September 21, 2009

Educator Honored for Energetic Passion and Student Interaction

VALDOSTA - The Boston Tea Party, the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor and the XYZ Affair -- from A to Z students in Gwen Desselle’s U.S. history class moved through the alphabet naming events that spanned 230 plus years. In game show fashion, the 2010 Georgia Teacher of the Year kept the students engaged as they reviewed for their final test in U.S. history.

Her energetic teaching style and interaction with students is a clear indication as to why she received the highest award given to a Georgia public school teacher.

Desselle, a 32-year veteran educator from Moultrie, Ga., earned her bachelor’s, master’s and educational specialist degrees from Valdosta State University. Her teaching career began at Valdosta High School in 1977 and then a few short years later she returned home to Colquitt County, where she has been ever since.

Desselle and her husband, James, a middle school social studies teacher, are avid travelers, who have visited every state in the nation and many European countries. Their quest to see the world has impacted their son, Jay, who is studying international affairs at the University of Georgia.

“Our travels help us relate to the students -- we have stories and pictures about the places we study and tell our students what it was like in the past and how it has changed today,” Desselle said.

Colquitt County Superintendent Leonard McCoy credits Desselle’s success in her ability to bring history alive.
“Not only does she know it, she in a sense lives it through her travels and the manner in which she presents it,” McCoy said. “Humor plays a major role in her classes as she makes learning fun.”

A voracious reader, Desselle conveys to her students the importance of reading and how the knowledge it brings helps link subjects past and present.

“I use a lot of anecdotes to share about figures from history,” Desselle said. “I also bring a sense of humor -- I can laugh at myself and get kids to laugh, too. I enjoy what I do and kids realize it.”

She describes her teaching style as flexible and student oriented. Her classroom lessons are interactive and incorporate a variety of activities to help maintain the students’ interest and involvement.

“I am always seeking a new and better way to help students learn,” Desselle said. “I keep the lessons relevant -- no busy work and every assignment has a purpose and is linked to the state standards.”

Always looking for ways to engage the imagination of her students, Desselle enjoys her job and realizes what she does is important and works to gain trust and respect from each student.

“I am fair -- kids know I have their interest at heart and they trust me to do what is best for them.”

As Georgia Teacher of the Year, Desselle will spend the 2009-10 school year traveling around the state as an advocate for the teaching profession and conducting workshops and programs for current and future educators. She will compete for the 2010 National Teacher of the Year and serve as an adviser to State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox and the Georgia Department of Education.

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