The nationwide pandemic came with its set of unexpected challenges, but that didn’t stop the 2020 Fayette County Teacher of the Year from giving her students her absolute best.
The 2020 Fayette County Teacher of the Year is Flat Rock Middle School’s English as a Second Language (ESOL) teacher Christina Rufenacht.
From 26 teachers, Rufenacht ranked top three to earn her place as a finalist in the Fayette County Teacher of the Year competition; math teacher Jennifer D’Amato of Fayette County High School and drama teacher Laurie Gividen-Kufchak of Bennett’s Mill Middle School were the two other finalists.
All three finalists were interviewed and observed in their classroom by a judging panel which consists of two retired educators and last year’s winner, Michael Wamsley.
Due to the pandemic, this year’s Fayette County Teacher of the Year winner was announced virtually via Zoom with all three finalists, their colleagues, friends and family in attendance, along with former superintendent Dr. Joseph Barrow and new superintendent Dr. Jonathan Patterson.
A virtual ceremony honoring all school-level teachers of the year is planned for release in late October on the school system’s YouTube channel.
With a look of shock and excitement upon receiving the Teacher of the Year honor, Rufenacht says, “I really never imagined I would be receiving this honor, especially from a tiny Zoom square, but it is 2020 and anything is possible.”
Rufenacht understands the importance of putting students first, “Students first, always, that is why we are here. Students deserve a high-quality equitable education despite the money in their pocket, the color of their skin, the status of their family, the language they speak, or religious belief; every single student deserves a high-quality education.”
With 12 years in education, Rufenchact believes it is crucial to stop viewing the challenges children bring into the classroom as hindrances, but rather as vital teachable moments, “Behind every behavior is a need, and as a teacher I am privileged to be able to meet some of those needs. We are all responsible for our society’s children, and public education is our collective responsibility. The simple act of teaching is our greatest chance for a bright future.”
As Fayette County’s 2020 Teacher of the Year, Rufenchact will represent the school system in the 2023 Georgia Teacher of the Year competition due to the Georgia Department of Education cancelling the 2021 Georgia Teacher of the Year competition.
Thanks to the donations from school PTO organizations, and local business and community groups, all 26 school-level teachers of the year received a $100 check from the Fayette County Education Foundation.
The Coca-Cola Bottling Company also gave each teacher a commemorative plaque. Allan Vigil Ford of Fayetteville presented Rufenchact with a $1,000 check, D’Amato and Gividen-Kufchak received $500 checks. The local chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, an international society for women educators, presented Rufenchact with a $100 check and the two runners-up with $50 checks. Also, the local chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa, an international organization for women educators, presented Rufenchact with a $200 check and Gividen-Kufchak and D’Amato with $100 checks.
Additional gifts for Rufenchact included a commemorative plaque from the local chapter of Kappa Kappa Iota, a professional organization for educators, and a special teacher of the year ring presented by Balfour.