Dr. Cassondra Zielinski, current Teacher of the Year at Mountain View Elementary, has loved obtaining new knowledge since childhood. With interests that span robotics, space, coding and technology, she’s now leading young minds as a STEM instructional specialist, a Science Olympiad Coordinator, a MATH Team Coordinator, a Girls Who Game Coordinator and other roles.
Meanwhile, Georgia’s Elementary Art Teacher of the Year and Shallowford Falls Elementary educator Krista Lewis treasures how art transforms students in myriad ways. “Art gives kids an outlet to express their feelings and shows them what they know in a new way.” she notes. “It brings me joy to watch them create and to see the sparkle in their eyes when they’re proud of what they’ve made.”
Wheeler High School Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Brittny R. Jones also values the privilege of supporting Cobb students – she discovered her penchant for both teaching and coaching meant administration could be ideal. “At one point, I dreamed of becoming a guidance counselor because of my love for supporting students inside and outside of the classroom. On the other hand, I was still passionate about athletics, and wanted to explore becoming a basketball coach,” she shares. “Teaching and coaching then led me to leadership. I thoroughly enjoy being an Assistant Principal and Athletic Director at Wheeler High School!”
All three agree every day as an educator is its own challenge — in a good way. Great educators must be swift to address what is needed at the moment, keeping in mind the spectrum of their roles. “Each day is an adventure,” Jones says, on being Wheeler High’s assistant principal. “I may have a ‘to-do’ list for that particular day. However, based on the needs of our students and teachers, there may be a more critical need with other tasks.”
In the classroom, of course, knowing each student on an in-depth level is paramount. “I have open studio in my classroom for 4th and 5th graders to come in and create art until their school day begins,” Lewis comments. “It’s during this time that I really get to know the students on a personal level . . . and support their art making.”
Outside of the workday, learning more about their fields — whether it’s STEM-related, athletic, artistic or administrative — continues to be a draw for these three savvy educators.
“To stay ahead of the enrichment curve, I’m always researching the latest on space exploration,” says Zielinski. “I speak to leaders in their fields and offer connections to the learning I do in STEM. I speak at numerous conferences, such as the Space Exploration Educators Conference at Space Center Houston; the National Science Teachers Association; and the Space Port Area Conference for Educators at Kennedy Space Center Florida. I also speak at local conferences.”
“I tend to do a lot of professional development when I'm not actively teaching,” Lewis agrees. “I like to stay current with art trends and be aware of new and emerging artists that I can expose my students to in the upcoming school year.”
For Zielinski, Lewis and Jones – among others — dedication and hard work are paying off in a big way. All three educators have risen above and beyond the classroom call of duty, with Lewis earning a statewide art teacher award, Jones leading the Wheeler Wildcats to their second state basketball championship and Zielinski starting Mountain View’s new Launchapalooza program for STEM students, in coordination with NASA.
“STEM is simply a mindset and one that we all possess and utilize daily – no matter our title, career, or background,” Zielinski muses. “We solve problems through innovative solutions, both as students and educators.”
“I believe receiving the Elementary Art Educator of the year award helps me shed light on the importance of art for our students,” Lewis notes. My students are proud to tell people that they are in my class, and they can see the importance of all teachers in their lives. This award is giving me an opportunity to advocate for not only my students but all students in the state of Georgia.”
“The Cobb County School District is the best place to teach, lead and learn,” Jones adds. “There is no better place to work!”
“The Cobb County School District is the best place to teach, lead and learn. There is no better place to work!” --Brittny R. Jones