2015 HBMS Teacher of the Year

Here are your nominees for the 2014 TOTY!

Sandra Bennett

Name: Sandra Bennett

Number of years teaching: 16 years

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

Educational Philosophy:

My passion is to make a difference in the lives of my students — 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. I believe that as I inspire them I am able 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 those I touch a passion for learning and to become the best they can be. 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 without my personal recognition, but rather to just leave 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 precious 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.

I am passionate about encouraging critical thinking, collaboration and use of technology in my classroom. I’ve found that when you have these running in one room… WOW! I believe that as my students acquire these skills that they are being prepared for their futures. It is also so important to me that I not leave anyone out and to not have a single student fall through the cracks. My goal is to personalize instruction for each and every child, and make sure they are each included in all the various aspects of learning in my classroom. Also over the years I have experienced the value in keeping a more youthful approach to life as well as my teaching, and in relating to my students.

Finally, I believe that teaching is a lifelong learning process, and I greatly enjoy learning new things - particularly related to technology. Recently I completed an Ed. S. - Instructional Technology better equip me in the classroom and be better prepared to contribute to the learning of others. I actively seek out learning opportunities supporting best teaching practices from my peers, various learning communities and networks. I am also learning so much from my students each day.

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:

· Science Department Chair

· Established the Science Olympiad program new to HBMS this year and currently coaching multiple events

· Recently recognized by district leadership as having achieved the top 25% in Student Growth Percentile

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

· Science Fair Co-chair

· Established the Technology Club this year and current sponsor

· FCS Vanguard Team member

· Frequent morning and lunch help/ tutor sessions

· GaETC presenter this year and last; Presenter at Discovery Education conference

· Professional Learning – Lead multiple sessions such as Edmodo, Digital Storytelling and webpage design for students, and co-led others, for example NearPod and Safari Montage.

· Fulton County Technology Fair Judge – This year makes the 6th year volunteering

· HBMS Technology Committee

· Check and Connect student mentor; New teacher mentor

· HBMS Leadership Team


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 recently, 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 as well.

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.

Katie Boglione

Number of Years Teaching: _____9 years_______

Grades and Subjects Taught: grades 6th – 8th all subjects, if necessary

Currently teaching:

Language Arts 6th and 7th grades

Reading 6th and 7th grades

Science 7th grade

Social Studies 7th grade

Educational Philosophy

“Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of a true education.” Martin Luther King Jr.

I believe that being an educator does not only include teaching content. I believe it involves helping students become more knowledgeable in multiple areas of life. As a teacher, I feel successful when a child leaves my classroom with more academic knowledge than they came through the door with that morning. More importantly, I hope every student leaves my class knowing that there is one more person who cares and supports them, one more adult that they can trust and rely on. The relationship between a teacher and a student is so valuable because it makes school a place where the student feels accepted and safe, which then makes learning and teaching, a much easier task. Once there is a relationship, I believe the student is more likely to learn the material and try their hardest. My goal on a daily basis is to build and grow these relationships and teach them the academic content on their own personal ability level. In the end, I probably get more out of these relationships than the kids do.

School and Community Involvement

Mentoring teacher

Mentored a fellow special education teacher to earn being highly qualified to teach reading and add the endorsement to her certificate


Mentoring Students (school wide)

Fun Friday is something that has been put into place for students who struggle behaviorally. This is a school wide program that is available for students to reinforce positive behaviors.

2010 - present

Mentoring new teacher

I have recently been selected as a mentor for a new teacher. This includes helping her become familiar with procedures and helping her feel at home.


PBIS head coach

I was selected to be the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports head coach. I, as the coach, assist teams in adapting the PBIS framework to Haynes Bridge Middle and use data to ensure that it is being implemented and is achieving positive outcomes/results.


RTI : Behavior lead and support team member

This year I was asked to be an ‘in-house’ behavior specialist for Haynes Bridge. This means that I try to help teachers with behavioral issues that they are facing with students. I am also a member of the support team where I give ideas and input for students who may be struggling.

2014 - 2015

Check and Connect

Since I have been working at Haynes Bridge, I have been a mentor through our check and connect program with students who need extra support. I enjoy helping that particular student each year become more successful, bring their grades up and work on skills (such as organization) that they may struggle with.



I was inspired to become a teacher while in high school. I worked as a peer mentor at New Prospect Elementary in the North Metro program where I absolutely fell in love with the students. Watching the teacher and her passion for the kids was amazing. One student that I worked with daily, showed many signs of progression throughout the school year. Watching this student’s success had a huge impact on my desire to work with children with special needs. After high school, I went to Auburn where I found myself very interested in Psychology, which I majored in. Upon moving home, I decided that even though I chose a different degree than education, my heart was still with teaching. I returned to school at Georgia State and added on an education degree. I eventually found myself interviewing for the job of a North Metro teacher, at New Prospect, in the same classroom, that I was a mentor in during high school. To this day, to see a student with special needs, progress in an area of weakness, is an amazing feeling and truly inspiring.

