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. This is the final entry of the week.
So, please go back and read about all the others. You will find inspiration. The nominating letters were read at a celebration a few weeks ago at Cox headquarters in honor of the winners.
Susan Ahmad from Lake Windward Elementary School in Alpharetta was nominated by colleague Myra Wheat, who, in part, wrote:
Susan has been an elementary general music teacher for almost 30 years and in that time, what hasn't she done? She’s not only been an extraordinary teacher, she’s also served as a mentor and leader for all of the elementary music teachers in Fulton County.
Susan has served on the fine arts leadership team for more than two decades. As a member of that team, she has written curriculum guides and assessments for all of the Fulton County elementary music teachers to use. She’s served on state committees to create state level standards and assessments. She’s welcomed new teachers to the county by conducting workshops during new teacher orientations.
When individual school funds became scarce and teachers needed to find resources for performances, Susan had the great idea to start a choral music "library" where music teachers could lend or borrow choral music throughout Fulton County and extend their students' performance repertoires. Not only did she conceive the idea, she ran it and continues to manage this program today.
Another innovative idea in which Susan participated is the Fulton County Elementary Choral Clinic. When I told her my idea 15 years ago about having music students from all ends of Fulton County come together for a day of choral music fun, she was all for it. After perfecting our plan and receiving permission to move forward, Susan has been a part of the Choral Clinic ever since. She’s headed up the planning committee every year and is involved in every aspect of the massive event taking place one special each March.
Of course, I haven't even begun to write about the work Susan does in her own school. She teaches a full schedule of classes, conducts a student chorus and helps out with whatever needs doing in her school. She often speaks lovingly of her students. I remember one instance when she was reveling in the success of one of her special needs students. This student was nonverbal and didn’t often have many opportunities for success in school.
However, one day in Susan's classroom, this student responded to a musical cue and participated (in a limited way) in singing a song. Susan figured out this student really loved a certain song through their reaction to it. It was such a breakthrough and both the student's teacher and parent were moved to tears.