TOTY 2016

Meet our 2016 TOTY nominees

Sandra Bennett

Number of years teaching: 17 years

Subjects taught: 6th, 7th and 8th grade Science, 6th and 7th grade Social Studies

Educational Philosophy:

My education philosophy centers around what I believe my students need most from me as their teacher: Caring about them as individuals and providing them with the knowledge and skills to enable them to move successfully on to the next level and beyond. My passion is to make a difference in their lives — to help them see the world differently and to motivate them to give their best effort in their work in a safe and comfortable learning environment. As their teacher I feel a sense of responsibility to launch life-long interests in science and a love of exploration. Also, I believe that perhaps one of – it not the greatest accomplishment in life is to inspire a child to develop and use his or her abilities for future success in whatever field is ultimately chosen. Most importantly, it is my earnest desire to instill within my students a desire or passion for learning that will hopefully stay with them for years to come. I desire to bring the subject I teach to life in ways they will always remember. They may or may not remember me by name, but I hope that the impact made on their young lives is such that becomes unforgettable. I once read where teaching was compared to the work of a potter, “of whose fingerprints the pot scarcely bears any trace.” When I read that, it occurred to me that this is what I really wish for from my profession – to inspire my students to want to learn and to influence them to become the best that they can be. While they may not remember me by name, in this way I will have left my fingerprints on their lives.

There is such a great reward – actually such a joy - to be able to make an impact on a child's life. There are those moments when I see that spark, that excitement when they've learned something. I sincerely believe that we as teachers can make a tremendous difference in the lives of those we teach; we change lives. I want my students to see and ultimately realize their potential. I want them to think for themselves and become self-aware. I believe that there is no greater reward or enjoyment for a teacher than to know that she or he has had a positive impact on a students or students.

School and Community Involvement:

I believe that it is important to stay connected and involved within our community of students, parents and staff, and to support the various HBMS programs and activities. Involvement and accomplishments include:

· Fulton County Vanguard Team member, which includes coaching other teachers in use of technology in the classroom

· Active member of the Personalized Learning Design team for HBMS; Modeled station rotation in Vanguard video interview to be shared in the district.

· Established and currently coordinate the Science Olympiad program at HBMS, which includes organizing participation in a regional tournament

· Ninth-year sponsor of the Robotics Club having established it at HBMS in 2006; Participation in First LEGO League tournament as lead coach each year and achieving various team awards.

· Professional Learning – Lead sessions for teachers on integrating technology using various tools

· GaETC presenter this year and the previous two years

· Created and maintain websites for school and community: Digital Citizenship, Physical Education

· 7th year volunteering as a Fulton County Technology Fair Judge

· Girlz talk mentor


I have spent much time thinking about the profound influence my mother and father have had on the lives of me and my siblings. My father was a WWII veteran who also built and ran his own business, and to him I attribute my work ethic – doing whatever it takes to get the job done well. Just as was true with him, my work time often blends in with my personal time often without realizing it. My mother, who we lost a few years ago, was a teacher and such a kind-hearted and giving person. To her I attribute my passion for helping others. My parents always believed I could do anything that I set my mind to and provided all the needed support and encouragement; for this I will be forever grateful. My grandmother was also a teacher and her remarkable faith and care for others inspired me tremendously. I recall adults in her community, her former students, recognizing her in various public places and sharing kind words on all they had learned from her years earlier.

Secondly, lasting inspirations were received from several of my teachers who helped me to dream - and dream with direction. Such teachers shaped my entire life with their simple yet profound faith in my abilities, in developing my interests, inspiring my dreams. I recall my 6th grade teacher, neighbor and mentor in school, Mrs. Holloway. She believed in me and my abilities and pushed me to go farther than I thought I was capable of going. While I recall complaining, I learned many of life’s tough lessons from her and others. We kept in touch for years after, and she continued to inspire and encourage me.

Finally, while in college I volunteered as a summer camp youth director for two summers. With this came opportunities to teach and inspire the youth of the church. This experience was so rewarding that I wanted to continue my desire to make a difference in the world, which led to my decision in college majors. The minute I got into the classroom I loved it, still do, and my ongoing inspiration comes out of my own love of the profession. Of course, there are aspects of any profession that can be challenging, but I absolutely love what I do and feel there is no greater joy than to help a student learn something new for the first time and share in their excitement.

Aysha Farooqi

Number of Years Teaching: 18

Grades and Subjects Taught: 6th grade Math and Personalized Learning Coach

Educational Philosophy

Teaching is a lifelong learning process of learning about new philosophies and new strategies, learning from colleagues, and especially learning from the children. First and foremost, I believe school should be a safe and fun place to learn. This can be accomplished by developing the mutual respect by practicing courtesy, consideration, and cooperation. Secondly, learning how to teach the students, not just to teach the subject is among my greatest educational philosophies. It has been my desire to teach children to understand and love math. Students must understand that if they are not successful coming up with the answers one way, that they are to question and to explore other methods. However, accepting failure without learning from it is not an option in my classroom. Thirdly, I have had many positive experiences in the teaching profession and have grown immensely as an educator in the past few years. Previous learning experiences, along with my personal feelings and beliefs about teaching, guide me on a day-to-day basis. Following my heart, teaching to the best of my ability, and feeling valued by my students is rewarding in and of itself. I believe in my students and once a child knows that you care about him as a person, he will more likely strive to be a good student. Their confidence is important to me, therefore; I take time to tell them how proud I am of their successes – even the little ones.

