Amanda Malette always knew she wanted to be a teacher; there was never any question. This is her 21st year as a first-grade teacher (well, one year was in second grade), starting at Pate’s Creek Elementary and now at East Lake Elementary in McDonough. Her students are known as “Malette’s Munchkins,” and they carry that with them beyond the year they spend in her classroom.
This dedication and love have played a part in Malette’s selection, first as East Lake Elementary’s Teacher of the Year and then earning the title of Henry County School’s Teacher of the Year.
So how did she earn this title, you ask?
Each school in Henry County names its own Teacher of The Year. These teachers then apply to be selected as the countywide Teacher of the Year. Six teachers are chosen from the applicants as semi-finalists. Each of these six semifinalists is interviewed and observed in their classroom. Then one high school, one middle school, and one elementary teacher are chosen as a finalist for the county’s Teacher of the Year award.
“The teacher they observed is who I am all year long for 21 years,” says Malette. “They witnessed what I do every day.”
When she was given the top award at the Henry County Teacher of the Year ceremony, in her acceptance speech, she thanked her Heavenly Father first and foremost for everything He has given to her. While Malette can’t talk about God and her faith in the classroom, she hopes her students “see Jesus in me and reflect on him as I love these children. You don’t have to say it to show it.”
Malette loves teaching first grade and has her favorite subject, which is reading. “I love the growth that happens in first-grade reading. Seeing the kids thinking of themselves as not a reader at the beginning of the year to being able to pick up anything and read it by the end of the year is pretty amazing,” she explains.
Malette’s students love “read aloud” time just as much as her. She started reading The Magic Treehouse books years ago, and each year she gets the privilege to see each student, each class, listen and sit in awe and fall in love with books. “It opens other doors and builds confidence, and it’s great to see that,” shares Malette. “I think even as an adult, getting lost in a book is one of the best things.”
Malette’s love for her “Malette’s munchkins” has a lasting impact. A former student, Olivia, remembers the kindness and love she received in Malette’s classroom, while a former parent recalls how Malette “truly does portray a love of her students. They learn in her class, but they also get grace and kindness.”
Still young, Malette can retire in less than ten years. She says she sees herself retiring from the classroom rather than moving into administration. For her, the kids are why she does what she does. This passion for being in the classroom gave her pause in submitting her application to be considered for Georgia’s Teacher of The Year. Malette would be out of the classroom for one year with speaking events, meetings, and other administrative events if selected. She should soon learn whether she is the state’s top teacher.
Malette grew up in Stockbridge and still lives there with her husband, John, of 20 years, and two children, Drake and Lexi. As a family, their favorite pastimes are bicycling, Disney World, and being with extended family.
By Delaney T. Kirby