The Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning named Heather Melillo from West End Elementary School its Georgia’s Pre-K Teacher of the Year for the 2020-2021 school year.

The delivery may have been different, but the news was just as exciting today as the winners were announced.

In past years, Commissioner Amy M. Jacobs, Deputy Commissioner of Georgia’s Pre-K Program and Instructional Supports Susan Adams, and CALi, the agency’s mascot, made surprise visits to the winners’ schools.

This year, due to COVID-19 and social distancing, the visits were made via online Zoom meetings.

They also named their private center winner as Alderine Healey from the YMCA Paulding Early Learning Center in Hiram.

As Pre-K Teachers of the Year, Melillo and Healey each receive a $3,000 check for themselves, $3,000 for a classroom makeover and supplies, and $500 to cover out of the classroom costs while they are away. Winners will serve as ambassadors for Georgia’s Pre-K Program including public speaking, representing Georgia’s Pre-K at various meetings, and modeling effective classroom practices.

The winners were selected from six semifinalists who each received a classroom observation by a DECAL Pre-K Specialist.

Each finalist submitted a small group video scored by outside judges and faced a panel for a professional interview.

“All Georgians can be proud of Georgia’s Pre-K Program that helps lay a solid foundation on which the academic careers of the state’s four year olds can be built,” Jacobs said. “Since the program was piloted in 1992, more than 1.6 million children have entered kindergarten better prepared to succeed. That preparation, however, would not have been possible without the dedicated Pre-K teachers and assistants who implement this program every day. Recognizing these committed professionals by choosing Pre-K Teachers of the Year is one way to thank them for their efforts.”

Recommended for you