Each year, the Valeri Mathis Camp Award of Excellence is awarded to top candidates who exemplify the integrity of the Ga TAPP program by being a professional educator demonstrating commitment, enthusiasm, dedication and leadership.

Congratulations to the 2022 nominees, winners and each of their supervisors. The 2022 winners are Deanne Hecht and Jill Strothmann

Deanne Hecht

Deanne Hecht has taught middle school Health and PE for 6 years. Her alternative path to teaching brings a unique background and experience that she is now able to apply to the classroom. As a soccer play from childhood through college, she knew she wanted a health-based career. She majored in Exercise and Sports Sciences and minored in Psychology. Later, Mrs. Hecht received a Master of Applied Exercise and Health Sciences and began working for a non-profit organization teaching health lessons in schools across the state of Georgia. Teaching children in this role confirmed her desire to work in the classroom full time in order to build deeper relationships with students, which make a lifelong impact. “You have those days where the kids are genuinely excited and really want to work hard. Those are the moments I love best,” Mrs. Hecht shares.

Mrs. Hecht is a leader in her school and in her community. She serves as a mentor for new teachers, coaches soccer and track, volunteers in the school and community, and leads various clubs. She assists other teachers with technology and is constantly growing and developing as a teacher and leader.

Congratulations to Mrs. Hecht on excelling throughout her GaTAPP candidacy. In the past two years, she not only completed the intense GaTAPP program, but also taught through a pandemic while raising a toddler

Mrs. Hecht’s Advice for new teachers:

Don’t be too hard on yourself. We are obviously in unprecedented times anyway, but as a new teacher, it is important to be flexible and focus on building relationships with your students.

Why Metro RESA?

The GaTapp program has provided me with a variety of classes and learning opportunities that have helped me to grow professionally and enhance my pedagogical skills. The knowledge learned in my classes along with the reflection on my teaching have assisted me in developing intro a stronger teacher and I hope to continue being able to use this knowledge and self reflection skills moving forward.

Mrs. Hecht’s Favorite Technology:

I love using Pear Deck, which is a google slides add-on. Pear Deck helps student interact with teaching and makes classroom lessons more engaging.

Jill Strothmann

Jill Strothmann’s professional career began in television journalism and marketing/public relations. Her shift into teaching can be credited to her son, who is on the Autism Spectrum. Mrs. Strothmann spent 18 years advocating for his education, and after he completed his Bachelor’s Degree, she decided to use her wealth of experience helping other high school students in a Community Based Instruction Program as a paraprofessional. The very next year, she was hired as an Immediate Reinforcement and Remediation (IRR) teacher. Even as a new teacher, Mrs. Strothmann has already been nominated for Teacher of the Year two years in a row!

Mrs. Strothmann’s passion for helping students has been her driving force in growing as a teacher and overcoming so many challenges and obstacles as she works tirelessly to support each of her students. “To be an unexpected bright spot in what could potentially be a very bad time in a teenager’s life is why I am proud to be an IRR teacher and am so very touched to be nominated for this award,” Mrs. Strothmann shares.

A Favorite Teaching Moment:

One of the caseload kids I received my first year of teaching was an ongoing challenge. He was distant, un-driven and at times, so very angry. His senior year, his schedule was a mess. I fought to get him the classes he wanted and needed. I never said a word to him about it, but out of the blue, he came into my classroom, walked up to me, hugged me and said, “thank you.” He quickly turned around and left. I stood there stunned for several minutes.

Why did you choose Metro RESA?

I have appreciated Metro RESA’s GaTAPP program design. It has enabled me to receive key, timely information to run my classroom in immediate turn around time. I had the ability to introduce new concepts to my classes the very next day after a Metro RESA class. Trying new teaching techniques was scary at first, but I found it very easy to do when I was able to talk to my Metro RESA classmates and teacher(s) in the next Metro RESA class session. I valued being able to discuss my successes and failures and then receive specific feedback on how to perform the task at hand better. This feedback truly launched my abilities and confidence as a teacher and honed my skills to pivot and identify quickly when something wasn’t going well.

Mrs. Strothmann’s Advice for New GaTAPP Candidates:

All new candidates, please realize that GaTAPP is going to be a tremendous amount of work; however, with the work will come tremendous benefits. What I learned from my coursework at Metro RESA made me a solid, well-rounded teacher. I “thought” I knew what I was doing prior to GaTAPP and found out I only knew a tip of the teaching iceberg. If you put in the effort, what you receive will serve you well throughout your teaching career.