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AJC top teacher Butch Soles of Douglas goes extra mile for his young runners

The AJC created the Celebrating Teachers Awards this year to showcase remarkable Georgia educators. More than 375 teachers were nominated in the inaugural round of the awards, and a panel of education professors chose 10 winners.

These teachers share a critical trait: They go above and beyond for their students and their schools. Since this is Thanksgiving week, a time to express gratitude, I am sharing the nominating letters and photos of all 10 teachers, two each day from Monday to Friday. The new profiles will post early in the morning and mid-afternoon each day.

So, please check back and read about all 10. You will find inspiration. The nominating letters were read at a celebration a few weeks ago at Cox headquarters in honor of the winners.

Butch Soles from Arbor Station Elementary School in Douglas County was nominated by parent Lynne Cole, who, in part, wrote:

Butch Soles is a PE teacher that has changed the trajectory of many kids lives. Coach Soles implements an over-the-top running program at Arbor Station Elementary school that teaches kids life skills that are evident throughout their academic careers. He strives to teach them from a very young age about goal setting, personal bests, and recognizes the accomplishments with the most meticulous record keeping on each and every kid from their first day in kindergarten until their last day in 5th grade.

It’s remarkable to witness the pride that these kids show when they look at their overall achievements over a six-year period. Many of these students run more than 100 miles in that time and are rewarded for their efforts along the way.  His dedication to this meticulous record keeping gives kids the structure they may not see anywhere else in their lives, to set goals, review them and plan for what they need to do in order to reach and/or exceed them.

These skills are INVALUABLE as they go off to middle school, high school and beyond.  Coach reiterates to each child that "Doing your best is more important than being the best!" and the kids live by this philosophy.  Running is a sport that requires perseverance and stamina.

With Coach Soles' help and support, the kids see the benefits with many having gone on to be top athletes at the high school and college levels. Without his encouragement at a young age, many of these student athletes would not have had the structure and understanding of the goal setting required to achieve at these levels.  My son had no interest in running as a kindergartener or first grader. He walked many times around the track, not really trying. As he found a little success in the running program, he started to think about becoming a cross-country runner.

By 5th grade he had participated in the AAU National Jr. Olympic Championships. Coach Soles dedication to his students is unparalleled. He invests in his kids fully for six years at a time...he's not like a classroom teacher that gets kids for one year. His investment in these students is long and hard, and does not come in bursts, but is maintained throughout the full elementary school years.

I hope you will consider the tremendous impact he has made on thousands of kids lives, here in Douglas County, over the last 20 years.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.