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Brad Surrency named Teacher of the Year, Cindy Driggers Employee of the Year

By Cindy Jo Ayers
The Monday, January 25, Gilchrist County Rotary Meeting was all about the Gilchrist County School District. The annual Teacher of the Year and Employee of the Year were hosted by Rotary. Dr. Jim Surrency, GCSD Superintendent and also a Rotary member, welcomed everyone to the event. Assistant Superintendent Darby Allen introduced the principals of each of the four schools. The principals recognized their individual school’s Teacher of the Year and Employee of the Year.
Brad Surrency was named the Gilchrist County Teacher and Cindy Driggers was named the Employee of the Year for the Gilchrist County School District.
James Bradley “Brad” Surrency, teaches U.S. History, U.S. Goverment, Economics at Bell High School. Surrency teaches grades 10,11, and 12. He has been teaching for almost 23 years at Bell High.
When asked what he likes best about teaching he said, “I enjoy being able to teach about the sacrifices that Americans have made throughout our history so that the students can have a better appreciation for not only the background and structure of the United States, but for my students to understand what it means to have the freedoms that we enjoy today.”
Surrency hopes that his students will remember that he tried to make history and government interesting and fun to learn. Surrency said, “I hope that history was an exciting class that they wanted to be in, not had to be in.”
Bell High School Principal Lisa Barry said that Brad Surrency was a very inspiring teacher. She said, they have former students who come back to visit the school and always want to go visit Mr. Surrency. She talked about what a story teller he was and how he made the students feel like they were there when he talked about history. She also talked about how many hats he wears at BHS including a lot of coaching positions he has held. Currently, he coaches track and cross country as well as being the student government sponsor.
Cindy Driggers was named the district wide Employee of the Year. Driggers has been the Trenton Middle High School secretary for the past five years. Driggers said, “I enjoy seeing and encouraging our students and I also enjoy helping our parents and the public when they come into the office.” Often when the public enters the office at THS they find it decorated for the season. Driggers said, her husband Jerry helps her make the office a happy place and welcoming to all who enter.
Principal Cheri Langford said, “She always knows what is going on at Trenton High.” She went on to say how much the staff loves her and how lucky they are to have her at the school.
Tammy Sudigala is the Teacher of the Year at Trenton Middle High School. Sudigala has been teaching at Trenton for the past six years. She has taught 7th grade science for a short time and has been teaching 8th grade reading since 2015.
When asked, what she liked best about teaching Tammy Sudigala said, “I’m able to bring my worldly experiences in the classroom to help broaden the students views on culture and issues. My hope is to spark a new interest, something they can take with them outside of the classroom and into their lives.” She hopes that when her students leave her classroom they remember she cared about them, and listened to what they had to say. She also hopes they remember that she got them to read a book they liked.
Teaching is not Sudigala’s first career, she was a Major in the Air Force before retiring after 22 years. Her Principal Cheri Langford said, “Her love for reading turns non-readers into readers.” Sudigala coaches scoccer at THS and helped get the program started three years ago.
John Sloan who is the Bell High Technology Assistant was chosen as the Employee of the Year for his school. Sloan is know as an employee who comes to work early, always helpful, and liked a great deal by the students. His Principal Lisa Barry stated that he has been a very busy man since the COVID-19 outbreak. He is responsible for all the students in high and middle school having a laptop as well as the teachers laptops. Principal Barry said, he worked tirelessly when the students went to virtual school after they were sent home last year. Aaron Wiley, his boss, said that John Sloan was always happy and really enjoyed working with students and teachers.
Bell Elementary Teacher of the Year is Katie West who started teaching at Bell in 2018. She taught for 15 years at First Christian Academy in High Springs before coming to the Gilchrist School District. Katie said, “I enjoy watching my children grow academically, mentally and emotionally. I like helping them through a struggle and seeing the light come on for the first time when the finally get it.” West hopes her students remember her as a teacher who prayed for them and loved them. “I want them to remember they were cared for and believed in while they were in my class,” West said. Teaching for her is not just a job but her passion.
Her Principal, Suzannne Mathe said, “Ms. West’s classroom is a magical place to be, she is one of those teacher that just melts the heart of anyone who enters the room. The activities in her kindergarten classroom are engaging and exciting to the students.”
The Bell Elementary Employee of the Year is Tabatha Ritchey. Ritchey has worked for GCSD for 12 years as a custodian, and has previously taught in the after school SAFE program. Principal Mathe said, “Currently, her job is to maintain sanitation of our school as we battle this pandemic. Each and every day Tabatha goes over and beyond the call of duty to keep our school clean and safe for our students.” Principal Mathe went on to say she runs the school sound equipment and does other task involving technology.
When asked, about what she likes best about her job Ritchey said, “I love being able to interact with the kids. It makes all the rest of the job worth it.”
Christy Russel who teaches Kindergarten at Trenton Elementary School was chosen as Teacher of the Year for her school. She started teaching at TES in 2005 and has taught for 16 years. When asked, what she likes about teaching she said, “My kids of course! I love the moments when my students get that one skill that they have worked so hard on and their eyes light up with excitement. I love the relationship/friendships that are built within our classroom that carry over from year to year.
Russel has a sign in her room which reads: Before you leave this class always remember I love You. You matter. You can do anything. I believe in You. That is what she hopes her students will remember when they leave her class. She also said, she is very grateful to be a part of the GCSC. Her Principal Ronda Akins said, “Christy Russel is one of the best kindergarten teachers anywhere, she goes over and beyond where her students are concerned.”
Herbie Brown II, is the Employee of the Year at Trenton Elementary. Brown has worked for GCSD for 15 years. He takes care of all the grounds and minor maintenance at the school. When asked, what he likes about his job he said, “I like that there is a variety of things to do, no two days are like. I also like that I am treated like family by all the Trenton Elementary staff.
Ronda Adkins said, Brown has been assigned to her school for three years now. “He is the sweetist, kindest person I know,” Akins stated. She went on to talk about all the things he helps with at school including Christmas decorations. She said, he always has a smile on his face and is kind to everyone. “TES is bless to have him,” Adkins said.
Jana Kight is the District Office, MIS Clerk and their Employee of the Year. Kight is a huge asset to the office.
The GCSD Operations Department named Bob McDonough as their Employee of the year. McDonough came to Gilchrist County from Georgia after he retired. He is a bus mechanic and responiable for the safety of the school buses. McDonough goes over each bus every 21 days. Since the COVID-19 outbreak he has also driven a bus morning and night for those drivers who are out. He agreed to work for four years when he took the job, but now he has decided to stay on a couple more years. McDonough enjoys helping out GCSD and keeping the students safe while on a bus.
Each Teacher of the Year and Employee of the Year are selected by the school where they work with. The District Office Employee of the Year and the Operations Employee of the Year are selected by those they work with.
An outside panel comes in and actually choses the district wide Teacher of the Year and Employee of the Year.
The Gilchrist County Rotary Club sponsores the plaques and host a luncheon in the honor of the Teachers of the Year and Employees of the Year. A cash award of $500 for the Teacher of the Year is sponsored by JRA Architects and a $350 award for the Employee of the Year is sponsored by ProService.