By Katie Fallon

Four teachers at Sandy Springs schools received a little extra recognition for the hard work that has already garnered them praise from their own schools.

On May 7, the Sandy Springs Rotary Club held a Teacher Appreciation luncheon for a group of educators who had each been named their respective school’s Teacher of the Year. The honorees included Riverwood High School family and consumer sciences teacher Shana Katz, Dunwoody Springs Charter Elementary School third grade teacher Anna Sansom, Woodland Charter Elementary School special needs preschool teacher Elizabeth Ferrell and North Springs High School technical theater director Marty Aikens.

The teachers were also treated to thanks from state Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox, who was the keynote speaker for the luncheon. Cox presented each teacher with a plaque for their award.

“When you’re getting an honor, you might as well get it from the top educator in the state,” said club member Cindy Gentry.

Gentry, a local Harry Norman associate broker, heads up the Teacher Recognition program for the club. She said the Rotarians have been honoring local Teachers of the Year for many years as an extension of the club’s commitment to education.

“We need to honor [teachers] as a community,” Gentry said. “Look at the gifts the teachers are giving.”

Katz, a six-year veteran of Riverwood, is a family and consumer sciences teacher at the Heards Drive high school. She said being named her school’s Teacher of the Year was a great surprise.

“I consider all of our past teachers of the year to be phenomenal teachers and I was honored to be put in the same category with them,” Katz said. “I never would have considered myself on the same level as them.”

While the club cannot recognize every Teacher of the Year from every elementary, middle and high school in Sandy Springs, Gentry said a handful are usually chosen based on the areas in which the club’s members live.

Gentry said that as the size of the club’s membership grows, so too will the number of educators the club can recognize at its annual Teacher Appreciation luncheon. Similarly, the club’s other educational outreach programs will also grow. A number of such programs, Gentry said, are already underway.

“We have an initiative where we’re trying to match funds to the needs of the school,” Gentry said. “We’re just getting started.”

In January, the club also distributed 450 dictionaries to students at Woodland Charter, Spalding, Heards Ferry, High Point and Spalding Elementary and on May 7, the group will recognize the Teacher of the Year from Riverwood and North Springs high schools and Dunwoody Springs and Woodland Charter elementary schools.

Gentry said the Rotary Club prides itself on the programs it offers both the schools as well as the community at large.

“Our club is known, I think, for the best programs anywhere,” she said.

Teacher Honorees

Shana Katz

  • Riverwood High School, Family and Consumer Sciences teacher
  • Teaches Foundations of Family and Consumer Sciences, Interior Design and Child Development and Parenting
  • Serves on Riverwood’s Honor Council and Global Museum Committee
  • ACT Test Coordinator, Course Team Leader, head of the Sunshine Committee

Marty Aikens

  • North Springs High School, Technical Theatre Director
  • Teaches acting and technical theater
  • Previously worked with Utah Shakespearean Festival and Cirque de Soleil
  • Former director, producer, photojournalist and editor for NBC and FOX affiliates
  • Various local acting and design credits

Anna Sansom

  • Dunwoody Springs Charter Elementary School, third grade teacher
  • An interrelated resource teacher for students with learning disabilities and behavior problems
  • Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from UGA and Georgia State University
  • Previously worked at the Howard School north campus with first grade students with learning disabilities

Elizabeth Ferrell

  • Woodland Elementary School, Special Needs preschool teacher
  • Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from East Carolina University
  • Previously worked as a speech-language pathologist in eastern North Carolina
  • At Woodland since 1996, but changed from a speech therapist to special needs preschool teacher for the 2004-2005 school year