Learning is not about correct answers but mental exploration and experimentation for Dr. Tabatha Tierce, Floyd County Schools 2016 Teacher of the Year. Dr. Tierce, a second grade math and science teacher at Cave Spring Elementary School, was named the 2016 Teacher of the Year for Floyd County Schools at the October Floyd County Board of Education meeting held on Tuesday, October 6, 2015. Floyd's new top teacher has the goal of motivating her students to think and risk not always having the best answer so they can achieve deeper learning. “That is a hard shell to crack because children want to please the teacher and give me the answer they think I am looking for but that just means regurgitating information I give them,” stated Tierce. “The one thing I want my kids to know when they leave my class is that they can think, and when they do, amazing things can happen.”
Dr. Tierce is in her twelfth year of teaching and has taught a variety of grade levels from second to eighth. This is her first year teaching second-grade at the school where she spent her early days learning and growing. “I love Cave Spring Elementary and the Cave Spring community,” she said. “The community and the school have so much they can give to each other but often the community does not know how they can get involved.” Tierce has worked to bring the community into her classroom and to teach her students that learning extends far beyond the four walls of her class. “I have found that students stop thinking about math and science when they leave my class – it is like math just happens here,” Tierce said. “I have to push them to think about the community they live in and the benefits it has for our school and ways our school can benefit the community.”
A science class study of plants in Dr. Tierce’s class led to children learning about jobs related to agriculture, planting their own plants and then developing a product the Cave Spring community could enjoy. The end result was a farmers market springing up at the school. “It started at the school and we held it every Saturday,” Tierce said. “I then approached the town council with the idea of having the market in the town square and they loved the idea.” The market is also a fund raiser for the school to purchase Chromebooks and technology. Each farmer selling products in the market pays a booth fee that goes to Cave Spring Elementary.
The students in Dr. Tierce’s class will quickly let you know that her class is a fun place to learn and they never know what to expect. “Well, she is funny and you never know what you are going to do,” commented Billy Settlemoir, one of Tierce’s students from last year. “She is peppy and really fun to be with,” agreed student Ella Bartlett. “I love to talk with her about books,” added Abby Jacobs. “A former student graduated from the US Military Academy and sent me a graduation invitation and said I am here because of you,” recalled Tierce. “That makes you realize what you do as a teacher makes a difference – more than a score on a test or learning to spell a word – someone is succeeding partially because of the effort I gave to help a child learn.”
Tierce is a graduate of Berry College with a middle grades education degree. She received a masters from Jacksonville State University, and a specialist degree and doctorate in teacher leadership from Walden University. She began her teaching career at Coosa Middle School before moving to Cave Spring Elementary. At Cave Spring, Tierce has taught second through fifth-grade. "Being a student at Cave Spring prepared me to be the teacher I am today in this school that provides amazing opportunities for students," Dr. Tierce stated. "My passion and fire for this profession stems directly from the passion I witnessed from my teachers and the entire community that made me believe I could do anything."
Click on the link to view a video of Dr. Tierce at work in the classroom: https://youtu.be/0f1bMk5lW08
Tierce was selected for the Teacher of the Year honor by a review committee from the Rome/Floyd Retired Educators Association. She will now represent Floyd County Schools in the Georgia Teacher of the Year recognition program. The Georgia Teacher of the Year will be announced by the Georgia Department of Education in the spring.
The Teacher of the Year program in Floyd County Schools is sponsored by Northwest Georgia Credit Union. The organization provides a $100 gift check to each finalist in the teacher recognition program and a $500 gift check to the Teacher of the Year. Northwest Georgia Credit Union has sponsored the system Teacher of the Year recognition program for more than 20 years.
Tierce; Pam Jones, a special education teacher at Pepperell High School; and Dr. Brian Swanagan, a math and computer science teacher at the Floyd County Schools College and Career Academy were the finalist for the 2016 Teacher of the Year for Floyd County Schools.