After nearly four decades of teaching, some things still surprise Cedartown Middle School’s Dr. Dorothy Welch.

That was never more evident than on Tuesday night when it was announced that Welch, an eighth-grade math teacher, was selected as the Polk School District 2021-2022 Teacher of the Year during the regular meeting of the Polk County School Board.

“I was just totally, totally shocked. Education is my life and has been, and I’ve never expected recognition of any kind. I just do it because it’s what I love to do,” Welch said after receiving her award and meeting with colleagues in the front atrium of the Polk County College and Career Academy.

Welch was selected as the Teacher of the Year for CMS earlier this school year and competed against the other teachers of the year from Polk School District’s nine other schools.

Judges came from business and industry, retired teachers, retired educators and educators from other systems.

Superintendent Dr. Katie Thomas made the announcement after describing the characteristics that make a great teacher, adding that advocacy helps make Welch one of the best.

“She’s tireless in her intent to advocate on behalf of students and teachers. One of the most fearless and warrior-like females that I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing, learning from, calling a colleague and a friend,” Thomas said.

And in her 40th and final year as a teacher, Welch was celebrated by her peers as she hugged Thomas and stepped up to the podium.

“I think all teachers should be honored in every way possible, because we are the lifeblood of the school system. And I’m so honored to be up here with all these lovely, lovely women.

I’ve always wanted to leave the world a better place. And I know these ladies are going to start to make it a better place for many of us here,” Welch said to the crowd gathered in the HON Room at the PCCCA.

Welch, who plans to retire at the end of the school year, said that people send teachers their most precious possessions — their children — so it is the responsibility of each teacher to do the best they can by them.

“I try on a daily basis to help other educators as much as I can. In my 40 years I do have a lot of experience, which some wisdom only comes with experience. And I’m so proud of my profession. I just want to make it the best so we get the brightest and the best coming into education,” Welch said.

Each school’s teacher of the year was recognized and presented with a framed certificate and $100 gift card sponsored by NFP prior to the reveal of the district winner. Welch was presented with a second $100 gift card for being named the district winner and will move on to the state Teacher of the Year competition, which is conducted by the Georgia Department of Education.

The teachers of the year for the other Polk School District schools are Cedartown High School’s Angie Shuman, Cherokee Elementary School’s Heather Cain, Eastside Elementary School’s Lolethia Moreland Tuggle, Northside Elementary School’s Kelly Bentley, Polk County College & Career Academy’s Brandy Henderson, Rockmart High School’s Lindsey Campbell, Rockmart Middle School’s Kerri Earwood, Van Wert Elementary School’s Kale Benefield, Westside Elementary School’s Brook Swan and Youngs Grove Elementary School’s Gentry Sanford.

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