After more than a year of adapting to an ever-changing school environment and working tirelessly to connect with students both virtually and in person, Delta and Delta Vacations are saying "thank you" to educators around the country and recognizing a few extra-special Atlanta Public School (APS) teachers this Teacher Appreciation Week.
In partnership with Delta Vacations and APS, Delta is surprising nine Atlanta teachers with free vacation packages just in time for summer break.
"Teachers have been some of the biggest unsung heroes in communities across the country," said Shawn Cole, Delta's V.P. of Global Sales and Executive Sponsor of Delta's Reading Buddies program. "It's never been more evident that our teachers deserve a big 'thank you' for all they do, and that's why Delta and Delta Vacations are sending some of our most commendable hometown educators on a well-deserved vacation."
Delta and Delta Vacations will be gifting each teacher a package for themselves and their immediate families, including airfare and hotel accommodations to any Delta Vacations destination within the U.S., Mexico or the Caribbean.
Leveraging Delta's longstanding partnership with APS, both organizations worked with school principals within the school district to select nine teachers – one from each Atlanta Public School cluster – out of a school district full of exemplary teachers. From creating engaging virtual activities and opportunities for students to connect with their peers to making sure they have the right school supplies or even enough food on the table, these teachers went above and beyond to take care of students and stay involved in the community throughout the pandemic.
"Over the years, Delta and APS have worked together to create programs designed to increase reading proficiencies and improve the overall quality of education for the next generation of Delta customers and employees in our community," said Dr. Lisa Herring, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent. "We are thrilled to work with Delta to honor the incredible educators who make a difference in our students' lives. We have so many teachers who continuously go the extra mile for APS students, so we are delighted to highlight these deserving individuals and all of the work they put in every single day."
Read on for more about the outstanding APS teachers who were selected:
Chef Larry Alford
Culinary Arts Teacher – Booker T. Washington High SchoolLarry Alford was surprised Friday with the gift of a summer vacation from Delta Air Lines and Delta Vacations.
"Chef Alford is one of the few teachers that never takes off. He fed our entire community during the pandemic, leveraging his relationships with partners and using his kitchen and resources to ensure our students and families had access to food. It is not uncommon for him to Cashapp families in need to help make ends meet or even purchase MARTA cards so they can get groceries. He is an honest and true champion for students. Chef is also a community advocate. He sits on the district advisory board and is a present and active voice in all meetings that involve the development of the Washington community. He is a consistent and reliable teacher and mentor to our students, and he works with churches to sustain meal programs for the homeless. He is exactly the type of educator we need to see more of. No doubt, this work is heart-driven for him." – Angela Coaxum-Young, Principal
Elementary School Music Teacher (K-5) – Mary Lin Elementary SchoolEmily Backus was surprised Friday with the gift of a summer vacation from Delta Air Lines and Delta Vacations.
"At the onset of the pandemic, Ms. Backus did not hesitate to create meaningful and fun online lessons for all of her K-5th grade students. Her classes were engaging and educational, all during a time when everyone, including her students, were struggling to cope with affects from the shutdown. Once it was decided that schools would stay virtual for the rest of the school year, Emily mailed hand-written, personalized letters to each and every one of her students. The students (and their parents) were blown away by her thoughtfulness. She also organized monthly "Open Mic" Zoom events for students and faculty, as a way for us all to stay connected while apart. Ms. Backus has demonstrated her selflessness in a way that most could not imagine doing. Shortly after arriving at Mary Lin, she learned that the husband of one of our teachers was in desperate need of a kidney transplant. He had been on the donor list for months with no successful matches. She did not hesitate to get tested and ended up being a perfect match! In late November 2020, she donated her kidney and both the recipient and Emily have recovered and are doing well. The fact that she was new to the school and did not hesitate to donate a kidney to a total stranger speaks volumes about her character." – Sharyn Briscoe, Principal
Behavior Specialist (6-8) – Martin Luther King Middle SchoolBevin Carpenter was surprised Friday with the gift of a summer vacation from Delta Air Lines and Delta Vacations.
"Mr. Carpenter started a club for African-American male students called the Young Kings, which is a Rite of Passage and mentoring group for students. Mr. Carpenter continued his work with the students this past year and went out of his way to communicate and check on the boys in his club to keep them on track during the pandemic. Mr. Carpenter is also involved with several causes outside of APS. He has developed a fatherhood empowerment program to increase male involvement at three schools (two elementary and one middle school) where over 300 men participated in the program. He also serves on several committees, including the DeKalb County Minority Youth Violence Consortium and Fulton County's School Justice Pathway Project. As you can see, Mr. Carpenter views his work with African-American boys and men is his life's calling inside and outside of the school." – Paul Brown, Principal
Bilingual Parent Liaison (9-12) – North Atlanta High School
Mr. Galban has a heart for children and underserved families. He is gentle in his approach when communicating with families, but forceful in finding the resources and support for those in need. Mr. Galban works closely with immigrant families in the North Atlanta cluster, helping them navigate the struggles associated with finding housing, food and educational resources. His selfless service and time have and continue to make a tremendous impact in ensuring those children in need continue to receive the level of care and education they need, preparing them for their future. In addition to helping others, Mr. Galban finds ways to focus on himself and his learning. He is currently pursuing a master's degree at Kennesaw State University in American Studies with a concentration in transnationalism." – Curtis Douglass, Principal
5th Grade Teacher – Deerwood AcademyDashunda Gates was surprised Friday with the gift of a summer vacation from Delta Air Lines and Delta Vacations.
