During the Dalton Public Schools annual Employee Convocation, Mary Ellen Pierce was named the 2022 Dalton Teacher of the Year. Pierce is a first-grade teacher at Westwood School, where she has been teaching since 1996.
Pierce, herself a product of both Westwood and Dalton Public Schools, says her teachers had a profound impact on her that continues until this day.
“These teachers formed who I wanted to be when I became a teacher,” Pierce said. “I wanted to be someone who was loving, community-minded, and passionate. I wanted to change the world one student at a time. I hope that is what I am doing.”
She credits her commitment and passion for her students as her greatest contribution to the field of education. Pierce said her students are what inspire her to continue to be the best teacher she can possibly be.
“I tell people on a regular basis that I love [teaching] now more than I did when I started,” Pierce said. “I absolutely love my students. They continue to challenge and inspire me to want to be a life-long learner so that I can be the best teacher for them.”
Parents of students in Pierce’s classes get to see firsthand how much she loves her students. A parent of two of her former students said that Pierce always wants the best for her students and her school.
“Ms. Pierce is the heart of Westwood and Dalton Public Schools,” the parent said. “The students in her class are not just her students, they are her kids. She cheers on her kids in the classroom as enthusiastically as she does during Tug-O-War on Field Day. Ms. Pierce is an awesome ambassador for Westwood and all her children in the district.”
In her view, it is vitally important that all teachers are passionate about their job and love what they do every day.
“All children deserve to have teachers who are willing to build relationships, be compassionate, nurturing, and have high expectations for them,” Pierce said. “They deserve teachers who are life-long learners. Teachers who are willing to continue to go to the trainings, seek out opportunities to know more about teaching children, and focus on looking for new learning or refresh something that you may have forgotten. Our children deserve teachers who love what they do.”
For Pierce, the most rewarding part of her job is seeing both students and teachers learn something new.
“Watching a child do something for the first time is amazing,” Pierce said. “Their precious little eyes light up and joy spills out of them. I have had the privilege of being at Westwood for a long time and I beam with pride watching the newer generation of teachers grow, learn, and succeed in the unpredictable world of education.”
Pierce also said that she believes there is something truly special about Westwood.
“We have something special,” Pierce said. “I don’t take that for granted. We really love and care for each other. Parents, community members, and people at other schools comment on how much they love how we work hard for our students and have so much fun together.”
As the Teacher of the Year, Pierce received a one-year lease to a new Ford car thanks to Ford of Dalton. She also received a check for $500 as the district Teacher of the Year and a check for $200 for her honor as the school teacher of the year.
The financial awards were made possible through donations from partnering businesses: Shaw Industries, Georgia United Credit Union, McCamy Law Firm, Truist, Multiplex Construction Company, LLC, Ecovasive Environmental, Southern Janitorial, and Dalton Utilities. We also would like to thank First Student for their gift in-kind of transportation to the event for staff and Ford of Dalton for the free one-year car lease for the Teacher of the Year.
Each of the school Teacher of the Year winners received a $200 check.
Other school level Teacher of the Year honorees included Ashley Harmon, Blue Ridge School; Mary Kiker, Brookwod School; Ric Murry, City Park School; Amy Gleaton, Dalton High School; Tom Balthrop-Lee, Dalton Junior High School; Sara Webb, Hammond Creek Middle School; Brandi High, Park Creek School; Briana Ridley, Roan School; and Jeffrey Hutchinson, The Dalton Academy.