Dani-Sue Boldus

Number of Years Teaching: 31

Grades and Subjects Taught: Grades 1 – 8; HBMS, TAG Social Studies (6-8) and Social Studies (8)

Educational Philosophy

Teaching is both a privilege and an awesome responsibility! It requires finding a balance between the actual concepts that we teach and the skills required to evaluate and contribute to a growing body of information. It’s our job to provide the right combination, the right environment, for students to grow intellectually, emotionally, and socially. Our goal is to help students develop a commitment to education and a sense of personal responsibility for learning new things. Steve Jobs encouraged us, “…to make a dent in the universe.” Our goal is to give students the confidence and enthusiasm for learning that will allow them to do just that.

School and Community Involvement

· Leadership team member - 8th grade chairperson assisting with planning activities such as the 8th Grade GA Trip

· assumed responsibilities for screening and testing students during automatic TAG referrals this fall while Ms. Johnson was out on maternity leave.

· helped plan and deliver a professional development class on Nearpod.


Like most young children, I loved to play school. I had a pretend classroom with pretend students that included a few stuffed animals, a cherished doll, and three younger sisters. Although I took a few detours in my education, I always came back to my one true love, which was teaching.

In high school I became involved with the school’s theater program and briefly considered a career in acting. After several less than stellar auditions, I came to the conclusion that acting might not be in my future! I had a wonderful high school drama teacher, who really encouraged me not to give up on something I really wanted to do. This teacher recognized my love for the theater and found ways for me to be involved in the school productions (even though it wasn’t on stage!). I found a place for myself in the department and learned a few theatrical skills along the way. More importantly, I learned the power of good teaching. This teacher made me feel like a star, even though it wasn’t on the stage. I wanted to help others feel that way, too.

Stephanie Brand

Number of Years Teaching: 21

Grades and Subjects Taught: Sixth and Eighth Grades; Language Arts, Reading, and Social Studies

Educational Philosophy

Students learn best when they have the empowered attitude that success is a matter of choice. The joy of making connections to real life by writing one’s own future is attainable for everyone through hard work and determination.

School and Community Involvement

- Former Language Arts Contact

- Former Student Council Advisor

- Former Academic Bowl Advisor

- Current Model United Nations Advisor

- Former Girl Scout Leader


I have always loved learning in general, both in school and on my own through research, friendships, and travel. I had the good fortune to have had many inspirational teachers along the way, some of whom I appreciated at the time and some whom I cherished as I became older. The realization that these people had my best interests and a wide world view at heart made me want to pass that feeling on.

Cathy Davis

Number of Years Teaching: 16

Grades and Subjects Taught: IRR Reading and Language Arts 6-8th

Educational Philosophy

Every child is gifted at something, and every child struggles in some areas of their life. I think our jobs as teachers are to help each child discover their hidden gifts and then celebrate them together. Then we will earn their trust enough to help them with their struggles and empower them to see what bright futures they all have.

School and Community Involvement

· Check and Connect and Lego Club

I really am very new to the Haynes Bridge family, and there are much more experienced teachers who deserve this recognition for their efforts and the time they so generously give to the students and the staff. I am still learning and striving to be the best possible teacher I can. This takes all my effort right now. I am truly honored enough just to be nominated.

Thank you so much. :)


Several childhood experiences, that some might call tragedies, drive me forward to try to provide the best possible education for my students. It was the wonderful teachers who reached me, guided me, and inspired me to persevere. It is my privilege to work at HBMS among such gifted and loving teachers and staff, who are ALL striving to give the best education and experience possible to all each child and their family. It is truly an honor to part of team whose sole mission it to reach and guide the next generation. Thanks for all YOU do every day!!!

Aysha Farooqi

Name: Aysha Farooqi__ Number of Years Teaching: 17

Grades and Subjects Taught: 6th grade Math

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

Jessica O'Kelley

Number of Years Teaching: ___6________

Grades and Subjects Taught: _____Spanish 6/7

Educational Philosophy

I believe that students learn best in an environment where they feel appreciated, are comfortable taking risks, and are encouraged to do their best. I encourage students to set their own goals, self-reflect on their progress, and celebrate their accomplishments.

School and Community Involvement

· DataWise Team

· World Language Department Chair

· Middle School Student Group Leader, North Point Community Church


I have volunteered with middle school students since college, and I love connecting with kids and providing them guidance during this challenging and formative time of life. I became a teacher because I love being a role model for students, especially those that come from difficult backgrounds or need a supportive adult in their lives.

Josh Robinson

Number of Years Teaching: 9

Grades and Subjects Taught: 6th Grade Language Arts (Previously 7th Grade Language Arts and 6th Grade Social Studies).

Educational Philosophy

I believe in creating a positive classroom environment where students are able to laugh, be themselves, and feel comfortable asking questions.

An ideal classroom will challenge students, not only through the curriculum, but to also look at the bigger picture and begin to figure out where they belong in the world.

I believe that to be most successful, a teacher must be passionate about the subject and encourage students to become actively involved in the learning process.

School and Community Involvement

· School Leadership

o Language Arts Chair (2012-current)

· TAG Certification

· Completion of the course, Introduction to Data-Wise through the Harvard Graduate Program.

