Teacher of the Year

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by Melissa Booraem

once you know the notes to sing… you can sing most anything

On any given day, you”ll find Tiffany English dancing around her classroom, acting out stories and singing, leading her students to make new connections between math, science, language arts and social studies with the help of music.

Every seven days, more than 1,000 students walk through the door of English”s music class at Sugar Hill Elementary School, and English has plans for all of them. Her goal is to inspire her students to find the learning links between the different subjects they study through music.

Her teaching style is built on the belief that the most important thing she can do for each child is to care about them. "I make a point of knowing every student”s name and something about them," says English. "Children want to be loved and cared for first. Once they know and trust you, their creativity and willingness to learn blossoms."

The spirit English brings to the classroom is just one of the many reasons English was named Teacher of the Year for Gwinnett County Public Schools. "When I first found out, I was astonished. The other finalists are all outstanding educators, and I am overwhelmed to be chosen from such an amazing group of people," she says. "Once the shock wore off, I was deeply honored and humbled."

English says she feels privileged to teach alongside the most dedicated people in the state. "All of us love children and want them to succeed."

reading starts with a-b-c…singing begins with do-re-mi

English enjoys teaching in a county that understands the importance of arts in education, and she is proud to represent outstanding arts teachers in the district.

"I believe music is the vehicle that can be used to help our children learn to process, analyze and evaluate information in any area of the curriculum," says English. "The arts inspire “out of the box” thinking and encourage problem solving from many different angles. Multi-dimensional, innovative creativity will be what brings the cure for cancer or diplomatic solutions to the international scene."

Her students seize these opportunities to be creative. Fifth grader Zaria Hampton explains, "I like that we get to create our own patterns and music. We get to choose which instruments sound the best for our music and that is a lot of fun."

English believes that all students can become proficient music makers who sing comfortably and in tune, move naturally in response to music and are sensitive to the expressive qualities in music.

Focused on student achievement, English is constantly working to learn new strategies to implement in her classroom. She attends workshops many Saturdays throughout the year, as well as state and national music conferences.

let”s start at the very beginning…a very good place to start

English has been a teacher for 13 years, inspired by the great teachers with whom she studied. An admitted lover of school and learning, English found her niche at the University of Georgia.

She then earned a master”s degree from Piedmont College and is now at work on a specialist”s degree in curriculum and instruction.

"When I applied to college, I knew that I wanted to be a music major," she recalls. "Once I began my education courses, I knew I had found my calling."

As a product of Gwinnett schools, she was eager to return home and give back to the school system that educated her.

"I remember the positive effects my teachers had on me while I was in school, and I hope that I can have that same positive effect on the children in my classroom," English explains. &quo