Gwinnett County”s 2013 Teacher of the Year, Jay Nebel, is committed to making a difference in his students” lives – primarily because#education has always been a vital part of his life.
“My parents were a positive influence on me. My mom, although she was a stay-at-home mom, was a teacher by nature. She was an excellent writer and really instilled education in me as a value. My dad was a great leader and coached my brothers and me in sports growing up,”# he says. At home, Nebel often served the role as tutor to his five younger siblings. “I helped with their homework and organization, and I found myself enamored with my role.”#
Now, 17 years later as an educator, Nebel has been named this year”s Gwinnett County Public Schools Teacher of the Year, an honor he credits to the amazing people he”s surrounded by daily.
“I”ve been raised by good educators, not just within my immediate family, but as a professional working with exceptional teachers at an award-winning school system,”# Nebel says. “My daughters, 12-year-old Grace and 4-year-old Addie, along with my wife Debbie are also my motivation. They push me to do my best each day,”#
The lessons he”s learned from his family members and professional counterparts has guided him in making an impact on his students each and every day.
Lessons in Leadership
Nebel is the co-creator/co-sponsor of Norcross High”s STARS (Success Through Academic Rigor and Support) Program, which targets rising ninth graders. The STARS program pairs trained peer-mentors with entering freshman who are struggling academically to ensure that they have a smooth transition to high school and eventually graduate on time.
“I developed the STARS program with my co-worker and friend Travis Chapman, an environmental science teacher and assistant boy”s basketball coach at Norcross High. We saw the need to provide additional help to our ninth graders in order to increase graduation rates. To be proactive, we received support from our principal William Bishop to target students over the summer in their eighth grade year.”#
Through the guidance of Nebel and other teachers, students receive additional academic support and mentorship. The program, within its first year alone, helped 150 students pass approximately 89 percent of all their classes. “We feel we instilled a greater vision in these students, teaching them how to see the path to college and tomorrow.”#
Nebel has always strived to see the bigger picture for his students. “I think it”s important for educators to remember to teach the whole child and not to let teachable moments pass by in the classroom. Don”t take for granted the time you have with students you can make an impression on.”#
Throughout the school day, Nebel incorporates life lessons, such as eye contact when you speak, how to shake a hand, hard work, and honesty, into his teachings. “#I want to help produce effective citizens. Weaving these lessons into my day-to-day interactions with students helps them develop character and skills they can use going forward.”#
Lessons in Teamwork
In addition to mentoring students in class, Nebel also has mentored on the basketball court. He has coached for 12 years at various levels in Gwinnett County. Most recently, Nebel served as assistant head coach for the Norcross High women”s basketball team.
“Being a coach has been one of my most rewarding experiences and winning the Teacher of the Year award as a coach made it extra special. Sometimes there is a misconception about coaches, but they definitely are some of the greatest teachers. Coaches know how to bring the best out in students. I”ve been really blessed and fortunate to coach young women who have amazing talent and work with head coaches who have taught me a lot about being an exemplary leader.”#
Lessons in Transition
All that he”s learned throughout his teaching career will be pertinent in his new role as assistant principal of Creekland Middle School.
“I accepted the assistant principal position at Creekland Middle School. It”s where I began my teaching career and taught for 11 years. Then moved to Norcross High School where I taught World History for six years. I”m excited because it feels like I”m going back home. It means a lot to me,”# he says.
Nebel has already hit the ground running with his new team at Creekland Middle School, preparing for the start of school this fall. Even though he”ll miss walking through the doors of Norcross High School, the connection he”s made with students will stay with him forever.
“At Norcross, I”ve learned that my students are brave, persistent, and determined to be successful. Many of them have obstacles facing them every day and to watch a teenager overcome these hurdles is very inspiring for me,”# he says.
Nebel earned a bachelor”s degree in Middle Childhood Education from Georgia State University and a master”s degree in Teaching and Curriculum from Touro University International.#