GSTA award ‘most meaningful’ of career for WMS science teacher

Woodland Middle School’s Heather Carter was named the Georgia Science Teachers Association Middle School Teacher of the Year.

Woodland Middle School’s advanced science students will always be able to say they were taught by an award-winning teacher.


Heather Carter, who teaches gifted sixth-grade earth science and eighth-grade high school-credit physical science, was named the 2017 Middle School Teacher of the Year by the Georgia Science Teachers Association.

The fifth-year teacher was notified about the honor in a Jan. 12 congratulatory email from GSTA awards coordinator Sally Creel and received a $1,500 check, admission to the 2018 GSTA conference and an invitation to this year’s awards banquet during the 2017 GSTA conference Feb. 3 in Stone Mountain.  

“Over the last few years, GSTA has been an amazing pillar of support for my career and classroom,” she said. “I am humbly honored to be named Middle School Teacher of the Year by an organization to which I admire so much. This achievement is one that I will cherish throughout my career and keep as a reminder to continually do my best, no matter the circumstances.”

Carter, 29, said the award is “by far the most meaningful of my career.”

“In the past, I have applied and been accepted for new-teacher recognitions, but this is the first award I have received as an experienced educator,” she said.

Her principal, Matt Gibson, said the award is a “tremendous and well-deserved honor” for Carter and her students.

“Mrs. Carter is an exceptional teacher,” he said. “She is devoted to her students, and she expands their learning beyond just the science content to include many of the career skills they will utilize later in life. She constantly looks for new and engaging methods to support her students’ learning. Mrs. Carter is the complete teacher. Her content knowledge, methodology and rapport with students are all top-notch.”

To be eligible for the award, Georgia teachers must have at least four years of experience. After being nominated, Carter had to submit an educational philosophy, a resume with professional activities, a lesson/unit plan and three supporting letters of recommendation.

Ironically, the Rome native and resident said she “firmly resisted the career path of teacher for quite some time” when she was in school.

“Growing up with a family full of teachers gave me the perspective that education can be a ‘take’ profession, not a lot of ‘give,’” she said. “I witnessed it take precious time from my mother with long nights of cutting station materials/bulletin boards and last-minute grading bonanzas. I saw it take stability from her educator friends who were unknowingly relieved of their positions. Everything that I had heard involved feeling under-appreciated, overworked and disrespected. Honestly, who would ever want to venture down that path of torture willingly?”

But when her mother retired, the 2005 Rome High graduate said she “truly saw what the world of education was all about.”

“The love from former students that came by phone, letters, emails and grocery-store conversations were always followed with hugs and gratitude,” she said. “I then began to realize why she stayed in education all those years.”

Carter’s original career plan involved caring for animals, leading her to graduate from the University of Georgia in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in agriculture with an emphasis in animal science.

“In college, I originally planned to go a pre-veterinary route, and after many years of working and immersing myself in the lifestyle, I decided that it was not for me,” she said. “While I loved the content covered in school, I wanted to find something different that better suited my goals in life.”

After seeing the love her mom received, Carter said she enrolled in the Master’s of Arts in Teaching program at Kennesaw State University and has “never regretted it.” She earned her degree, with an emphasis in biology, in 2012.

Her student-teaching position with Janet Robison at Woodland High School while she was in graduate school led to her first job as a teacher.

“Fortunately for me, there was a science position open at WHS for the year I completed my student teaching, and I was offered the job,” she said. “I worked there for three years under [Principal] Dr. Melissa Williams, teaching various subjects like biology, earth science, environmental science and forensics. In 2015, I was transferred from WHS to WMS, where I worked under Dr. Wes Dickey and now Mr. Matt Gibson.”

Carter, whose husband helps out with “all of my crazy requests for school,” said her philosophy of teaching is simple — “Above all else, be kind.”

“Be kind to your students, and they will, in turn, be kind to you,” she said. “Be kind to the frustrated staff member who refuses to accept change. They have already changed 10 times in their 15-year teaching career. Be kind to the staff members. They are usually working on five other projects not depicted in their job description. Be kind to the overprotective, angered, aloof or nonexistent parent. We do not all share the same life story. Be kind to the unwilling student. They may have never had a cheerleader before.

“With all that being said, I feel a teaching career entails much more than just the content we deliver. It is about influencing the next generation on how to interact with each other so that they may then use their academic talents to promote original ideas and career paths.”

And now that she’s been in the education field a few years, what does Carter enjoy most about it?

“Hands down, the kids,” she said. “As middle school teachers, we can make such an impact on the kids at this stage in their lives. We spend hours upon hours with these kids, and it is my goal to leave them with a lasting impression, whether it is through academic success or uncovering life skills they never knew they had. The students bring surprises — some good and some bad — every day, but I try to use each one as a learning tool to better others and myself.”

Last modified onFriday, 17 March 2017 21:24
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