School and Community Involvement


· Math Chair

· Vanguard member

· TOTY committee

· Technology Committee


· Presented "instructional Strategies" during Summer Summit 2014

· Presented "Planning for engagement" during Summer Summit 2013

· Organized the Differentiation PD for the Math and Science department

· Organized the "Math work Day"

· Co-Presented a STEM lesson during Department Chairs meeting


I always believed that teaching is for me because it was something I was good at and knew I would enjoy. I have the ability to understand a lot of material and explain it to others, and I have always enjoyed interacting with young people. I love the feeling of inspiring students, and guiding them into becoming productive citizens who have a love for learning.

Anita Hilpertshauser

Number of Years Teaching: ___8th year_______

Grades and Subjects Taught: Special Education-North Metro and Mild and Moderate Intellectual Disability: 6th, 7th and 8thgrade: all subjects.

Educational Philosophy

I teach students with intellectual disabilities who have a broad range of abilities and unique needs. Most will not be able to bridge the academic and adaptive gaps between themselves and their peers but they can still celebrate many accomplishments. It is important that these accomplishments regardless of how small or trivial compared to typical peers are big and can be amazing for them. It is my job to motivate and to nurture them so that they have a positive school experience. It is my job to provide a school experience built on their strong attributes. I strive to provide a nurturing environment where they can feel safe and enjoy their school experiences. I want to celebrate their successes, their strengths, and their happiness.

As a teacher, my job is to make it a meaningful experience whether it is in the curriculum that I adapt for them or in the delivery style tailored to their needs. I strongly believe that there is always a strength that we can find in each individual. I help them facilitate and access the non-disabled world while tailoring it and differentiating it to fit or meet their needs. I spend time finding meaningful curriculum and adapt it for them so that they have access, exposure and can participate in a positive learning experience. I don’t compare them to others instead, I advocate for them, I challenge them, and I respect them.

School and Community Involvement

· Exceptional Children’s week committee

· Pals club

· Recycling Program

· North Fulton Charities

· Member of St. Thomas Aquinas

· International Student Hosting parent


My daughter’s 2nd grade teacher had a phenomenal rapport with her students and their parents. She was a strong authoritarian in managing her classroom and she earned respect from her students as well as giving them their due respect. She was able to relate to them at their intellectual level and taught them the academics that they needed but she also instilled many values and morals. She made each student feel special. Each week she had a newsletter that she sent home in which she wrote a small blurb about each child celebrating and promoting the successes that each student accomplished that week in academics, self-help, altruism or anything that made the student special and unique. She never left any student out of the newsletter and she always found something positive to write. She was honest with parents about each student’s abilities and always looked for their strengths and potential. She developed a positive and nurturing environment that instilled a love for learning, motivated them to be good students and good citizens. My daughter loved her and thrived. She found her confidence with this very special teacher. Every child should experience a teacher like this special woman.

Nesha Mason

Number of Years Teaching: __3rd year____

Grades and Subjects Taught: 6, 7, 8 grade Social Studies

Educational Philosophy

My philosophy on education is to empower my students with confidence in themselves and their learning process. The internet provides instant access to anything they want to know. The best gift that I can offer is to model the innate connection of human interaction outside of the family unit. My intention is to nurture the individual learning process and hit the standardized learning requirements along the way.

School and Community Involvement

· Special Ed behavior support

· Check and Connect Mentor

· Co-Organizer of 8th grade Fun Friday

· Girlz Talk team member


I became a teacher for the old cliché of wanting to make a difference. I had been an elected official and non-profit program director in an effort to generate positive change. Then one day I stumbled upon an email I’d received many times inviting me to become a Georgia Teaching Fellow. That day it hit me and I applied. What better way to influence lasting change than to empower the next generation? After being accepted, I received training and my license to teach in Georgia. I was blessed to be partnered with a master teacher who shared my same philosophy. Rob Bidwell took me under his wing and taught me much of what I know about teaching. Then I got to know the HBMS family. Since that time I have been inspired by the sheer desire to educate that so many of you exhibit. Truthfully, I have also been disheartened by the system of education that doesn’t nurture that fire. Yet in the midst of a flawed system my co-workers strive to catch that “ah ha” glimmer in a student’s eye. Sometimes we thrive; other times we feel the pain of crash and burn. No matter the outcome, we return to try again. Your tenacity inspires me and I am absolutely honored by this nomination. Thank you.

Vanessa Roth

Number of Years Teaching: _21________

Grades and Subjects Taught: 7th Grade TAG/ADV Language Arts 6th and 7th Graders,

Grades_1-6 SPED All Subjects, Grade 6 Reading

Educational Philosophy

My philosophy of teaching has developed over the course of my twenty-one years as an educator. My main goal has always been that my students will acquire not only knowledge, but the essential thinking and understandings that go way beyond the classroom and are applied to everyday life. The skills of collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication are necessary criteria to meet that goal. The process I use for my students to achieve these skills is ongoing and evolves as my own learning continues to develop and grow.

School and Community Involvement

· Grade Level Chair – 7th Grade

· AVID Site Team Co-Coordinator

· Personalized Learning Committee

· TKES Evaluator


I was first inspired to become a teacher when I volunteered as a mentor for regular ed and special needs students at an elementary school near my home. I also volunteered at many Special Olympics events. Those experiences brought me to the realization that I truly enjoyed working with all types of children. Observing some wonderful teachers, as well as reflecting back on my own experiences as a student, gave me the confidence that I could use my creativeness and skills to become a successful teacher.