August 29, 2016 | SURPRISE DAY | Timber Ridge Elementary
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Kori Sanchez Smith
Executive Director

Justin Bradshaw
Dev. Coordinator


The AFAEE Board

Shelby Senzer 
Board Chair
Dr. Rubye Sullivan
Vice Chair
Ted Griffith
Katie McDowell

Edward Michaels
Will duPont
Molly Eskew
Simms Jenkins
Prescott Miller
Ryan Shepard
Megan Watson



Jennifer Dunn
'15 Principal Winner

Kelly Petrello
'13 Teacher Winner
Vice President

Dwight Ho-Sang
'13 Principal Winner

Kara Cowdrick
'15 Teacher Winner


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I started my teaching career at a small elementary school in California back in 1998.  I wish I had an "O,Captain! My Captain!" moment to share, but I do not.  Like most teachers, I struggled through my first year with a firm grip on my teacher's guides, hoping the students didn't realize I had no clue as to what I was doing.  And, again, like most teachers, I got better with trial and error and support and time.  I was lucky to begin teaching in my home state, surrounded by loved ones who wrapped around me at my most vulnerable moments.  Eventually my students were able to meet all of my family members, as they each spent time volunteering in my classroom at some point in the school year.  During his first visit, my father brought my school photo from my fourth grade year to show the class.  If you knew my father you would know this was his way to rib his oldest, but I took it as motivation.  

Mr. Fujita was my teacher in fourth grade.  And though I would not call him my favorite teacher (that spot is reserved for the revered Ms. Brault), I would say he is one of many great teachers that helped me along the way. In fourth grade I struggled with math, which left an over-achieving first born in tears most days.  Mr. Fujita was patient and kind.  He let me play math games on the computer, sat with me after school, and sent me home with extra practice. I understood that he cared about me, and that is exactly how I wanted my students to remember me.  So I took the awkward fourth grade school photo from my dad, and placed it proudly on the wall behind my desk.  I have had that same photo posted in each classroom, and eventually each office, I have occupied since then.  It it my reminder to be the type of educator I needed when I was younger.  It is my motivation to create an environment, or support an environment, that ensures every student feels loved and encouraged. And though I cannot say the students in my first year got the very best of me professionally (that was yet to come), they did know that I cared very much for them, and that I was dedicated to their success. 

I am proud to be the new Executive Director for the Atlanta Families' Awards for Excellence in Education. I have been a great admirer of AFAEE since it's inception, and proudly call many of those in the Winners' Circle personal friends.  It is a privilege to serve in a role that honors the best in education, elevating excellence in our public schools.  As a career educator, I know the life-long impact these fantastic men and women have on countless students, for countless generations.  Thank you to the Board for believing in me.  Thank you to Amber Stewart for her dedication and care of AFAEE.  Thank you to the partners and donors that support these great teachers through this organization.  Last but not least, to the Mr. Fujitas, the Mrs. Breaults, the Mr. Greens and the Ms. Allens- thank you.  I am here for you and I am absolutely dedicated to your success.

With deep appreciation,

Kori Sanchez Smith

Left to Right: Chinita Allen, Sherry Aglietti, Soo Son, Mitchell Green, Emily Max, Shirlene Jones, Jennifer Button
Copyright © *2016, Atlanta Families' Awards for Excellence in Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

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