Cherokee Schools name its teacher of the year: Sandy Giudice

Cherokee school chief Frank R. Petruzielo surprised Sandy Giudice with the district's Teacher of the Year award today.

Cherokee school chief Frank R. Petruzielo surprised Sandy Giudice with the district's Teacher of the Year award today.

Here is some more good news. This is the release from Cherokee County about its teacher of the year.

(Other district ought to send me their news about teachers of the year.)

From Cherokee County:

Macedonia Elementary School teacher Sandy Giudice’s third-grade classroom looks like what you would expect, but it doesn’t sound like it.

“All you need is love,” she sings to the students when they need to return their focus to their classwork.

“Love, love, love,” they sing back.

And that is the message that Ms. Giudice, the Cherokee County School District’s Teacher of the Year, said she hopes her students keep in their hearts forever.

“That I loved them,” Ms. Giudice, who is in her 11th year of teaching, said of how she hopes her students remember her. “That I cared about them and always wanted the best for them.”

Ms. Giudice was visited in her classroom today by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo, who surprised her, her students and the school with the news of her selection as the top teacher in the District. He presented Ms. Giudice with a bouquet of roses to the cheers of her students, who quickly rushed her with hugs.

“She has this inner drive to make sure not one child is left behind… that every child is challenged,” Dr. Petruzielo said. “She is only going to be happy if all of the kids succeed.”

The District’s Teacher of the Year is selected by a panel of community leaders, who evaluate applications from each school’s Teacher of the Year. The school winners are selected by their peers.

Ms. Giudice will be honored in December at the District’s annual Teacher of the Year Banquet sponsored by Northside Hospital-Cherokee and Credit Union of Georgia. She also will be entered as the District’s nominee for 2014 Georgia Teacher of the Year, which will be announced in the spring.

Dr. Petruzielo said Ms. Giudice’s path to becoming a teacher, which came after working as a journalist and in public relations and communications, gives her a “perspective that’s really great” in relating to parents, adding that she’s an articulate advocate for her fellow educators.

“She can not only represent teachers in Macedonia Elementary School well, but also teachers across the country,” he said, noting he especially appreciated learning her views on the negative impact of increasing class size and the caveats of the State’s new teacher evaluations, such as her understanding that while the new system is better, it still doesn’t give the full picture of a teacher’s performance.

“There is some magic in the classroom that can’t be captured on paper,” he said.

Ms. Giudice said while she feels she was “born to teach,” she didn’t pursue the path until it was suggested by the principal of her children’s school, where she was substitute teaching.

That principal was Michael Vernor, who today, as a director in the District’s Office of School Operations, oversees all elementary schools.

After he suggested Ms. Giudice become a full-time teacher and guided her through the alternative certification process, Vernor said he was privileged to have her as one of his employees at Woodstock Elementary School, a Title I school, for five years.

“She has a true passion for each of her students… She is not only their teacher, but she is their strongest advocate toward ensuring that her students are highly successful,” he said, noting Ms. Giudice often would work late to help her students and to share knowledge with colleagues.

After achieving her certification, Ms. Giudice went on to earn a master’s degree in early childhood education from Piedmont College, a Gifted Endorsement and Teach21 technology certification. She’s active in school committees such as Response to Intervention and Literacy and is a CPR and First Aid-certified First Responder and a strong supporter of PTA and charitable projects at Macedonia Elementary.

Ms. Giudice’s involvement in the community is not limited to her work and volunteerism at the school, as she also is very active in her church, The River, and volunteers annually with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life fundraiser. She lives in Canton and has two grown daughters.

Principal Tammy Castleberry describes Ms. Giudice as “every principal’s dream.” She praises her energy, devotion for students of all abilities, creativity and willingness to mentor new teachers.

“You never know what’s going to be happening… it’s like a live Broadway show,” Ms. Castleberry said of Ms. Giudice’s “captivating” teaching style in the classroom, noting she’s heard singing and “Tarzan” calls and seen creative experiments and dancing. “But one can always rest assured that active learning will be taking place.”

Ms. Giudice’s concern for her students extends beyond ensuring they master standards and succeed on standardized tests.

