LOGANVILLE — For a few years, teacher Beth Callahan stepped away from the classroom, serving as an instructional coach for Walton County Public Schools.
“I enjoyed that,” Callahan said. “But I loved being back in the classroom with the kids. It’s all about them, about seeing them learning and that light bulb appear over their heads.”
That love and dedication to her third-grade pupils at Loganville Elementary School saw Callahan recently honored as Walton County’s system Teacher of the Year.
“I can’t think of any other word but overwhelmed,” Callahan said, describing her emotions when she was announced at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. “I’m not a spotlight person. I look around and see some great teachers. To even be considered for this by them is overwhelming.”
Callahan, who attended Georgia Southern University and North Georgia Military College — following her now-husband, Sean, the principal at Sharon Elementary School — before getting her education degrees from Brenau and Piedmont universities, came to a love of teaching early.
“I have a brother who is mentally disabled,” Callahan said. “My other brothers and I went to school everyday, but back then, he did not. That really bothered me as a child.”
Callahan played school with her brother, and also saw her parents fight and raise money to open a local school for children with disabilities.
“I never understood why he couldn’t go to school,” Callahan. “All of this really made me want to go into special education.”
When she started at what was then Monroe Primary School, now Blaine Street Elementary, she was the school’s special education teacher. Even after moving into regular education classrooms, though, Callahan said her dedication was to the children.
“It’s all for them,” Callahan said. “I love teaching and that won’t change.”
Callahan moved to LES four years ago but didn’t miss a beat in working to make learning an active experience for her young charges.
“I think you have to make learning exciting for them,” Callahan said. “They have to see value in what they learn. It has to be fun for them.”
The day after she was announced as the teacher of the year, the children in her third-grade class were ecstatic, making her homemade medals and crowns.
“They’re all excited,” Callahan said. “They’re very ramped up.”
Callahan is trying to take it in stride and wants to share the prize not only with her colleagues in the classrooms, but with the system’s Support Person of the Year, Patricia Malone, school nurse at LES. This is the first time in WCPS both the teacher and support person of the year come from the same school.
“It says a lot about this school,” Callahan said. “I think it’s great. You gain so much from the people around you.”