‘Unreachable’ Students Motivate Lovinggood Teacher
Dawn Castleberry, Cobb's middle school Teacher of the Year, says she was “shocked” at receiving the award.
As far as Lovinggood Middle teacher Dawn Castleberry knew, she was going to a meeting for eighth-graders at the school’s auditorium.
But before she realized it, Cobb County School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa was announcing her name as the 2011-12 Middle School Teacher of the Year as fellow teachers starting coming to the stage with spray cans filled with Silly String.
“I was shocked, absolutely shocked,” said Castleberry, who was soon covered in Silly String. “They absolutely blindsided me.”
Castleberry has taught for three years in Cobb County after teaching for two years at Hiram High School. Paulding County recognized her teaching talent by naming her the 2005-06 New Teacher of the Year.
As a family and consumer science instructor, Castleberry teaches students about life skills, career pathways, culinary arts, early childhood development, consumerism, fashion, interior design and community leadership.
“It opens a gigantic world of opportunity to the students that they have no clue is out there,” she said.
Castleberry has been married to her husband, David, for 22 years. She worked seven years as a corporate trainer prior to spending 11 years as a homemaker to raise her two children, Clayton and Sarah.
“We teach business etiquette and the kids will say, ‘Who makes these things up?’” she continued. “We handshake upon arrival (to class), they stand behind their seats until they ask to be seated. The gentlemen seat the ladies and rise when visitors enter the classroom. And they do these things with a giant grin because they’re just so proud of their polished selves.”
Castleberry said she likes the challenge of teaching “the unreachable child.”
“'Never' is a motivator to me,” she said. “I (will) persevere until I can reach that child. I don’t give up on them; they need lots of love. Really without the relationship factor, there is no teaching.”
Art teacher Tim Tuohy appreciates working with Castleberry.
“Having Mrs. Castleberry down the hall from me was one of the luckiest things that have happened to me in my 11 years of teaching,” he said.
In addition to her teaching, Castleberry also leads Lovinggood’s Fuel Up to Play 60 program, which is sponsored by the National Football League and the National Dairy Association to promote healthy eating and exercising.
Last fall, Lovinggood captured first-place in Georgia out of 1,400 schools based on points generated by students’ eating habits and exercise time, Castleberry said.
The last two years, Lovinggood has received $6,000 total from the program to purchase P.E. equipment and other items. The school also sports a mural of a cow running track in the lunchroom, and three raised vegetable gardens in the back of their school from the Powder Springs Home Depot, which donated the supplies and work.
The Fuel Up to Play 60 program has also brought the Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders to Lovinggood. In fact, 14 of the school’s core student leaders for the program will be attending the Falcons’ preseason home game against the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday.
Castleberry said the students will be holding the Falcon flag before the kickoff, receive sideline passes and watch the game from a Georgia Dome suite.