The winner will be announced on May 19, 2018. The 2019 Georgia Teacher of the Year will travel around the state and the nation, serving as an ambassador for the teaching profession in Georgia. He or she will also be entered in the National Teacher of the Year competition.
Learn more about the Georgia Teacher of the Year program.
GaDOE: When did you first realize you wanted to be a teacher?
Shaylen Dixon: I was on a mission trip in Ghana, West Africa. I was watching this little girl living in extreme poverty, thinking that if someone could just teach her, train her, or the people around her, maybe this wouldn’t be her future. Until that moment, I never understood how you could literally feel pulled and burdened to educate. In America, I always viewed education as a given, something that would always be there. I undervalued it. I thought I should be more than “just” a teacher. I always loved children, but that wasn’t enough to make me become an educator. In my arrogance, I almost missed the point that teaching was/is not a job, there is no way to be capable of “more.” It is either something you are, or something you aren’t. Had I never witnessed the absence of knowledge and education in Ghana, I doubt I would have ever understood the value of such a calling.
GaDOE: What keeps you in the classroom?
Shaylen: I genuinely love teaching and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else! Staying in the classroom has been easy - I have been blessed with great teams, great administrators, and great support. But most importantly, I get to speak life into my kids each day. I get to see the impact that I make on a daily basis and coming to "work" each day breathes life into me.
GaDOE: What character qualities make great teachers?
Shaylen: I have typed so many answers, and have erased all of them, because the reality is that we need such a variety of character traits to reach all learners. Great teachers are made out of teams of great people, and we need a myriad of character traits all pieced together to make this happen. No teacher is capable of being passionate, creative, energetic, loving, kind, persistent, resilient, patient, dedicated, and flexible all of the time. That's why we need all of us. So I guess what you really need to be as a teacher is a team player.
GaDOE: What is your favorite part of the school year? Why? [You can’t say summer or recess]
Shaylen: I love the beginning of a new school year!! It's so exciting to get to know new kids, new personalities, start new routines, and try new things in the classroom....not to mention that I ridiculously love new school supplies!!
GaDOE: What is the funniest thing a child has ever said to you?
Shaylen: I taught Pre-K years ago. I was new into education and I had just finished this awesome lesson (so I thought) and I was about to send the kids off to their correct centers. However, at the end of the lesson this little girl raised her hand, and in full confidence, she said, "Mrs. Shaywen (Shaylen), you don't make no sense." I just giggled and nodded my head. That's when I knew I was cut out to teach older kids :)
GaDOE: What is your favorite technology to use for engaging students in learning?
Shaylen: Kahoot! They love it! It is like dangling candy in front of them! They will do anything when Kahoot is involved!
GaDOE: Everyone likes to know the morning routine of successful people. What is yours?
Shaylen: I get up around 5:40, read my daily devotion, invest in my husband and kids, get ready for the day (in under 15 minutes), and then leave for work by 6:45 with my son. Prior to kids, I loved to work out in the morning, but let's be real, now I'm just happy if I get to sleep through the night or that I wake up when my alarm first goes off!
GaDOE: What do you tell students when they need encouragement?
Shaylen: This is my favorite part of teaching. I love getting to speak truth into kids' lives. They need to hear that they are made for greatness and that they are made for a purpose. I repeatedly tell them that they are valued, that we need what they bring to the table, and they are made the way they are for a reason. "Why fit in when you were born to stand out?" I want my kids to know their worth and to love their differences. If they embrace these things, they are unstoppable!
GaDOE: What do you tell other teachers when they need encouragement?
Shaylen: Part of my burden as a teacher is not just to change the lives of my kids, but the teachers investing in them. Teachers need to know, just like kids, that what they bring to the table is valued and needed. I feel like it is part of my job to speak life into them, encourage them, invest in them, help them, create community with them, share ideas with them, and serve them. We all need encouragement, including teachers. If the teachers around me are filled, all of who they are will spill over to the kids they teach. Investing in the teachers around me will continue to be one of my greatest priorities.
GaDOE: What is the best teaching advice you’ve received?
Shaylen: Be yourself. Kids are going to need different teaching styles, so do what works for you. Don't try to be something your not. Be authentic, and your kids will thrive.