Alumni dominate Teacher of the Year awards in Columbia County

AUGUSTA, GA. – For the second year in a row, all of the Columbia County Board of Education Teacher of the Year finalists are graduates of the Georgia Regents University College of Education.

Teacher of the Year finalists are: Bonnie Belanger (Ed.S., 2012), Stevens Creek Elementary; Heather Graves (M.Ed., 2009), Martinez Elementary; Jenna Gurley (B.S.Ed., 2005), Westmont Elementary; Evan Johns (B.S.Ed., 1998), Riverside Middle; and Carolyn Stone (M.Ed., 2010; Ed.S., 2010), Greenbrier Middle School.

Of the 31 schools in Columbia County, verified GRU graduates were Teacher of the Year for 15 of them. Those include: Bonnie Belanger (Ed.S., 2012), Stevens Creek Elementary; Stacy Branch (’82), Lakeside High; Blake Crewe (’00), Evans Middle School; Rebecca Croft (’97), Grovetown Middle; Anita Cullen (B.A., 1994), River Ridge Elementary; Ashley Farmer (’07, ’08, ’09), Brookwood Elementary; Darby Finley (’91, ’95), Blue Ridge Elementary; Heather Graves (M.Ed., 2009), Martinez Elementary; Marie Marshall (’82), Greenbrier Elementary; Ryan Morningstar (B.S.Ed., 2002), Lewiston Elementary; Haley O’Byrne (Ed.S., 2014), South Columbia Elementary; Melanie Sanders, (’14), Grovetown High; Carolyn Stone (’10), Greenbrier Middle; and Amy Williamson (’05, 06, ’10), Baker Place Elementary.

“We are excited to have these excellent educators so appropriately acknowledged, and we are honored to have them as alumni of the GRU College of Education,” said Dr. Zach Kelehear, Dean of the College of Education. “As they demonstrate, GRU graduates serve as inspiring role models. The work of teachers like these is tireless and innovative, and helps to build stronger students to compete in a global economy.”

Of the five finalists, one will be chosen as the Columbia County Teacher of the Year in October at a special banquet. The county’s Teacher of the Year and the county’s Media Specialist of the Year, Maggie Davis, will represent Columbia County in November in Atlanta at the state level. In May, the Georgia Department of Education will name the Georgia Teacher of the Year and the Georgia Media Specialist of the Year.

The complete list of Teachers of the Year for Columbia County schools:

  • Baker Place Elementary School – Amy Williamson (B.S.Ed., 2005; M.Ed., 2006; Ed.S., 2010)
  • Blue Ridge Elementary School – Darby Finley (B.A., 1991; M.Ed., 1995)
  • Brookwood Elementary School – Ashley Farmer (B.S.Ed., 2007; M.Ed., 2008; Ed.S., 2009)
  • CCBOE Alternative School – Hattie Bing
  • Cedar Ridge Elementary School – Ashley Cutler
  • Columbia Middle School – LaToya Barnett
  • Euchee Creek Elementary School – Christi Duncan
  • Evans Elementary School – Shelby Geist
  • Evans High School – Gail Sims
  • Evans Middle School – Blake Crewe (B.S.Ed., 2000)
  • Greenbrier Elementary School – Marie Marshall (B.S.Ed., 1982)
  • Greenbrier High School – Lesley Yarnell
  • Greenbrier Middle School – Carolyn Stone (M.Ed., 2010; Ed.S., 2010)
  • Grovetown Elementary School – Schell Davis
  • Grovetown High School – Melanie Sanders (M.A.T., 2014)
  • Grovetown Middle School – Rebecca Croft (B.A., 1997)
  • Harlem High School – Traci Mezzetti
  • Harlem Middle School – Patra Griffitt
  • Lakeside High School – Stacy Branch (Ed.S., 2008)
  • Lakeside Middle School – Beth Annis
  • Lewiston Elementary School – Ryan Morningstar (B.S.Ed., 2002)
  • Martinez Elementary School – Heather Graves (M.Ed., 2009)
  • North Columbia Elementary School – Ashley Williams
  • North Harlem Elementary School – Kathryn Arrowood
  • River Ridge Elementary School – Anita Cullen (B.A., 1994)
  • Riverside Elementary School – Zachary Bradley (B.M.Ed., 2012)
  • Riverside Middle School – William Johns
  • South Columbia Elementary School – Haley O’Byrne (Ed.S., 2014)
  • Stallings Island Middle School – Deborah Hundt
  • Stevens Creek Elementary School – Bonnie Belanger (Ed.S., 2012)
  • Westmont Elementary School – Jenna Gurley


The mission of the College of Education is to educate and prepare prospective professionals to be knowledgeable, highly effective, and ethical practitioners who transform learners into thinking, productive citizens. Visit


Georgia Regents University is one of four public comprehensive research universities in the state with nearly 10,000 students enrolled in its nine colleges and schools, which include the Medical College of Georgia – the nation’s 13th-oldest medical school – the nationally-ranked Hull College of Business and Georgia’s only College of Dental Medicine. The clinical enterprise associated with the university includes the 478-bed Georgia Regents Medical Center and the 154-bed Children’s Hospital of Georgia. GRU is a unit of the University System of Georgia and an equal opportunity institution. Visit

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