There is the little girl who was academically gifted, but didn’t know how to tie her shoes. Ms. Giudice, without drawing attention from other students, worked with this child for half the school year until not only could she tie her own shoes, but she would tie her classmates’ shoes, too.

There was the little boy who came to school without socks, and it wasn’t because he forgot to put them on that morning. Ms. Giudice knew his family was struggling financially and made sure he had socks every day after that.

Her students sum up what makes their teacher great with these words: organized, fun, smart, nice, hilarious, generous, good.

“She’s always there for us when we need her,” Braeden Garriques said.

And the feeling is mutual, according to Ms. Giudice, even with the growing challenges facing public school teachers today.

“I feel like I’m unwrapping a Christmas present every day,” she said. “I love coming to work.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

20 comments Add your comment

Truth in Moderation

November 8th, 2012
6:03 pm

Two “Sandys”, opposite outcomes. One floods and destroys everything in her path, the other encourages and builds up every child in her path. Congratulations Sandy Giudice!

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

November 8th, 2012
7:57 pm


Private Citizen

November 8th, 2012
8:50 pm

I can’t stand teacher of the year awards. To me, it gives the same rhythm as when the state touts test scores. It is manufactured attention seeking from the authority bunch and they’re basically using the staff person to promote their system. I’ve seen where teachers did not now these type of awards when they were then required to attend counsel meetings as representative and do a bunch of showy stuff, and receive no award money or compensation. (I’m not saying this is the case for the Cherokee schools award, I do not know).

John Taylor Gatto was awarded teacher of the year for New York State (twice?). He then quit and told them their schools were run like prisons. I;ve also seen in Georgia when “teacher of the year” is awarded to a photogenic person, what can be seen as a certain “stereotype” and an image of the person is used for marketing for the system. Even in the featured photo in this article, a nice photo, the authority person is holding a Motorola radio like a police officer would use. No question who’s not the teacher in that photo and who is issuing the award. The award might mean something is if it has a $1k or $10k check to go with it. Even when I received an award in university it had a check with it for a couple hundred dollars and there was a formal ceremony of which I was a small part of. These awards seem shallow and serve as marketing for the school district. What does the winner receive beside being exploited for marketing?

Private Citizen

November 8th, 2012
9:59 pm

The marketing seems to be to tell the public “See? We have good people doing a good job.” But is manufactured attention-seeking, sort of like some police entrapment is manufactured-crime and it being generated by the law officers. Point is, they are introducing noise into the public space (no disrespect intended). Anyway, if they have an award, their ought to be a prize. With adults, this usually means a check $. At least then, the person could get their car detailed or do something for themselves / family.

A professor once told me, do not ever enter an acedemic contest if there is an entry feel. Sort of like when the Golden Key Honor Society invited me to join at a cost of $50. I declined. Are they still around? What a scam. Just identify the high performing students in a university – at universities that will allow you to do this or that will furnish the data – and send them a bill for $50. bucks for an “award.”

Wow. This is worse than I thought. Not only are they selling people awards based on their GPA, they’re using their images for marketing.–ChaptersMember-Stories.aspx Maybe the teachers who get “Teacher of the Year” awards should be required to pay $50. like the way the Golden Key International Honor Society does it. /s

Enough already

November 8th, 2012
10:06 pm

Opinions are like a certain part of one’s anatomy, PC. Glad you have one…or two! Why is it not enough to just be happy for someone receiving the recognition that’s deserved? How many times do people spout off about how selfish and whiny teachers are about money and then turn around and disrespect them for an award such as this? It’s not about the money! It’s about the validation for a job well done that comes from being nominated by one’s peers and the pride of representing one’s school and, now, for the district. That being said, Congratulations to TOTY for CCSD, Sandy Giudice. I know this girl and the magic she works and her students are the better for it, Way to go!

Private Citizen

November 8th, 2012
10:08 pm

Aye-yii! it gets worse. “Honorary members are elected by Golden Key. They do not necessarily endorse the validity of the Golden Key organization or participate in its activities.”

