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Mar 18, 2017 12:09 PM EDT

Forsyth County Education Honor Awarded To Special Needs Teacher [VIDEO]

Forsyth County Education Honor Awarded To Special Needs Teacher [VIDEO]
Maleah Stewart encouraged her fellow teachers to get to know their students better, including the kids who act out but especially the ones who don’t.
(Photo : Credit: Jason Bahr / Stringer / Getty Images)

Forsyth County special needs educator, Maleah Stewart was named the school district's 2017 Teacher of the Year on March 10. She was honored during the annual Celebration of Excellence luncheon at the Forsyth Conference Center. Stewart is a speech pathologist at North Forsyth Middle School.

Forsyth Superintendent Jeff Bearden said that every school in Forsyth County chooses a teacher of the year, and then the choices are narrowed down to a group of semifinalists for district honors. A community panel picks the top three and observes them before choosing the winner.

She was among the three finalists that also included kindergarten teacher Maggie Tompkins from Shiloh Point Elementary School and AP English teacher Michele Dugan from Forsyth Central High School.

According to the Forsyth Herald, Stewart said that being chosen to be the Teacher of the Year was breathtaking for her. She came to Forsyth in 2006 and has been a special education teacher for 17 years. Her experience growing up with a family member who had social anxiety and deficits in communication led her to become a speech language pathologist.

Stewart kept her brother a secret to her peers during childhood as her brother was always getting into trouble. She said she knows how essential it is to build relationships with kids and that her brother taught her everything about being an educator. She encouraged fellow teachers to get to know their students.

The School Board Chairperson Kristin Morrissey said that Stewart conducted training sessions for parents and worked with teachers on innovative lessons to able to find creative ways to help every student communicate, regardless of disability.

AJC reported that Forsyth County's annual luncheon also recognizes parent leaders, mentors and volunteers at the schools. Stewart has now a chance to represent Forsyth County in the Georgia Teacher of the Year competition and to advance to the national level.

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