elementary School; Tammy McClure, Norris Elementary School; and Claudia Rodriguez, Thomson-McDuffie Middle School.
"They are all very passionate, dedicated individuals," LeBrun said. "It was just a superb group to select from."
The selection process involved three components: completion of the Georgia Teacher of the Year packet, a classroom observation that took place Oct. 25 conducted by an outside panel of judges and an interview.
Each teacher was introduced by the principal at his or her school and a current or former student. Each received an apple-shaped award recognizing them as the teachers of the year at their respective schools.
C.J. Hunter, a student from Leslie's class last year, described her former teacher, nicknamed "The Grant-writing Guru," as one who was always hoping for anything from a problem-free day to a student learning how to spell.
Next, Leslie must repeat a similar process on the state level to compete for the 2013 Georgia Teacher of the Year.
"I'm glad she's with us," Cummings said. "She's a joy to have, and I can't wait to see what she'll do next."