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AJC top teacher Jim Reason of Gwinnett buoys students in pool and classroom

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 have a trait in common: 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.

Jim Reason from Duluth High School in Gwinnett County was nominated by parent Laura Ann Neas, who, in part, wrote:

Jim Reason is the Duluth High School swim coach. He also teaches U.S. history, both AP and honors. He’s been the swim team coach for all my five children at many different levels. But he is so much more than a swim coach and fabulous teacher. He is more like a second father to my children.

We met him when my oldest child was 9. My youngest daughter was 4 at the time. She doesn't remember a time when Jim was not in her life. He has a way of connecting with all of the 180 kids on his summer league team remembering every detail of every child at the banquet. Makes everyone feel special. We still swim for his summer league team 14 years later.

In middle school, we found out that he had started a middle school swim team, which is a completely volunteer position for him. All the other public middle schools in Gwinnett county do not have a swim team. The team is not affiliated with the school, but is limited to just Duluth Middle school students. The team competes against the private middle schools around the Atlanta area and exists to help the children in middle school and transition them into high school. This is one of the best things Jim does for the kids.

One way he does this is by taking most of the team to Jekyll Island for a training trip. Lots of chaperones, fun and bonding. Jim sets expectations for his swimmers that they try to meet inside the classroom, outside the classroom and in the pool. Once in high school, Jim is always there for not only the swim team children, but anyone who needs anything. He truly loves Duluth and his community.

I know my children go to him when they need a mentor and he will talk to them whenever and wherever they are. They stayed active and out of trouble. He is very enthusiastic and excited about what he is teaching and it makes it very interesting to learn! My children love US. history now.

I feel amazingly blessed for my kids to have a wonderful teacher, swim coach and mentor like Jim Reason. He is truly one of the best people who has come into our lives.


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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.