It's been said that "Experience is a master teacher, even when it's not your own." Dr. Doug Doblar subscribes to this view, and, as a result, he has become a master teacher himself. Among those whose experience he's learned from-- his dad and his mom, a former principal who now serves as a leader mentor.
The veteran educator, who teaches math and science to Head ES 4th and 5th graders, credits a long list of talented peers for making him a better teacher, leading to his selection as Gwinnett County Public Schools' 2018 Teacher of the Year. "Every success I've had has come from someone who learned it faster and better than me," says Dr. Doblar who has become a keen observer of effective classroom practice throughout his career. And those lessons were learned and learned well.
At the Nov. 9 Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year (TOTY) banquet, Dr. Doblar was named GCPS’ top teacher as well as the Elementary School Teacher of the Year. STEM Teacher Cheri Nations of North Gwinnett MS is this year’s Middle School Teacher of the Year. Amy Crisp, who teaches language arts to students learning English at Norcross HS, is the system’s TOTY at the high school level.
The annual event is an opportunity to honor all of the county's local TOTYs who were chosen as representatives by their peers. This year, 138 local TOTYs were recognized during the festivities. The other three Teacher of the Year finalists were Ebony Flott of Camp Creek Elementary School, John Chvatal of Brookwood High School, and Michelle E. Jones of Gwinnett Online Campus. The six finalists were chosen from among 25 semifinalists.
Of the many people whom he considers mentors, 2018 GCPS Teacher of the Year Doug Doblar says, "Every success I've had has come from someone who learned it faster and better than me."
Dr. Doblar says that his career has, quite literally, taken him everywhere from kindergarten to college. His 15-year career in education started as a long-term substitute teaching high school, followed by a three-year term teaching middle school. After that, he served four years as a college instructor while he worked full time on a PhD, before returning to a Gwinnett classroom as a local school technology coordinator at an elementary school. And in 2015, he came full circle, returning to the school he attended as an elementary school student to teach math and science.
He says, “At every stage I have had huge accomplishments of which I’m still extremely proud to this day. Objectively speaking, some of those contributions (like building a college course for 800 pre-service teachers and leading an entire school’s modernization of its technology usage) may have had wider impacts than those I’m making today. However, the impact I’m able to see now is far deeper. The icing on the cake is that I’m getting to experience these rewarding outcomes teaching at the same elementary school that I attended as a student and that serves the community in which I currently live. Knowing that those contributions impact the very community that has supported me for most of my life is fulfilling beyond explanation.”
One of the tenets of his teaching philosophy is “engagement is paramount.” He explains, “It has been my experience that when learning isn’t genuinely engaging for students, they either ignore it or endure it. The single most inspiring difference in the teachers I admire is the engagement of their students— they love coming to school, never want to leave, and achieve beyond what they ever have as a result. Excellence means not only measurable learning of standards, but also connecting those AKS to students’ curiosity and to what is naturally fascinating about the world. It means learning the AKS and being excited that you did. It means experiencing the AKS instead of receiving them.”
An example of how Dr. Doblar helps his students to experience the AKS by connecting it to the world around them resulted in a unit he calls “Save the Science Trailer.” When he was having a particularly hard time gaining the interest of his students in learning about erosion and weathering he noticed that the science trailer had a substantial weathering and erosion problem beneath it. He took advantage of the students’ concern about the impact on “their” science lab to leverage their genuine problem into a full project-based learning experience. As part of their work showing their mastery of this topic, students participated in an engineering design opportunity and created a video that spotlighted their creativity and maximized their message.
In accepting the honor, Dr. Doblar acknowledged the teachers at the banquet and thanked them for making a difference for their students. Noting that every teacher deserves the kind of kudos and celebration that come with TOTY recognition, he encouraged the teachers to enjoy every moment of their time as local school TOTYs. "I hope you take your award to school tomorrow and show it to your kids," he said. "Tell them that you dressed up and a lot of important people had a big dinner for you." He also reminded the teachers to keep doing what they are doing because other teachers, like him, are watching and being inspired by their example.
Dr. Doblar has a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from the University of Georgia, a master’s degree in Mathematics Education from Georgia State University, and a doctoral degree in Instructional Technology from Indiana University.
We wish Dr. Doug Doblar success as he advances to the state Teacher of the Year competition!
About our level winners…
North Gwinnett’s Nations selected middle-level winner
Cheri Nations will tell you that her interest in teaching can be attributed to a single, passionate physics teacher she had in high school. “He was knowledgeable, fun, and made physics come alive for me,” she says. “He established a relationship with all his students that validated our worth and inspired us to follow our passions. I went on to major in Chemistry at Georgia Tech. I love science, math, and new technology. I have a strong desire to foster this same love of science and math in my students.”
Mrs. Nations shares that when she first interviewed to teach the STEM connections class that she had to sell her vision for the STEM program at North Gwinnett MS. She says, “I explained my passion for STEM for ALL students. I knew that high science/math students were already motivated to continue on an advanced track. I wanted a chance to show everyone else how cool science could be and how it relates to our fast-changing world.”
Mrs. Nations started her career in 2004 as a kindergarten paraprofessional at Head ES before taking the same position at Puckett’s Mill ES in 2008. In 2013, she became a STEM teacher (K-5) at Puckett’s Mill before moving to North Gwinnett in 2014. Mrs. Nations has a bachelor’s degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Norcross HS’ Crisp honored as HS TOTY
Amy Crisp of Norcross HS views teaching as her “calling.” She remembers how as an undergraduate at Furman University, pursuing an English degree, her goal was to work in journalism or public relations. Teaching was not her plan. End of story… or so she thought. However, after graduation while working in the marketing/journalism field her eyes were opened to a different path for her life.
That new path started with a request from one of her mother’s Korean neighbors who asked her to tutor their son who was in 3rd grade. Before long, that student’s father, who was trying to learn English, asked if she would tutor him, as well. To her surprise, she was becoming more engrossed in her “hobby” than in her career. Soon after, she enrolled in Georgia State to become a teacher of English learners and 17 years later she is a proud ESOL teacher and Gwinnett County’s High School Teacher of the Year.
Ms. Crisp started her career at Norcross as an ESOL teacher in 2000. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Furman University, a master’s degree in English Education from Georgia State University, and a specialist’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Piedmont College.