At the Sumter County School Teacher of the Year Ceremony on Tuesday, seven teachers representing all schools in the system were recognized for his or her outstanding achievement. Jay Umpleby, a physical education teacher at Sumter County Middle School, was named Sumter County Schools Teacher of the Year.
At his acceptance speech, Umpleby quoted that which he has often repeated to his students: “Character is not measured by what you do when people are looking,” he said. “Character is measured by what you do when people aren’t looking.”
Other teachers of the year recognized at the ceremony were Whitney Brown from Sumter County Primary; Crystal Lingefelt from Sumter County Elementary; Yolanda Coley and Monisha Volley, both now from Sumter County Intermediate due to the realignment of schools; Sarinda Woodson from Sumter County Ninth Grade Academy, and Sherri Harris from Americus Sumter High School.
The principal from each of the schools sang the praises of their special teacher. Sybil Smith from Citizens Bank of Americus provided a cash award of $200 for each teacher, and the winner received an additional $1,000. Last year’s Teacher of Year,
Lynde Parker, provided the opening greeting while Superintendent Torrance Choates, Ed.D., welcomed the group and announced the winner.
The teacher of the year in the Sumter County School System has been driven to learn by the example and the encouragement of his parents. Umpleby’s father had asked his dad to drop out of school in the 10th-grade.
From left front row are Sherri Harris, Sandra Woodson, Crystal Lingefelt, Jay Umpleby, Whitney Bowen, Yolanda Coley, Monisha Volley; and from left back row are Torrance Choates, Ed.D., Kimothy Hadley, Coleman Price, Sharon Tullis, Sharon Marcus, Lezley Anderson, Ed.D., and Renee Mays, Ed.D.
“His father told him he’d sign the papers, but that it would be ‘all work and no play’ from there on out,” said Umpleby. “My father had to work many physically taxing jobs during my childhood days. I remember us working together in the tobacco fields one summer. That experience made me appreciate the free education that I was receiving and it motivated me to further my education upon high school graduation.”
Umpleby knows that learning is a lifelong pursuit because it involves the training of young minds. He recognizes the importance of all the professional learning opportunities the school system offers to their educators.
“Due to the constant changes and updates that occur in the field of education in Georgia, a certified teacher has to be sure to keep up with all of these changes,” said Umpleby. “The Sumter County School system and Sumter County Middle School make it a priority for all teachers to stay informed by having professional learning study groups so that we are abreast of the constant changes.”
But Umpleby doesn’t stop there. He takes advantage of the educational opportunities offered by being a member of the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE). The physical education teacher and coach of three sports also attends the yearly “Share the Wealth Physical Education Conference” to keep up with the changes in his field of certification, as well as to help better plan, assess, and evaluate the lessons he has taught over the years. In addition, he utilizes the school system’s membership with the district RESA office in Ellaville by attending their seminars and workshops, including “Nature and Needs of the Middle School Learner” and “A Framework for Understanding Poverty.”
He has also been trained in the Georgia SHAPE program on how to use the Fitnessgram to test all students, which in turn teaches students how to be lifelong managers of their physical activities and stay healthy throughout life. With all of this training and continuing education, he is inspired by the words spoken by Associate Superintendent Walter Knighton: “Teachers have to adapt so that we do not become extinct.”
Umpleby welcomes accountability in his profession. In demanding this accountability in teachers, he feels that Georgia is moving in the right direction. However, he thinks that limiting teachers’ accountability to test scores of their students is not a fair or accurate measure.
“A combination of standardized tests, common classroom assessments, work ethic, and classroom management would be a great combination to use in measuring a teacher’s accountability,” he said. “As long as a teacher is willing to sacrifice their pride and humbly work toward becoming a better teacher, then he or she should have no problems becoming one who has a high level of accountability.”