Mrs. Kristen Kearney is the Teacher of the Year for Cartersville Primary School. Mrs. Kearney is in her 15th year of teaching, all at Cartersville City Schools. She began her career teaching fourth grade at Cartersville Elementary School for four years and then transferred to Cartersville Primary School where she has taught second grade for the past 10 years. She holds an undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education from Kennesaw State University and a master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from American College of Education. From a very young age, Kristen knew that she wanted to be a teacher. In school, she noticed that she learned best from those teachers who went beyond the textbook and took the time to know their students. She has worked to model the success she saw in her own classroom experiences. She said, “I want my classroom to be a place where students are excited to come, where they feel safe, and where they feel loved. Creating this environment and building this relationship is the foundation that enables me to cultivate a love of learning and reach them where they are.” Incorporating strategies from Capturing Kids Hearts is one of the ways Kristen strives to build relationships with her students. She said, “Capturing Kids Hearts has made me a better teacher and a stronger leader. This initiative has changed our school for the better. Our focus is on what matters most: loving our kids first.”








Mrs. Emma James is the Teacher of the Year for Cartersville Elementary School. Mrs. James is in her 21st year of teaching, all at Cartersville Elementary School. She holds an undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education from LaGrange College, a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Piedmont College, a specialist degree in Administration and Leadership from Lincoln Memorial University as well as a Math Endorsement from Georgia Highlands College. Emma understands that connecting with people, whether they are students, families, or co-workers, is one of the main priorities of her role. She holds three principles that guide her interactions and facilitate her success. The first is to observe without judging. Next, she
strives to give patience and grace. Finally, she listens. Emma believes with these strategies, she can make a positive impact each day. A parent of one of Emma’s former students wrote, “Mrs. James met our son where he was individually and worked diligently with his specialized teacher to teach him in a method where he could learn and flourish. She never missed a beat with adapting to his needs or meeting him one-on-one all while managing to educate her classroom of 23 other students effectively and efficiently.”


Mrs. Sarah Belisle is the Teacher of the Year for Cartersville Middle School. Mrs. Belisle is in her 16th year of teaching, the last six serving students at Cartersville Middle School. She earned an undergraduate degree in Science Education from East Texas Baptist University, a master’s degree in Science in Education as well as a Gifted, Talented, and Creative Endorsement from Arkansas State University. Sarah has served as a mentor teacher, team leader, curriculum writer, reward program designer, yearbook sponsor, and 2003 Teacher of the Year in Texas. When asked to describe a lesson that defines her as a teacher, Sarah explained that she administers the Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Test at the beginning of each year. Using data from the assessment, she creates class groups based on the students’ strengths and learning styles. She then assigns work based on the group’s strengths. She said, “I am a strong proponent of students learning how to learn. Using this model, students are able to use their gifts to be successful in my classroom.” Sarah’s main focus, however, is on connecting to her students on a deeper level. She said, “As they sit in my classroom for 9,900 minutes in the seventh grade, do they sense they are loved by that teacher?” In a letter of recommendation, one of Sarah’s former colleagues said, “The molecular structure of a gas describes Sarah’s approach to her students. As a gas molecule takes the volume and shape of its container, Sarah adjusts the ‘shape’ of her teaching to meet the visual, auditory and tactic/kinesthetic needs of her students. The ‘volume’ of her personal interactions with her adolescent students fluctuates with their emotional needs. Sarah is highly in-tune and sensitive to the needs of the whole child.”

Mrs. Tish Terry is the Teacher of the Year for Cartersville High School. Mrs. Terry is in her 17th year of teaching, all at Cartersville High School. She holds two undergraduate degrees from Kennesaw State University, English and Secondary English Education. She also earned a master’s degree from Walden University. Tish has served as a Response to Intervention Coordinator, TASC Force sponsor, a mentor for novice educators, a supervising teacher for in-service teachers and a Girl and Boy Scouts of America leader. Currently, she chairs the ELA Department, serves on the Building Leadership Team and sponsors the student book club. For Tish, helping students advance in vital literacy skills is monumental. She said, “Equipped to find truths for themselves, adolescents brim with credible insight. When shown respect in the classroom, they know their ideas matter. Students find confidence to express themselves with effective writing and speaking skills.” Tish has taken pride in helping young people find value in themselves and words as a veteran educator. One of her fellow teachers wrote, “Tish remains a consistent, steadfast leader who does not waiver from what she knows is in the best interest of her students and of her colleagues. She has proven time and time again throughout the years that she is one who can be trusted to lead by a positive and proactive example.”