Gwinnett top teacher to colleagues: ‘You are making such a difference’

Ashley Wright teaches graphic design

Ashley Wright was named teacher of the year in Gwinnett County Public Schools Thursday night and encouraged her colleagues to “give yourself grace.”

Wright, a graphic design and production teacher at Paul Duke STEM High School, said teaching is important work that the coronavirus pandemic made more difficult. Still, she said, teachers continued their hard work every day.

“You are making such a difference in the lives of these students,” she said. “You give it your all, and you do it for the students. I hope that every single one of you know that you are seen, you are heard and you are appreciated.”

Gwinnett, which has about 13,000 educators, is Georgia’s largest school district.

In a video shown at the district teacher of the year ceremony, Wright credited the district for providing students the resources to receive a robust education in various design programs and earn a professional industry certification. She noted that all of her students who pursued certification in graphic design last year were successful.

Wright teaches three levels of the class and also operates a print shop internship. One of the culminating projects in her curriculum allows students to design a product. She said the graphic design program became so popular that the school hired a second teacher for the subject.

She prides herself on providing “space to dabble” and real experiences that prepare students for their next stage in life. That’s the essence of career and technical education (CTE), she said.

“To me CTE is preparing these students for their futures, whether it is getting a job right out of high school or even going to college. And it really provides them with the tools to figure out where they want to go,” Wright said.

The district honored teacher of year winners at each school during its ceremony.

Becca Rackley, a social studies teacher at Northbrook Middle School, and Myesha Jenkins, an English to speakers of other languages and instructional support teacher at Baggett Elementary School, were the districtwide teachers of the year for their respective school levels. Wright was also named the high school teacher of the year.