"Ms. Gates's desire to create a support system for our scholars is constant, and the care she provides has no limits. In order to encourage her students during this difficult time, she implemented Mindful Monday chats, where she gives students a one-on-one opportunity with her to have conversations about any topic of their choice. She also instituted Friday Fun Days where students unwind and have an opportunity to connect with their peers and/or play games. Both initiatives occur after school, on her own time. In addition to these thoughtful and innovative ideas, she regularly purchases gift cards with her own money as incentives for academic growth and participation. Ms. Gates even takes the time to write and mail personalized handwritten notes, letting her students know that she values their contributions and recognizes their achievements. Outside of her amazing abilities as an educator, she has a consistent, pleasant disposition and a can-do attitude no matter the obstacles faced; a willingness to work hard as a contributing and valued member of a team; and a dedication to this community and our scholars. Ms. Gates assists high school students with preparing for college admissions and scholarships and works with the HBCU for Life program. Additionally, she is an active member of West Mitchell CME Church where she serves on the Young Adult Board and teaches Vacation Bible School. Ms. Gates also dedicates her time and talents by serving as the assistant leader for a local Girl Scout troop. On top of everything listed above, you can also add 'caregiver' to the long list of hats that she wears each day. Ms. Gates cares for her elderly grandparents and helps to ensure their health and safety during the pandemic." – Camisha Perry, Principal
Dr. Cheryl Jamison
9-12th Grade ELA/Social Science Teacher – Coretta Scott King YWLACheryl Jamison was surprised Friday with the gift of a summer vacation from Delta Air Lines and Delta Vacations.
"Dr. Jamison started a program with special needs high school students called 'Raising and Re-Imagining Scholarly Excellence (RAISE).' She works with these students before and after school to engage them in projects in the school and community in an effort to shift their mindsets to that of growth and leadership. Since the onset of this program, these students have stepped up to the plate to conduct presentations and encourage their peers to engage in academic excellence and community involvement. Dr. Jamison also leads a daily morning prayer group for any staff member who is battling social and emotional issues or in need of support and additional care resulting from the pandemic, family, and/or medical issues. Dr. Jamison also works in the school garden after hours to grow vegetables that are provided to parents and members of the community." – Eulonda Washington, Principal
Special Education (9-12) – Benjamin E. Mays High SchoolSonja Lewis was surprised Friday with the gift of a summer vacation from Delta Air Lines and Delta Vacations.
"Mrs. Lewis has served our school and Special Education department by visiting homes, getting families set up on wi-fi and virtual learning. She has delivered food and provided families additional resources, such as faith-based support, food pantries information, and employment materials. She works day in and day out to make sure that the families of our senior class and Special Education department have all that they need to ensure that students are supported. Mrs. Lewis is so special because she has a passion for learning and a heart for people. When COVID struck, she took to the streets, visiting families and making sure they had laptops, hot spots, and even food. She always says that she is 'on assignment' and takes her position in the educational realm as an opportunity to be a gift to others. There is no other person in education more deserving than Mrs. Lewis." – Dr. Mulanta Wilkins, Principal
8th Grade Math Teacher – Long Middle SchoolNathan Stone was surprised Friday with the gift of a summer vacation from Delta Air Lines and Delta Vacations.
"Just prior to the pandemic last school year, Mr. Stone's home was totally destroyed by fire and his family was displaced for an extended amount of time. During this time, Mr. Stone NEVER missed a beat and continued to provide outstanding and engaging instruction EVERY DAY. Not only does Mr. Stone support his scholars, he also pours his attention, time, and resources into his colleagues by offering mathematics and technology professional learning on a weekly basis. Mr. Stone is also an outstanding soccer coach, avid skateboarder, and excellent carpenter. He even built a desk that allows him to stand and utilize multiple devices while teaching." – Lisa Hill, Principal
8th Grade Math Teacher – Sylvan Hills Middle SchoolMelissa Vaillant was surprised Friday with the gift of a summer vacation from Delta Air Lines and Delta Vacations.
"After schools closed for in-person learning last school year, our schools experienced a very low student engagement rate of 27 percent, Mrs. Vaillant worked tirelessly over the summer to seek partnerships with an intent to further engage and incentivize our students during virtual learning. Her efforts resulted in her bringing on a new partner that sponsored our first quarter ice cream social for students with a 95 percent engagement average. As a wife and mother of two young children and primary caregiver for her parents, Melissa still finds time to do home visits for her students, delivering swag bags as an incentive of student engagement and performing wellness checks, a practice she began at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, because she knows that student attendance is a key indicator in student success, she continues to co-leads Sylvan's Attendance Focus Group, strategizing ways in which our school can encourage and continue to incentivize student attendance." – Monica Blasingame, Principal
About Atlanta Public Schools:
Atlanta Public Schools is one of the largest school districts in the state of Georgia, serving approximately 51,000 students across 87 schools and five programs. The District is organized into nine K-12 clusters with 64 traditional schools, 19 charter schools, six partner schools, two alternative schools and five alternative programs. To learn more about Atlanta Public Schools, follow us on social media – Twitter (@apsupdate), Facebook (Atlanta Public Schools), and Instagram (apsupdate) – or visit us online at www.atlantapublicschools.us.
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About Delta Vacations:
Delta Vacations, the official vacation provider of Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL), offers customers convenient, one-stop shopping for vacation packages that bundle flights aboard Delta and its strategic partners – Air France, KLM, Alitalia, Aeromexico and Virgin Atlantic – with stays at more than 6,000+ hotels and resorts and 1,300+ activities, transfers and car rental offerings in more than 330 destination in 65 countries worldwide. Delta Vacations has earned numerous industry awards including Travel Weekly Readers Choice Awards. Delta Vacations is a Delta Air Lines Company. Customers can find more information about vacation offerings at delta.com/vacations, or by calling 1-800-800-1504. You can also follow Delta Vacations on Twitter and Instagram @deltavacations.