They just pick people out of a hat that have nothing to do with them, like Bill Cosby and Ronald Reagan, and make them an “honorary member” and then use them for marketing, listed in their “honorary members.” They use people! Without the people’s permission. Wow. The sad part is that “Golden Key” is based in Atlanta. Reading about them, not quite as bad as they used to be when “in 1997 salaries, management and general expenses totaled almost 47 percent of the total expenditures.”

Private Citizen

November 8th, 2012
10:14 pm

Why is it not enough to just be happy for someone receiving the recognition that’s deserved?

It is appropriate and reasonable to question if something is legitimate. If there is a professional award for an adult, it ought to have some prize money to go with it, otherwise it is just propaganda and using somebody. Traditionally, in academics, wherever there is an award, there is a check to go with it. Something a little extra to sweeten the person’s life and “award” them for their distinction.

Private Citizen

November 8th, 2012
10:32 pm

Here’s an example of academics who are minding their own business and are doing their work and are picked for an award / prize. The fourth paragraph tells you how much. I am posting this as evidence that academic professional awards should include a monetary award. Teachers are required to follow “standards.” It would be nice if the management followed them, too.


November 8th, 2012
10:33 pm

Congratulations to Ms. Giudice! It is an honor to be recognized for excellence in teaching. Thank you for giving of yourself and touching the lives of your students.

Enough already

November 8th, 2012
10:49 pm

Seriously? In Academia? Nahhhh, that’d be Corporate America and Big Business that award cash or trips. Besides, how would an appropriate amount of money be determined? And don’t you think there’d be an outcry about taxpayers’ money being used for such frivolity? But, hey, I like your way of thinking of providing a cash award…bring it on…as long as you can guarantee a caveat of no gripes or complaints from posters about teachers inappropriately receiving cash awards. So in the meantime, please believe me when I say it is truly an honor in and of itself. We know the score when we enter this profession but we do it anyway because we love what we do, we believe in the youth of today, and we hope to have a hand in shaping them into productive citizens of the future. It’s been fun, PC, but there’s an early morning on the rise… so good evening!

Excellence matters,

November 9th, 2012
12:05 am

As do good examples. In the examples provided here and in the sad story of the death of the wonderfully committed teacher in Decatur, who Maureen profiled earlier, we have excellent examples of excellent teachers. I am so sad by the prevalence of the kind of cynicism and nihilism that would ask us to think this is all done for PR. Doing well by doing good—we can all learn from these positive examples. Let’s direct our energies in thatmdirection.

Pride and Joy

November 9th, 2012
6:51 am

Private Citizen makes some good points about recognition. I agree; however, I am glad there are some recognition of good teachers out there because I simply want to know about them.
This quote makes my heart sing “I feel like I’m unwrapping a Christmas present every day,” she said. “I love coming to work.”
It just made my day. I love that there is a teacher out there who loves her job.
It also makes me want to hug a teacher who cares enough to help a child learn to tie her or his shoes.
My children are different. For one child, I demonstrated how to tie one’s shoes to that child three times. After that, he/she insisted on tying his or her own shoes. My other child still hasn’t learned and it’s been 18 months later. He/she is just not interested so he/she will wear velcro until he/she is simply ready to learn that skill. I don’t worry about it at all. I know this child has good fine motor skills because his/her writing is superior to his/her siblings…but…
according to my child’s teacher…if he/she couldn’t tie his/her shoes in kindergarten it meant he was destined to be a drop out and I was an absolutely failing parent.
Kids aren different. They have different speeds for different skills. We have to be flexible and focus on what’s really important. For goodness sake, I wear slip on high heeled pumps to work and I slide into my Sketchers at home. I haven’t tied a pair of shoes in months myself.
We need to focus on what is really important in kindergarten…preparing to read and to write…

former teacher

November 9th, 2012
9:32 am

Maureen, I’ll bet you never thought your post would bring the responses of “I hate awards” and “focus on what is really important in kindergarten,” Congratulations to Ms. Giudice on her award, but mostly to her dedication to her students!

