May 19, 2016 – Casey M. Bethel, an AP Physics, AP
Biology and Physical Science teacher from New Manchester High in Douglasville,
was named the 2017 Georgia Teacher of the Year today, during a surprise school
visit from State School Superintendent Richard Woods. As Georgia Teacher of the
Year, Mr. Bethel will serve as an advocate for public education in Georgia.
"Casey Bethel is going to be a
great representative of the teaching profession in Georgia,"
Superintendent Woods said. "His passion for education is evident in
everything he does, and the impact he has already made on students is clear. I
can't wait to see the impact he makes statewide."
Mr. Bethel planned to become a
cardiovascular surgeon. Although he excelled in all his classes, and to date
holds the record for the highest exit exam score for biology majors at his
undergraduate institution, his dream of becoming a doctor did not bring him
While studying genetics in graduate
school, he became a research scientist at the University of Georgia’s Center
for Applied Genetic Technologies. He felt his happiest instructing
undergraduates during labs and, because of that experience, he decided to
become a teacher.
"I turned to education, and I never
felt so alive," Mr. Bethel wrote in his application. "As a first year
teacher, even though I was exhausted every evening, I could not wait to get to
school the next morning for one more chance to inspire the next
Mr. Bethel is a part of the Georgia
Intern Fellowship for Teachers (GIFT) at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
This program provides a paid summer STEM (science, technology, engineering and
math) internships in industry workplaces and university laboratories for K-12
science, mathematics, and technology teachers. For the past five summers, Mr.
Bethel has conducted authentic biochemistry research aimed at finding cures for
inherited Glaucoma and Alzheimer’s disease. Mr. Bethel credits this
collaboration with broadening his instructional tools to teach concepts and
techniques to high school students. Because of his work, he was awarded the
Paul A. Duke award from Georgia Tech for lessons designed and published in The
Journal of Chemical Education.
Mr. Bethel sponsors a male mentoring
club at New Manchester called Project Manhood. Every Tuesday, upwards of 50
male students dress professionally to meet and discuss important issues. The
club’s motto is “Succeed at School, Succeed at Life.” As a group they work on
improving school culture and community service projects.
His classroom mantra comes from a
Chinese proverb that says: "Diligence is the path up the mountain of
knowledge. Hard work is the boat across the endless sea of learning." He
has reached the lives of his students, and his classroom is exciting,
motivating, and inspiring, demonstrating his belief in the teaching profession.
As Georgia Teacher of the Year, Mr.
Bethel will represent Georgia teachers by speaking to the public about the
teaching profession and possibly conducting workshops and programs for
educators. He will also compete for the 2017 National Teacher of the Year.
2017 Georgia Teacher of the Year
Finalists (in alphabetical order by district)
Teacher, Subject, System, School
Martha Villanueva Milam, AP Chemistry,
Coweta County, East Coweta High
Heather Cocke, English Languages Arts
Effingham County, Ebenezer Middle
Marlo Miranda, Automotive Technologies
Forsyth County, Forsyth Central High
Heather McConnell, Special Education
Gainesville City, Gainesville Middle
Jennifer Taylor, Science
Harris County, Harris County Carver
Sara Jones Wilder, Fourth Grade
Lowndes County, James L. Dewar Elementary
Dr. Debra Russell, AP Biology, Magnet
Biology, Anatomy and Physiology
Rockdale County, Rockdale Magnet School
for Science and Technology
Michelle Courtwright Ashmore, AP U.S.
Government, Comparative Religion and Economics
Troup County, Troup County Comprehensive
Joseph Cody Moncrief, Mathematics
Valdosta City, Valdosta Middle