Columbia Middle teacher named outstanding first-year teacher

The annual Columbia County School District Rookie of the Year event celebrating first-year educators took place Wednesday, May 17, 2023.

During the event, all first-year educators, alongside their mentors, celebrated a successful first year of teaching, reflected on accomplishments, and received recognition for their dedication to education.

Each year, the Columbia County School District nominates five outstanding first-year educators for excellence displayed in the classroom, and one overall Rookie of the Year. This year's top five finalists for Rookie of the Year include the following: 

  • Belinda Flanders, Riverside Middle
  • Taylor Gerlach, Lakeside High
  • Amanda Johnson, Cedar Ridge Elementary
  • Jonathan Slagle, Grovetown High
  • Luke Yelton, Columbia Middle

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The winner of the Rookie of the Year award was Mr. Luke Yelton, a math teacher at Columbia Middle. 

The Rookie of the Year Celebration is an award-winning model, recognized statewide, created by the Columbia County School District to provide ongoing mentorship and support services to first-year teachers necessary to build successful educators who provide quality education for all students.

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Pictured is Rooke of the Year, Luke Yelton (center), with Georgia Teacher of the Year Mr. Michael Kobito (left), and Dr. Steve Flyner, Columbia County School District Superintendent. 

Additionally, high school students graduating from the Teaching as a Profession Pathway participated in the Georgia Future Educators Signing Day by signing letters of intent to pursue careers in education. Approximately 50 students, combined from all five high schools, participated in the signing day event. After completing the educational and certification requirements for teaching in post-secondary programs, these student signers are guaranteed job interviews with the Columbia County School District. Also at the event, one student from each high school will be awarded a $1,000 scholarship, courtesy of Health Center Credit Union.

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Pictured above are the $1,000 scholarship recipients awarded by Partners in Education at Health Center Credit Union. Top row from left: Ashlynn Crabtree, Evans High; Dennis Marchesi, Greenbrier High; Ella Combs, Grovetown High; Jackson Rockefeller, Harlem High; and Nancy Mobley, Lakeside High. 

“Celebrating our, hopefully, future educators is a great addition to our ongoing efforts to provide a pipeline of quality teachers right here in Columbia County,” said Chief Human Resources Officer Anthony Wright. “And seeing the supports that the CCSD offers teachers, provides an added level of excitement and encouragement for our youth.”

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View more photos from the Future Educator Signing Day and the Rookie of the Year event here: