A teacher who as a young man enjoyed tutoring his five younger siblings has been named the 2013 Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year (TOTY). Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) CEO/Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks announced Jay Nebel of Norcross High as the district”s top educator during the Teacher of the Year banquet, an annual event in the fall when GCPS formally honors and thanks its teachers.
In all, the school district recognized 131 local school Teachers of the Year during this celebration of Gwinnett”s educators. The honorees were joined by loved ones, their local school and central office administrators, as well as the Gwinnett County Board of Education who thanked the teachers for choosing GCPS as their employer.
In addition to earning the school system”s top honor, Nebel, who teaches World History, was named the 2013 Gwinnett County High School Teacher of the Year. He was selected as Gwinnett”s top teacher from a group of six finalists which included one elementary school teacher, three middle school finalists, and a second teacher at the high school level. Erica Leach of Walnut Grove Elementary was named the system”s 2013 Elementary School Teacher of the Year and Heidi Mikulecky of Richards Middle took the 2013 Middle School Teacher of the Year title.
As Gwinnett”s top-honored educator, Nebel represents the best of Gwinnett”s teachers. The selection process for the Teacher of the Year honor began when thousands of teachers from throughout the district nominated and named the 131 local school Teachers of the Year. A selection committee later narrowed down the group to 26 semifinalists, and finally to the six finalists. In addition to the three level winners (Leach, Mikulecky, and Nebel), the other three finalists were Celisa Edwards of Dacula Middle, Deborah Johnson of Berkmar Middle, and Dean Landers of Peachtree Ridge High.
Jay Nebel – a 9th and 10th Grade World History Teacher at Norcross High
Growing up as the eldest of six siblings, Jay Nebel”s home provided the perfect environment for this future teacher. First, there were his parents”caring but firm. Then, there were the responsibilities that came with being the eldest child.
Mr. Nebel credits his mom and dad with teaching him everything he knows today about teaching. He says that his dad was funny, fair, steady, and knowledgeable and that his mom was a talented writer with a love for words. They also were patient but firm, with high expectations for him. One of those expectations was for him to guide and help the other five children. He has fond memories of his interactions with his siblings, saying, “Often, I helped with their homework and organization, and I found myself enamored with my role. When I helped my younger brothers and sisters, I wanted to be funny and fair like my dad and as gifted a writer as my mom. Now, when I teach, I always hope that I”m making the kind of impact on my students that my mom and dad made on me.”#
Seventeen years into the profession, Mr. Nebel makes an impact on his students each and every day. He shares, – the most rewarding moments come when my students come back and tell me what I”ve meant to them. I”ve watched my students graduate and have been told by many of them and their parents that they couldn”t have done it without me. Whatever the impact I had on these kids, that is my greatest accomplishment as a teacher.”#
These positive results are a direct reflection of the environment Mr. Nebel creates in his classroom, one where his students know there is a caring adult behind the social studies curriculum. “World History is highly important to me, but I understand that in reality, it may not be the most important thing in a teenager”s life,”# he explains. “Many of my kids experience a reality that is far different from mine and is swayed too often by the wrong influences. Therefore, I incorporate life lessons into my teaching. I want to help produce effective citizens; young people need to see the behaviors that create success in the world beyond the one they know now. “# Mr. Nebel says that every day, in every class period, with every student, he models the characteristics that have helped him because he says, “I don”t allow “teachable moments” to escape; as a teacher, I am responsible for the whole child.”#