Pride and Joy

November 9th, 2012
10:45 am

To former teacher — I am sure Ms. Downey is very familiar with the responses to her blog entries. Enjoy your snide remark — I am sure you put some thought into it.

Maureen Downey

November 9th, 2012
10:54 am

@To all, From Cherokee County Schools:

I saw the comments on your kind posting of our Teacher of the Year news and thought I should share some additional information.

The Cherokee County School District Teacher of the Year and the Teacher of the Year winners for each of our schools are celebrated at a semi-formal banquet in December co-sponsored by Northside Hospital-Cherokee and Credit Union of Georgia. The teachers and their guests enjoy a wonderful dinner and an evening of recognition. While the prizes vary from year to year, the CCSD Teacher of the Year at last year’s banquet received a prize package that included: a Toshiba netbook computer; Hewlett Packard Photosmart printer/scanner/copier; iPad 2; Nook color e-reader; Canon digital camera; $100 Office Max gift card; $100 in gift cards to Bed, Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Kohl’s and Target; an engraved glass award; an engraved plaque with his/her portrait; and a variety of other gifts. The individual school winners received a prize package that included: $100 in gift cards; an engraved plaque with his/her portrait; and a variety of other gifts. All of the gifts are donated by businesses that support CCSD, as is all of the funding to present the banquet.


Barbara P. Jacoby
Director, Public Information, Communications and Partnerships
Cherokee County School District

CCSD Counselor

November 9th, 2012
1:01 pm

I love that once the Cherokee County School District gave more information, the snide remarks stopped! Congratulations to Sandy, and to all of the CCSD School Teachers of the Year! There are amazing schools in Cherokee County, and our teachers, administrators, counselors, support staff (and anyone else who works to help our children have safe, efficient, clean schools) are truly heroes! And trust me when I say, recognition for a job well done goes a long way towards subsidizing the “giant, overinflated” (insert sarcasm here) paychecks received by school employees! Thanks, Maureen, for posting some good news!

Maureen Downey

November 9th, 2012
1:05 pm

@former teacher, What bothers me is that some folks on this blog are not happy unless the news about public education is dismal and confirms their position that all is lost. Post some good news about rising performance or great teachers and the criticisms begin.
Ms. Guidice sounds like a spectacular teacher. She works for a system that is doing great work by a multitude of measures including an increasing number of people moving to Cherokee for the schools.
Congrats to both Sandy and to the system.

Nettie Mosteller

November 9th, 2012
1:38 pm

I appreciate the good news about CCSD Teacher of the Year. We have had so much sad news lately and this article was such a nice change. To PC, what a sad life you must have to make you so negative. As in every profession, there are those that excel and those that are mediocre and right now is such a crucial time for education. Why must you rain on someone’s parade? Congratulations, Ms Guidice! Thank you Ms. Downey!

former teacher

November 9th, 2012
3:03 pm

@Pride and Joy, believe it or not, I did not intend for my remark to be taken as being snide. My purpose was to point out, as Maureen evidently saw, that good news should be celebrated. If you were offended, I apologize. I did put a lot of thought into my remark as I am not a regular poster, but am a regular reader. Thank you, Maureen, for your balance of entries.

Private Citizen

November 12th, 2012
10:56 am

Teacher awards should have some award money. Otherwise, an “award” often contains additional duties to go rep for the organization and attend meetings and such. As far as the public complaining about award money, school districts should have a little more spine if they give an award and mean it. Considering the scale of school system budgets, a hundred dollars of a thousand is a miniscule sum to recognize an individual. It is true that where one teacher is recognized, there are probably ten others equal if excellent caliber and dedication, however managers should have real authority to do things and stop playing so squishy that all authority is from far away as they work to “redeliver” these mandates from afar. It is a very serious situation, this disembodiment of authority where everyone local is running scared like a cat on a fence and their mind and spirit seems to stop at “tell me what to do and I will not it.”

And the principal in Finland says, “I run this school and there is no politician that tells me what to do.” They also have a little more demanding concept of teacher training there. Few are accepted and it is treated as a “profession.” Something tells me that teachers are not punching time clocks in Finland, one of our recent Georgia “advances.”