Each year, the Valari Mathis Camp Award of Excellence is given to one or two candidate who exemplify the integrity of the Ga TAPP program by being a professional educator demonstrating commitment, enthusiasm, dedication and leadership.

Congratulations to the 2020 nominees, winners and each of their supervisors. Honors were given during a virtual award ceremony and celebration on December 3, 2020.


Brandon RenderSupervisor: Ceci McAuliffe
Matthew KaroglouSupervisor: Mary Georgann Eaton


Camilla CohnSupervisor: Phyllis Porter
Deirdre McCarthy – DillonSupervisor: Phyllis Porter
Arquavis Searcy     Supervisor: Linda Paden
Laura Sharpe   Supervisor: Ceci McAuliffe
Jerlisa Taylor    Supervisor:  Jean Hickman

About Mr. Brandon Render

Mr. Render teaches US History and AP US History at Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School, after teaching Human Geography for three years. Before becoming a teacher, Mr. Render completed a BA in History and then went on to earn a Masters of Divinity and Masters of Religious Study. After going through the Masters program and spending time with a theology focus at the collegiate level, Mr. Render felt a yearning to be a in a classroom with younger students. This led him to Metro RESA’s GaTAPP program.

Mr. Render, winner of the 2020 Valari Mathis Camp Award, with his students.

Mr. Render serves as the Department Head for the History Department at Cristo Rey. He also serves on Cristo Rey’s Educational Leadership Team, on a Committee serving to revise the school’s teacher observations, on the Selection Committee for National Honors Society, and is a Faculty Moderator for Student Government.

Going through the GaTAPP program with MetroRESA helped prepare him for these roles. Through the teacher observations, scoring with the Danielson Rubric, and EdTPA process, he gained a keen insight into processes that are effective in preparing and aiding teachers, and he is using this insight to assist his own school as they revise their observation process.

“I use a lot of the strategies to this very day. It was very helpful. Going into EdTPA, Metro RESA provided guidance throughout the process to break down the rubrics to focus on our score. The review and feedback provided was extremely helpful.”

Favorite teaching moments:

My 2nd year of teaching, the students figured out when my birthday was, and they asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I had a test scheduled for that day, so I told them I wanted them all to make an A for my birthday. So on my birthday, a student made a big red letter A and all the students had signed the back of the big letter A. I still have that A to this day.

What Advice do you have for new teachers?

Patience. It’s going to be rough at first. Be patient and resolute in the process because if you keep pushing, you will find those beautiful moments with your students. By the 3rd year I hit the ground running.

Favorite Resources:

My students love Kahoot and Quizlet Live. We use those constantly for review purposes.

About Mr. Matthew Karaglou

Mr. Karaglou teaches Multicultural Literature and Advanced Composition at Etowah High School, where he is in his fourth year of teaching. During his first three years, he taught 8th Grade Georgia History.

Mr. Matthew Karaglou, recipient of the 2020 Valari Mathis Camp Award of Excellence

Prior to teaching, Mr. Karoglou worked as a Sales Admin for a Real Estate Brokerage assisting a residential sales team. Teaching had always been his goal, and the alternative program for certification was a great fit. He applied with Metro RESA as soon as securing his first teaching position.  “I am very glad I went this route because getting a year of experience in the classroom was so helpful to truly get the most out of the classes and EdTPA. I had a very successful first year teaching, but looking back now, I’d like to apologize to my first-year students for not getting me my second year. I am so much more prepared since going through the GaTAPP program.”

In addition to receiving the Valari Mathis Camp Award for 2020, Mr. Karaglou has also been recognized with Student Performance Awards for highest scores on several standardized benchmarks. The huge growth his students show every semester is the fruit of his hard work and successful teaching. “One thing I love about teaching ELA is that you get writing samples the 1st week of school, and it is amazing to see how much the students have grown in your class even in just that first semester.”

An exceptional teacher connects with their students and gains their trust, and Mr. Karoglou excels here. This semester, his Seniors are reading Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeaneatte Walls as they work on narrative writings. “Reading their work has reinforced and validated my decision to move to the High School level. They feel safe to write these narratives, which is inspiring and refreshing,” shares Mr. Karaglou.

What Advice do you have for new teachers?

The best advice I can share was given to me by a mentor and colleague, who was also my own homeroom teacher when I was in 8th grade. He told me, “You’re going to want to come in early and stay late. It’s okay to do those things, but do not bring it home with you. Work hard while you are there, go in early or stay late as needed, but do not bring it home!” Having taken that advice to heart, this helps me be able to teach for the long term and avoid burnout.

The second piece of advice Mr. Karoglou shares is to continuously expand your toolkit. Never stop learning, and adapt what you learn to apply it to your own use.

What are your favorite resources

I have really leaned in to Purdue’s Online Writing Lab. It is my favorite resource for teaching English. Students today often struggle with style and formatting, and Purdue’s Writing Lab is a great resource for that.