Top Teacher

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When Jemelleh Coes (‘08, ‘10) began her first year as an undergraduate at Georgia Southern University, she originally planned to pursue a career in nursing. “My maiden name was Nurse, and I always wanted to helped others,” she said. “I really thought I would be Nurse Nurse.”

Until she thought about the occupational hazards. “After I realized that nurses had to deal with a lot of blood, I changed my major,” she laughed.

Coes instead opted for another career: teaching. Today, her focus remains on helping others as a special education English language arts and reading teacher at Langston Chapel Middle School in Statesboro, Ga. Although Coes is a relative newcomer to the teaching profession, having entered the field just five years ago, she was named Bulloch County Teacher of the Year last year, and last month was recognized as the state of Georgia’s 2014 Teacher of the Year.

Coes’ expertise in co-teaching techniques led to her selection as Georgia’s top teacher, and its’ positive impact on students has become a model for learning at Langston Chapel. “Co-teaching is an amazing way to include students with disabilities in the classroom,” said Coes. “Once I got into the field of special education, I discovered that every student could learn. I just needed to find out what their unique gifts were and tap into those gifts to help them learn,” she said.

Coes teaching accomplishments also include her participation in the Delta Academy program, where she has volunteered her time two Saturdays each month since 2008. At Delta Academy, Coes mentors a group of 30 middle school girls by encouraging their interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). “What makes this program so interesting is that I teach them about science in unconventional ways. For example, we create key chains and purses, and I teach them the science behind making those items,” she added.

“Jemelleh is so good at what she does because she has taken her passion for life and helped other people succeed. She represents what it takes to teach students who are struggling and to help them become successful,” said Charles Wilson, Bulloch County school superintendent.

Coes is also the site coordinator for the 21st Century Community Learning Center at Langston Chapel, an after-school program that serves 100 of the school’s most at-risk students. “This enrichment program provides students with hands-on activities such as experiments in math and language arts,” she added.

Coes has found that teaching has been an especially rewarding career. “The most important thing is your students, and as educators, we need to adapt to them. Educators need to reflect on what we can improve upon every day. I always tell my students: you have a choice. Your choices have consequences and rewards. And, I always tell them that failure is not an option.”

During the next year, Coes will leave the classroom and travel around the state and nation, serving as an ambassador for education. “It means a lot to me to be named Teacher of the Year, and I feel that I can be the voice for south Georgia,” she said. Coes will represent Georgia teachers by speaking to the public about the teaching profession and conducting programs and workshops for fellow educators. “The message I will be communicating is community, students and engagement,” she said.

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