Hand-In-Hand’s Carraway named finalist for Georgia’s Pre-K Program Teachers of the Year 2022-2023

Debbie Carraway and Amy Jacobs

Pre-Kindergarten teacher Debbie Carraway is one of three finalists in a public school system for the 2022-2023 Georgia’s Pre-K Program Teachers of the Year according to the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL). Carraway, who has taught Pre-K at Hand-In-Hand Primary School for six years, was chosen for representing high quality early childhood education.

Carraway received a $500 cash prize from the Georgia Foundation for Early Care + Learning after her application was reviewed and scored by a panel of impartial judges.

Carraway has been teaching for 15 years, and 12 of those years have been in Pre-K.

“It is an honor to be selected as one of the top three finalists for Georgia Pre-K Teacher of the Year,” Carraway said. “If chosen to represent Thomas County as the 2023 Georgia Pre-K Teacher of the Year, my message would be that our children are our future. As an educator, I know that every day I make an impact on someone's life.”

This fall each of the finalists will be observed in their classroom by a Pre-K Specialist, will submit a small group video to be scored by outside judges, and will appear before a panel for a personal interview.

Carraway feels it is important not only to teach academics, but help her students develop life skills.

Carraway adds, “I have the ability to help my students learn skills and ways of thinking to prepare them for whatever (and whoever) the world throws at them. I believe in teaching students how to use their words to work out peer conflicts and be in tune to their feelings and feelings of others. These are lifelong skills that will help them throughout their school career as they become responsible adults. Someday these tiny humans will be all grown up and running the country because they are our future leaders.”

In September, DECAL will select a winner from a local public school system and a winner from a private child care center. They will receive a $3,000 check for themselves, $2,000 for a classroom makeover and supplies, and funds to cover out-of-the-classroom costs while the teacher is away.

“When Georgia’s Pre-K Program was piloted almost 30 years ago, perhaps no one imagined it would have the breadth and depth it has today,” said Commissioner Amy M. Jacobs. “Since 1992, more than 1.6 million children have entered kindergarten better prepared…clearly the result of the work of dedicated Pre-K teachers and assistants who implement this program across our state every day. DECAL is honored to recognize and thank these committed professionals by choosing Pre-K Teachers of the Year.”

This school year approximately 76,000 four year olds attended Georgia’s Pre-K Program in-person, virtually, or through a hybrid model. The voluntary, lottery-funded Pre-K program has been recognized as one of the top programs in the nation, based on quality standards, teacher qualifications, and enrollment. Georgia’s Pre-K Program is universal – meaning that any age eligible child residing in Georgia may attend the program regardless of family income. Georgia’s model for providing the Pre-K program is unique in that it is offered through a public-private partnership in local school systems, in private child care centers, and in other facilities.

Carraway's class

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