It's no surprise to the people who know him that Andrew Baumgartner is Georgia's Teacher of the Year -- the first time that honor has gone to a Richmond Countian.
"Mr. B," as he's affectionately called, is a 22-year teaching veteran whose last three years teaching kindergarten at A. Brian Merry Elementary School "have been the happiest of my career." In an interview after being named Richmond's Teacher of the Year last November, he explained why: "You get to see more rapid progress (in kindergarteners). The kids grow at a really rapid rate."
No doubt the rapid progress is in large part due to him. "Mr. B's a little bit of every good teacher I've ever seen," says Merry Principal Beverly Arnold. "There's an energy force -- you see it, you feel it in the classroom."
In a letter to The Chronicle last December, Mr. B said he was excited by the county's honor, but that the "real teachers of the year aren't people like me" who get strong professional support from the faculty and administration and are given the opportunity to work with "concerned, loving parents" who care deeply about their children's education.
"The real teachers of the year," he wrote, are those who report to school each day despite physical threats to their safety; or teachers who don't lose their enthusiasm for teaching even when they're surrounded by tired and pessimistic colleagues.
"It is to these teachers, and the many others who succeed despite the odds, for whom I take off my hat and to whom each of us owes a vote of gratitude," his letter concluded.
That's the humble message this minister's son, who says he was destined from an early age for "a career in some sort of service," will take with him as he leaves the classroom for a year to serve as Georgia's education ambassador, traveling the state to conduct workshops and lectures.
Along with others who know him, we are confident Mr. B's enthusiasm will be as infectious on the road with adults as it is in the classroom with children. He has a lot to teach all Georgians.