Atlanta-Area Instructor Becomes First Black Man In Georgia’s History to Be Named Pre-K Teacher of the Year

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For the first time, the state of Georgia has designated a Black male teacher as Teacher of the Year for the state’s Pre-K program.

Johnathon Hines is an instructor at Barack H. Obama Elementary Magnet School of Technology in Panthersville, Georgia, a suburb east of Atlanta. Weeks after he earned the designation for the 2019-2020 school year, the fourth-year instructor discussed how he felt by getting recognized for what he described as “a new calling on [his] life.”

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(From left) DeKalb County School District Superintendent Dr. R. Stephen Green, Callie the Dog, Johnathon Hines and Barack Obama Elementary Principal Angela Thomas-Bethea. (Photo: @swooshmoneyhines/Instagram)

“Winning Pre K Teacher of The Year is one of the biggest milestones of my life. This was definitely an amazing feeling because I didn’t see myself obtaining such a lofty goal. It still seems unreal that I am the Pre K Teacher of The Year for the entire state of Georgia,” he told Because of Them We Can on Sept. 28. He noted that his goal is “[instilling] confidence in [his] students [so] that they truly believe anything is possible,” adding that with “self-confidence [students] will excel in the classroom and in life.”

There was quite the fanfare at Obama Elementary the day Hines was announced as the TOTY. Young students and staff alike lined the hallways of the school and chanted “Mr. Hines!” as he walked down holding his youngest daughter’s hand and greeted the older one with a hug. Hines even got a T-shirt to commemorate the honor.

“Today marks a day I’ll never forget. I was announced GA Pre-K Teacher of the Year and I am truly honored!” wrote Hines on his Instagram page on the special day. “This is something I never expected since I started my career playing basketball overseas, fulfilling a dream that I realized was temporary. I’m so glad that life led me to my true passion in Pre-K as being a positive black role model for young children.

“As GA Pre-K TOTY, it is my plan to continue to serve my students in excellence and ensure that they get off to a good start as a result of being in my class,” he vowed. “I will also strive to be a positive influence for other teachers to see the importance of quality early education and the direct impact it has on a child’s success!”

According to the state’s Department of Early Care and Learning Commissioner Amy M. Jacobs, Georgia’s Teacher of the Year program is meant as “a small way for us to recognize [teachers’] efforts” as the state’s pre-school program is “nationally recognized as an exemplary early childhood education program for four year old’s that significantly impacts school readiness skills in language, literacy, and math.”

Hines is certainly one of those instructors, a the chief academic officer for the DeKalb County School District said it’s something that the longtime DeKalb County resident doesn’t even realize.

“Mr. Hines is an extreme role model for those to come. He doesn’t even know his impact yet,” said Stacy Stepney to BOTWC.

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