It’s her first year as the Head Coach of the Girls Basketball team, and high school math teacher Jes Guarneri is already making waves in the community. This season she led her team to victory at the State Championships for the first time since 2007.
At GAC, we see the value in a strong team of school counselors, and we are blessed to offer such qualified individuals to our student body. And it’s because of those like Lower School Counselor Rebekah Gilliard that our students reap the immense social and emotional benefits.
Looking back everyone remembers the teacher whose passion for their subject matter is tangible, who makes even the most challenging problems comprehensible and makes space for mentorship and meaningful conversations with their students. No one does that better than high school math teacher Megan Wilson.
From the moment the sun peaks over the horizon to late in the afternoon, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Richard Burnett is on campus training and serving GAC athletes in order that they might receive the highest level of mentorship and reach their potential both on and off the field.
In every aspect of her life, Mrs. Hughes strives for brilliance. Originally from Illinois, it was her gymnastic skills that landed her on a spot in one of the nation's top collegiate programs, ultimately winning multiple titles, including the Honda Award, which is essentially the Heisman of gymnastics. Educationally, she holds an advanced degree in early childhood education and a bachelor's in early childhood development.
Whether coaching young athletes on the track, building homes in Guatemala on mission trips, or dissecting in the classroom, you’re bound to find seventh grade science teacher Chase Parks pursuing the highest degree of excellence and service. While his classroom is known for its rigor and high standards, it’s also known for Mr. Parks’ commitment to his student’s success.
"I knew that I wanted to influence students' lives and make a difference for the Kingdom. I had several teachers and mentors that were incredibly influential in my life, and I wanted to be able to pass that along to my students."
"In Academic Support, we help students define what success looks like for them. While letter and number grades have their place, they are not the sole measure of success. Success relies on the mindset of growth, the process of pushing forward in the presence of challenge. Learning is a journey and the routes to the destination of success look different for each student."
"The students I have now are smarter, stronger, more passionate, more honest, and more desperate for genuine engagement than any generation that has come before. They will remake the world if we believe in them and give them the tools.”
Recruiting for STEM is primarily focused on high school and college-age students but fifth-grade teacher Ansley Keiser has a different perspective. She believes it is possible to inspire elementary students to not just love science but to visualize themselves as scientists (she even wears a lab coat while teaching science as a nod to the profession).
Aaron Jongko has always challenged himself as a teacher: “how do I make learning happen and keep students fully engaged while they’re having fun?” Over the 10 years he’s been teaching, he thinks he’s found the secret sauce. “I’ve tried to always keep kids at ease because it makes learning happen more naturally.” Aaron has found this to be especially important given the project-based learning approach he uses for social studies.
She molds her instruction so that her students “own” the knowledge. They learn their own way of solving problems, and it’s not just the teacher passing down the step-by-step instructions. “I love math because it’s like a puzzle. There is more than one way to solve the problem. I want the kids to know that I want to hear about their way of tackling a problem. It’s not just about how I do it.”
Fifty-two years. That’s how long Greater Atlanta Christian has been transforming children into young men and women of leadership and character. While there have been many friends and families from the beginning as well as recent years who’ve blessed the school, few have been more vested throughout the five-plus decades than the Bill Long family.
The idea for Southern Commercial Roof Tech came to GAC alumni Thomas Vorpahl and Brandon Barron during a family vacation. Friends since the 6th grade, they put their plan into action in 2014, opening the doors to their roofing company in a low-rent warehouse with an unyielding commitment to success but zero employees.
Steve and Kris Kester have a special heart and love for GAC secondary mathematics and the good work of our math faculty. They are a long-time GAC family with three children who have attended GAC: Lauren, Brett, and Sarah. Steve and Kris have been active volunteers in the swim, track, and cross country communities here on campus.
“Our girls need healthy, godly female role models. Sports provide so much for girls in the way of building confidence and resilience in life. To have a strong coach as a positive role model is irreplaceable.” Ms. Kristy Shelton is the Assistant Athletic Director, a veteran coach, a PE teacher of 38 years, and a mentor for female coaches on GAC’s campus.
Nelson Galarraga picked up his first violin at age 5. His parents made a large financial sacrifice in Venezuela to enroll him and his siblings in a private Conservatory of Music, Colegio Emil Friedman. In order to continue a ministry with the Hispanic community, the Galarraga family relocated to Atlanta and the children found themselves at GAC.
Kristy Winkes had not anticipated that she would one day be known as the beloved “Mama Winkes” by her theater students. For years, she had been an English teacher at GAC, cementing herself in a role that she loved. When her family relocated to Minnesota in 2003, Winkes was unaware then she would later return to GAC.
During a typical school day, Michael Washington switches between teaching AP Calculus BC, Algebra, Precalculus, and Geometry. It’s very different from what he was doing right out of college. Conducting RTL simulations and programming field-programmable gate arrays have been replaced by grading papers and taking students on a learning odyssey through the intricacies of an often challenging subject.
