Helping Students Shine! GCPS 2021 Teacher of the Year Katie Blum

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“I am kind, I am brave, I am intelligent and I am important. Mrs. Blum loves me, my family loves me and I love myself.” Swing by second-grade teacher Katie Blum’s classroom at Sugar Hill Elementary first thing in the morning and you’ll hear tiny voices chorusing this affirmation. Peek in and you’ll catch sight of small faces following that up with actions: a kiss to the right side and left sides of their brains, their hearts and finishing off by giving themselves some magic before shouting, “We are capable of amazing things!”

“Amazing”, too, could be used to describe Blum, Gwinnett’s latest recipient of the Teacher of the Year designation. From the moment she was a young girl, Blum was obsessed with everything related to school. She pretended to be a teacher, wielding Expo markers and worksheets; she played school, forcing family and friends to sit in obedient deference as she taught lessons; and she spent every summer eagerly awaiting shopping for school supplies the way most kids awaited the ice cream truck. Each time the magical moment of anticipation finally materialized, she’d scurry through aisles laden with school supplies, enchanted by rainbow-colored folders, Post-It notes, markers, and gel pens, tossing everything from workbooks to whiteboards into the cart.

It’s no surprise then that Blum didn’t hesitate when it came to selecting a career path. “Many educators I know were inspired by family, teachers or moments in life,” says Blum. “However, I believe I was genuinely born to be a teacher from the start.”

Blum was hired by Gwinnett County Public Schools five years ago, where her zeal for teaching children became immediately evident. She started as a kindergarten teacher at Sugar Hill Elementary, then ventured out to teach nearly every elementary grade in a variety of subjects including math, technology, science, social studies, writing and reading.

Today, Blum cherishes her second graders, having fallen into an effective routine that helps her most impactfully nurture their young minds. She arrives thirty minutes to an hour early, when the hallways are pin-drop silent and she’s most productive. She uses that time to tackle emails, grade papers, set up centers and activities and prepare for meetings. When the bell rings at 7:45, she’s ready to greet what she calls her “class family” with a smile, high-fives, hugs and toe-taps—just a few of the ways she fosters a positive, safe, and loving environment. Throughout the day, Blum aims to make learning fun by playing songs, encouraging movement and engaging kids in hands-on activities.

Her educational philosophy is to inspire, encourage, motivate and help students rise to expectations through acceptance, love, genuine relationships and self-efficacy. Blum also believes in celebrating every accomplishment, big or small, so students learn to believe in themselves and realize they can do difficult things.

Although it’s still early days into what’s sure to be a lifelong career for Blum, her unyielding passion and unique approach to children is eye-catching, even if she herself doesn’t realize it. Initially when she was selected as GCPS’ Elementary School Teacher of the Year, Blum was surprised, even caught off guard. From there, her name was fed into a candidate pool of 139 teachers across the county until one by one each was eliminated in the draw for the county winner. When her name was announced as the county’s Teacher of the Year recipient, Blum was simultaneously floored and flabbergasted.

But Blum doesn’t accept the credit singlehandedly for her hard work and dedication, instead passing it with grace to a network of her supporters, her husband being top among them.

“I would not be the GCPS Teacher of the Year without the guidance, encouragement and influence from my family, friends, mentors, colleagues and the educators in my life,” she says. “I also would not be here without God’s blessings and His grace. Becoming Gwinnett County’s teacher of the year is not just a reflection of my own abilities and accomplishments but more so the leadership, teammates, colleagues and students that I am surrounded by each and every day, who challenge me and support me as I aim to be the best teacher my students deserve.”

The Hayes Family Dealerships value teachers steering Gwinnett’s students on the road toward excellence.

The past few years have put everyone to the test: nurses, public officials and humans in general. Every industry across every spectrum adopted novel ways to operate. For all, it’s been a struggle—for teachers, it’s been a monumental effort worthy of applause. These educators, often fathers, mothers, spouses and family members themselves were forced to not only manage their own families but flip on a screen to greet another family of tiny faces depending on them to light a flame to the future and offer a semblance of normalcy. These teachers often adapted at speed to novel technology they’d never before used in a school setting, innovated ways to make education impactful and fun, and engaged students in a meaningful way, remotely.

At Hayes Family Dealerships, we know how important our teachers are to our community and future generations. For the past thirty years, we’ve celebrated Gwinnett’s teachers for their sacrifices and unfaltering commitment to our students, pandemic or not, by providing Gwinnett’s Teacher of the Year winners a new car for a year.

This year, we’re extending our warmest congratulations and heartfelt thanks to Katie Blum for securing that title. We appreciate Mrs. Blum and all the teachers out there who invest, selflessly and uncompromisingly in our kids. It’s because of all your hard work that GCPS continues to set the bar for other school systems and raise confident, sharp future leaders of our community.

Congratulations, Mrs. Blum! We hope every day you get behind the wheel is a reminder of our gratitude for the kids whose lives you’ve immeasurably touched.