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Jennifer Sumner Named 2021-22 District Teacher of the Year
I believe in Dalton Public Schools and I try to do everything in my power to make sure every child has the best opportunities available to them.
Jennifer accepting award

From the time that Jennifer Sumner was a child, she knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up: a teacher.

Sumner was named Dalton Public Schools' Teacher of the Year at the district's annual employee convocation on Thursday, August 5.

When Sumner was young, her family purchased a foster home in Oregon that provided a home for children with mental and physical disabilities. It was while helping foster kids with their math homework that Sumner developed a love and compassion for those in need.

"I remember looking around and finding objects around the house, such as toy bears, to use as manipulatives to help make their learning accessible," Sumner said.

After getting married, Sumner moved to Georgia and received her special education teaching certificate. Sumner started teaching at Dalton Middle School, where she worked for 18 years. Along with teaching other classes, Sumner also served as the lead Exceptional Student Services (ESS) teacher at Dalton Middle School for about 13 years.

This year, Sumner will be a math teacher for the eighth and ninth grade students at Dalton Junior High School. She said that, after teaching several different grades and subjects, she feels she is finally where she belongs.

"Over the years, I have taught every core subject to sixth, seventh and eighth grade students in both inclusion and resource settings," Sumner said. "I finally landed where my passion lies, in eighth grade math."

In her role as the lead ESS teacher, Sumner works with new teachers, mentors them on ESS procedures, helps with schedules, manages the process for students in ESS and much more.

"Being a leader among my peers is important to me," said Sumner. "Personally, it is one of my greatest accomplishments."

According to Sumner, the true magic of teaching happens when building relationships with students.

Jennifer Sumner and Jason Denson"Teachers do not have walls of awards or trophies," Sumner said. "We have pictures, letters, cards and memories. Relationships are what it comes down to plain and simple. You have to love them, and they have to know it."

Sumner's philosophy of teaching special education is all about using those relationships to design lessons specific to each individual student's needs. Sumner has taught the same group of students for three years, which has given her time to understand the needs of each child.

"I start with the grade level standards and break it down from there, thinking of each child as I go," Sumner said.

Sumner's classes focus on the individual needs, as well as the power of words. Sumner takes a very optimistic approach to teaching, always looking for opportunities over obstacles. She has a goal to have her students understand the "why" of how math works.

"When we can take what we have learned and make connections to other concepts, I know we have been successful," Sumner said.

Outside of the classroom, Sumner spends a lot of time volunteering at Riverbend Church of Christ, where her and her husband have created Lass to Leaders/Leaderettes Program. The program is geared towards building Godly leaders to serve in the church. Sumner has also helped with a program called Helping Hands, which encourages the congregation to tell Lass to Leaders/Leaderettes of their needs, so the youth can help out.

Several years ago, Sumner also organized for the community to come and paint the bathrooms of Dalton Middle School with themes of body positivity, encouragement, and positivity.

Sumner has a passion for teaching, especially for teaching in Dalton Public Schools.

"I have a love and passion for Dalton Public Schools; it's my home," Sumner said, "We live in the county, but we have brought every one of our three boys to Dalton Middle and Dalton High School for their education. I believe in Dalton Public Schools and I try to do everything in my power to make sure every child has the best opportunities available to them."

As the Teacher of the Year, Sumner received a one year lease to a 2021 Ford thanks to Ford of Dalton. She also received a check for $500 as the district Teacher of the Year and a check for $200 for her honor as the school teacher of the year. The financial awards were made possible through donations from partnering businesses Dalton Utilities and Shaw Industries. She also received a Dalton Difference coin.

Each of the school Teacher of the Year winners received a $200 check and a Dalton Difference coin to keep.

Other school level Teacher of the Year honorees included Meghan Glaze, Blue Ridge School; Daniel McArthur, Brookwood School; Lauren Aldrich, City Park School; Suzanne Arnold, Park Creek School; Joycelyn Richards, Roan School; Christen Bryant, Westwood School; Matt Cheaves, Dalton High School; and Dolores Carrillo, Morris Innovative High School.