“What had the important impact on my life from GAC was the investment of everyone in my success and advancement as a woman and as a student. Even the teachers I had in elementary school were always cheering me on when I was across campus. GAC is truly a family environment.”
"These are two of the finest young men to graduate from GAC. They possess many of the same characteristics such as the strength of character, mental toughness, and selfless dedication to others. Both of them are elite competitors who confront any challenge with strength and total commitment.”
Results from our recent annual Parent Survey reveal that the top reason why parents choose GAC is our high-quality teachers. Math teacher and Department Chair Terry Beasley is a prime example and a reminder of why investing in private Christian education is worthwhile. Fifty percent of his AP Calculus students earn a 5 on the AP exam.
"All the teachers have very high efficacy at GAC. This is in part because they know they can make a difference. You can walk into every single teacher’s classroom and hear them praising or thanking a student. That is not something I had witnessed as a collective front elsewhere.”
Last year, Tom Meeker was named GAC’s PK-12 STEAM Director. He leads all STEAM initiatives, including the curriculum, taught in the Nasmyth Environmental Center, floating classrooms, green roof, and the study abroad science programs. Additionally, he oversees the integration of STEAM curriculum into every grade level on campus from top to bottom.
Teachers inspire students every day, it’s in their nature and embedded in their work; but for Denise Martin, she is re-inspired by her classes each year. A teaching veteran of 10 years, with a Masters in Early Childhood Education from Oglethorpe University, there’s no wonder why she received Teacher of the Year for the Lower School. Her passion to advocate for her students is palpable.
“As part of the Spartan Athletics program, I get to witness our young men and women as they learn about character, integrity, perseverance, respect, leadership, and hard work.” Chad has the unique opportunity to be involved with the spiritual, physical, and emotional development of our athletes.
GAC’s Nasmyth Environmental Center is more than just a lush outdoor space filled with banana trees, chickens, and garden beds. It’s a real working educational space with a thoughtful, rich curriculum and two expert, full-time teachers. No desks, notebooks, or pens—the artifacts of a traditional classroom—but hardworking teachers crafting a rigorous outdoor curriculum.
"I value all children no matter what background they come from. You have to wear many hats as a teacher: mom, nurse, teacher, and confidant. The bottom line is that I treat every student the way I would want my own child to be treated in the same or similar situation. I have lived by this rule of thumb since I began my teaching career in August of 2000."
Mr. T.J. Dixon, middle school dean of students, history teacher, and coach, does not waver. He is steadfast and calm, and perhaps those are the traits that make him the perfect fit for teaching tweens all day. Mr. Dixon says he prefers hanging out with middle schoolers over just about everyone.
I have been fortunate to have excellent mentors and influencers throughout my young career. Whether I was at GAC, the University of Georgia, grad school, or in Zambia or Swaziland, I’ve found people who are willing to invest their time and energy into my professional and personal development. Their influence is crucial.
Losing that state basketball championship was painful, but it gave me the character to help lead our UT rowing team to a Big 12 championship only one year later. Film is a very edgy business, and having a Christ-centered background allows me to push forward with the armor of God.
Mario Lozano has a long history with the GAC community. Growing up in the City of Children orphanage in Mexico, Mario developed deep friendships with the many GAC mission teams that visited the orphanage. When you walk across the campus with Mario, you immediately discover that everyone knows his name. His willing spirit and selfless attitude make GAC better each day.
Dr. Byrd wishes that every family with school-aged children could come experience what makes GAC different. “We are a family and will be with you every step of the way – from the very beginning until the end. We do everything we can to partner with you.”
“Middle School is a unique time in a student’s life,” Lauren said. “Instead of making it a general fit for everyone, we make it a specific fit for everyone. We want to make sure we are doing what’s good for each student individually.”
This year, GAC graduated 186 students that Lori and her team worked with intensely over the previous four years. The time the counselors invest to make sure that each student is successful is astonishing. And the results are telling: 100% of students were admitted to a 4-year college. Students in the class of 2018 were accepted to 183 different universities, with 67 matriculations, and earned nearly $18 million in scholarships.
The start of every school year isn’t anything like the courtroom scene Mary Lynn Huett had mastered after law school, or even the legal services department she ran later on for a national trade association. No, it’s usually a jury of 20 restless high school teenagers who have signed up for her honors chemistry or AP chemistry course. This is the kind of jury she loves most.
Ms. Richey currently teaches both MS and HS Social Studies and was named GAC’s 2018 Educator of the Year for Middle School. She has served as Mission Trip Leader for the MS trip to Baton Rouge, LA, and also Athens, Greece for high school. She is the former Academic Dean of the MS, and the former department chair for MS Social Studies. She’s even been a Varsity cheerleading coach.
It’s rare to meet a teacher qualified to teach as many subjects as Dr. Paul Cable. With a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature from the University of Georgia, a Masters of Divinity in Biblical Languages from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in New Testament from Wheaton College, Paul could easily fill the role of three teachers at GAC. So of all subjects why choose languages?