Educator ‘teaches from the heart’
by Megan Thornton
November 09, 2012 12:41 AM | 2980 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cherokee School Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo presented Macedonia Elementary School teacher Sandy Giudice with the Cherokee Teacher of the Year award on Thursday morning. Above: Giudice and  Petruzielo are surrounded by her third-graders as they give hugs to congratulate her on her award. <br>Staff/Todd Hull
Cherokee School Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo presented Macedonia Elementary School teacher Sandy Giudice with the Cherokee Teacher of the Year award on Thursday morning. Above: Giudice and Petruzielo are surrounded by her third-graders as they give hugs to congratulate her on her award.
Staff/Todd Hull
CANTON — Sandy Giudice’s third-grade students at Macedonia Elementary almost toppled her over in excitement Thursday after Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo announced their teacher won Cherokee County Teacher of the Year.

Giudice, who is in her 11th year of teaching, thanked Petruzielo not just for his kind words and presenting her with a bouquet of roses, but for propping her up amidst the rush of eager students.

“I do appreciate the physical support as well, because I truly would have been on the ground,” Giudice joked with Petruzielo.

The Canton resident was selected by a panel of community leaders, who evaluate applications from each school’s teacher of the year submission. The school winners are selected by their peers.

“She’s done all the things that great teachers do that go above and beyond,” Petruzielo said when explaining Giudice’s selection. “She is only going to be happy if all of the kids succeed.”

Macedonia Principal Tammy Castleberry was elated by Giudice’s selection.

“If I had to say her strongest attribute, (it) would be truly she teaches every day from the heart,” Castleberry said.

Petruzielo said a couple of things that stood out about Giudice were her focus on individualization in learning and her unique approach to teaching, which he credited to her background in communications before becoming a teacher.

“She can be a great spokesperson for teachers and for education,” Petruzielo said.

Giudice said her journalistic background has helped her most when trying to connect with parents.

“I know what it’s like to be sitting on the other side as the parent of a child who’s struggling with something or in trouble … I think I can put them at ease and I think we can become a team together to help that child,” Giudice said.

Petruzielo said he was most impressed by her passionate essay reflecting the negative impact of class size increases.

“We tend to forget what the real impact is of putting one or two or just three more kids in a classroom,” Petruzielo said. “It really makes you remember why it is so important from a standpoint of individualization to not jam up a classroom with so many kids. You can balance the budget, but something is lost in translation. I thought her comments on that were extremely powerful.”

Giudice, who has 26 students in her class this year, said she tries not to let larger class sizes affect her relationships with students.

“When I first started teaching, I had 18 (students),” she said. “You have more of a chance to work with students one-on-one. It’s more of a community feel when it’s like that and you really get to know the kids. I strive really hard, no matter how many kids are in the classroom, I still work with kids one-on-one and in small groups…whether there’s 18 or 26, they still need that one-on-one time with the teacher.”

The superintendent said he was also impressed by her drive to make sure not a single student is left behind as well as her resilience in the face of challenging and continually changing teacher evaluations required by the state.

“I think that’s really the mark of an outstanding teacher,” Petruzielo said.

Giudice recalled how one year, she quietly spent half a semester teaching a gifted student who had trouble with tying her shoes.

“By the end of the year, she was tying everybody else’s shoes,” Giudice said. “Those are the things that aren’t measured in an evaluation that happen in a classroom.”

She said those things cannot be evaluated.

“Really, I feel like I get evaluated by those little moments that the kids will always remember, I’ll always remember. Those are the big successes you can’t capture on a piece of paper,” Giudice said.

A former newspaper reporter and public relations director, Giudice said she got her start in education when she began substituting at Woodstock Elementary School, where both of her daughters attended.

One day, she was called into the front office by former Principal Mike Vernor, who now works as a director in the district’s Office of School Operations, asking her to teach full time.

“I looked at him and my mouth dropped,” she said. “I guess it was obvious that I really enjoyed it.”

Since then, Giudice became a certified teacher through an alternative program and began as a teacher at the Title I school for five years. She went on to earn a master’s degree in early childhood education from Piedmont College, became a certified gifted teacher and completed the county’s Teach21 program.

She’s active in other areas of the school, including mentoring teachers, participating in Response to Intervention and Literacy Club. She also became a CPR and First Aid-certified First Responder last year because one of her students had a serious heart and brain condition.

Beyond the school, she volunteers each week with her church, The River, and volunteers annually with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life fundraiser.

Castleberry praised Giudice’s “captivating” teacher strategies Thursday and talked about how walking into her class each day is like walking onto a Broadway stage, as she often makes up songs to help her students learn.

“When you go into her classroom it’s like watching a performance,” Castleberry said.

Everyone at Macedonia is familiar with Giudice’s preference for song, as she said she’s been paged by the secretary in the past and has missed the call because she and her students are singing so loud.

“You never know what you’re going to get when you walk in there,” Castleberry joked.

Giudice said she’ll see many students mouth her jingles about nouns and multiplication tables during their tests.

“Some kids are auditory learners, they need to hear something,” Giudice said.

Despite all the song and dance, Castleberry said she gave Giudice a challenge this year by putting both gifted and regular education students in her classroom.

“When she says she teaches in small groups, she has to do that to meet every need… and she does it beautifully meeting every single need in that classroom,” Castleberry said.

Giudice said her favorite part of each day is when students arrive.

“I feel like I unwrap a Christmas present every day,” she said. “I love coming to work and teaching and just spending time with the kids.”

Giudice’s students best summed up why their teacher won the top award in the district:

“She’s different because she sings and I haven’t had a teacher that sings so well as she does and I haven’t had a teacher as funny as her,” Sydney Sharrock said.

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

“She’s really generous and doesn’t let us down,” Rand Johnson said.

Giudice echoed her focus on students when asked what she hopes they remember about her.

“That I loved them,” she said. “That I cared about them and always wanted the best for them.”

Giudice will be honored at the district’s annual Teacher of the Year banquet in December 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.
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