If there is even one student struggling in a class, then a teacher’s job is not yet finished, as they must push and fight to ensure that student has every opportunity to overcome their challenges with their biggest supporter at their side, said Casey Bethel, the 2017 Georgia Teacher of the Year and a scientist.

“Every child needs you,” said Bethel, during his keynote address to sixth- to 12th-grade teachers for Floyd County Schools during the system’s second Kickoff Classic on Friday.

Though the system’s students don’t return to school until Wednesday, teachers of all grade levels filled Model Elementary and Model High to discover innovative ways to reach students and better their education in the run-up to the first day of a new school year.

Craig Ellison, FCS executive director of technology and media services, said this year’s event had 129 presenters, a handful of which came from out of district, Berry College or local community organizations — about 95 percent were in-house speakers. The purpose behind the Kickoff Classic is to gather all of the systems’ teachers under a central theme of exploring a vast range of ideas on how to improve their craft. Technology, finance, logic, mindfulness, school safety and volunteerism were just some of the things teachers delved into Friday.

It’s not uncommon, Ellison said, that while surfing the Twitter backchannel, it’s easy to see throughout the year teachers posting about ideas they learned from the event being incorporated in their classes.

To hear Bethel’s second keynote speech — his first was to teachers of the lower grades — the Model High School auditorium was nearly filled, as he challenged teachers to not allow limitations to take hold of their attitudes, and to carry with them the needed confidence it takes to accomplish difficult and seemingly impossible feats.

Bethel, who teaches science at New Manchester High School, spoke about the little things that teachers can do to build relationships with their students, to reinforce in kids’ minds that they not only care for them in the classroom but outside of it as well.

Sometimes all it takes, he said, is to be the constant voice of encouragement supporting the ambitions of students, and to be the backbone to their dreams.

By always telling kids positive things, Bethel explained, the confidence shown from a teacher to a student can be internalized in them until it becomes a confidence of their own.

“We should all still believe in education,” Bethel said. “We should all still believe in the teaching profession.

“Teachers still have the potential to radically transform the lives of the students who sit in their classrooms,” said Bethel, repeating what he said after being named as the Douglas County Teacher of the Year.

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