· International Student Tour Leader to Italy (2014) and Ireland, England, and France (2015)

· Car Duty Extraordinaire J


My mother was my main inspiration to become a teacher. She taught for 35 years. Growing up, I remember being at the grocery store and former students coming up to her to say how much they appreciated her and learned from her class. I don’t remember anything that they said specifically, but I remember the smiles on their faces and eventually came to the conclusion that I wanted to make people smile like that too.

This is still what inspires me today. Through all the frustrations that we have as teachers, being able to bring smiles to the students’ faces is the favorite part of my job. Middle school is an especially difficult time in their life, and I hope that with a positive attitude, some humor, and a little bit of knowledge, I can make it as painless for them as possible and perhaps teach them something as well.

Vanessa Roth

Number of Years Teaching: 20

Grades and Subjects Taught: 7th Grade ELA (TAG, ADV, On-Level), 6th Grade Reading, Grades 1-6 SPED Resource All Subjects

Educational Philosophy

My philosophy of teaching has developed over the course of my twenty 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

· New Teacher Mentor

· Media and Technology Committee

· Teacher of the Year Committee

· Teacher Selector


I was first inspired to become a teacher after I volunteered to work as a mentor for special education 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 experiences to become a successful teacher.

Jeanne Schultz

Number of Years Teaching: 20

Grades and Subjects Taught: 8th Grade Reading

Educational Philosophy

I try to coach students into making good use of their time – everyday. In my classroom, I attempt to connect with them through their interests and viewpoints -- then teach life and academic skills.

School and Community Involvement

· Admin Team

· Mini- Support Team

· 504/RTI Chair

· Science Olympiad Coach

· Reading/LA Tier 2 & 3 Support Teacher

· Technology Committee

· Family Promise (aid for homeless families) Volunteer

· Families Anonymous Volunteer

· Jewish Family Services Outreach Program Volunteer


My Mother inspired me to be a teacher because as a child, I came to view her students & school staff as extended family. Families accept members where they are and work together to help everyone achieve more. That is how I have come to view my work here at “the Bridge.” My mother was generous with her time. She worked hard to challenge and encourage students to believe in themselves and grow.

During my career I’ve also had the benefit of working with many remarkable teachers and administrators who are creative, kind and patient.

Elizabeth Sickler

Number of Years Teaching: 13

Grades and Subjects Taught: 6-8 all subjects at cognitive level

Educational Philosophy

Education is the root to our success. No matter what the cognitive ability of any child is, we play the most important role in their pathway to success. It is my responsibility to prepare them to independently function within our society, and how to cope with the many challenges that they will face.

School and Community Involvement

· Serve on the Exceptional Children’s Week Committee

· Serve as a mentor for new teachers

· Volunteer my expertise in modifying behavior when others ask for advice


Aside from my childhood playmates being the special needs children’s home next door, my best friend in high school’s brother was Autistic, and both my mom and my aunt were teachers, I definitely feel as though I have been molded for this profession. However, I wasn’t inspired until college, having to decide what path to take for my future. I was interested in Special Education after spending a day with my aunt in her classroom. Then for school, I had to interview her for a class project. Fascinated with her passion for her profession, she told me I needed to read a book called “Dibs in Search of Self”. Therefore, I read a story about an Autistic boy named Dibs, and his journey with his therapist and teachers and how he learned to communicate to function in a world he knew nothing about. His story inspired me to do the same for other children with Autism. Who knew that 13 years ago, I would get that chance to create a path that will lead my students in the same direction. Thirteen years later, I continue to be inspired, in my mind I still see Dibs’ picture on the cover of that book.

Nicole Westermann

Number of Years Teaching: 4

Grades and Subjects Taught: 6th and 7th Grade TAG and on-level Social Studies, 8th Grade Georgia Studies

Educational Philosophy

Over the last couple of years I have grown to believe that each child is a unique person who needs a safe, caring, and motivating space in order to develop and mature. My classroom is one where students are allowed to take risks and are supported if they do something incorrectly. A teacher’s primary role is to guide the students to the information not just give them all of the content. Many of the activities that are completed in my room are hands-on and student centered. I find that this allows for the highest level of creativity and learning. In middle school an essential part of being a teacher is teaching the students to have respect and love for themselves and their peers. It is essential to remember that you are working with a complete child and sometimes the student may need more emotional support than educational support. My goal for all of my students is to leave my classroom with a love of social studies but more importantly feeling like they have grown as a person.

School and Community Involvement

TOTY/POTY Committee

Media and Technology Committee

Football and Basketball Cheerleading at CHS

Junior Knights Cheerleading

TAG Department Co-Chair

Teacher Leader Endorsement Class


In middle school, I began to struggle with the workload and social setting. One of my teachers, Ms. Leech, took notice of this and began to mentor me. She would tutor me on academic work but more importantly she fostered my love for education. Without the help of Ms. Leech, I do not think I would have succeeded or enjoyed school. Without her compassion and time, I do not think I would have pursued teaching. I have always loved children and have the ability to understand and connect with them on multiple levels. Watching them blossom into productive members of society is one of the most rewarding feelings ever.