Stephanie Ross is no stereotype.
She is a physical education teacher at Glenn Hills Elementary School, but her students don’t use her class as a slack-off period. She is an educator who engages her students and a mentor who challenges young minds.
Because of that passion, she is also now the 2013 Richmond County Teacher of the Year.
“To me, (teaching) meant changing that often misconception that PE teachers lack intelligence and that we don’t teach,” Ross said as she accepted the honor Friday evening. “Offended by this generalization, I’ve worked to change this mindset by going beyond what is expected.”
As Richmond County school officials honored Ross at the annual banquet, they also dedicated the evening to honoring top teachers from the 57 schools. Each school’s teacher of the year walked down a red carpet at the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center and were given jewelry, gift certificates and gratitude.
“There’s no profession, no profession more important than that of teaching,” Superintendent Frank Roberson said. “I know how important teachers are and how they shape society and how they shape individuals.”
To narrow the 57 top teachers to one winner, six judges rated the educators, five candidates were selected based on numerical scores, and the judges made classroom observations of the finalists. Judge Hawthorne E. Welcher, a retired high school principal, said the judges looked for execution of lesson plans and how well students stay engaged.
They found that and more in Ross, who along with other prizes received a 2013 Mercedez-Benz C250 from Mercedes-Benz of Augusta to use for up to 12,000 miles.
Ross was raised in Germany, where she grew up competing in bowling competitions with her father and was the only girl on her school’s baseball team, according to her father, Leon Ross Jr.
She turned her love for sports into an educational opportunity and taught middle and high school PE for 15 years before moving to Augusta. Ross, who has taught at Glenn Hills for seven years, serves on the school’s leadership team and PTO executive board and is a site safety manager.
“Over the years, a lot of people make fun of PE teachers, saying they’re dumb jocks,” Ross said. “I teach physical education because it’s my passion. I love to move, and I can teach students to enjoy what I love. We’re focused on this raising student testing, but if we don’t have healthy students, they can’t take the test. This is my life.”