Teachers at Dalton’s newest school, Blue Ridge Elementary, met Tuesday to receive recognition following successful completion of their first academic year. Assistant principal Lisa Goode handed out tongue-in-cheek awards named after song titles, as the songs rang out in the cafeteria.

Principal Phil Jones was handed the “Angel of the Morning” award for always arriving to open doors for students at 6:30 a.m., in addition to the “Little Less Talk and Lot More Action” award — named after the Toby Keith country ditty — and given in honor of Jones’ “love of hearing the sound of his own voice on the intercom” during morning announcements, according to Goode.

“I was just trying to animate my announcements to make them more interesting,” Jones later laughed.

But Jones completed the hat trick when he was presented the Dalton Education Foundation’s 20th annual Tom Jones Educator of the Year Award by Tricia Bethel and Cathy Rauschenberg, daughters of the award’s namesake, a 26-year member of the Dalton Board of Education.

“For once, I’m speechless,” Phil Jones (no relation to Tom Jones) said. “I’m honored and humbled. The Blue Ridge family makes it easy to shine and focus on our kids.”

Kevin Wright, a trustee with the Dalton Education Foundation, said two other Blue Ridge faculty members — Goode and first-grade teacher Roxanna Donegan — have previously received the award. Jean Lowrey, executive director of the foundation, said the award comes with $3,000 for the winner and $1,000 for his school.

“Anyone who has been teaching at least three years in Dalton may be considered; and every year, the cream of the crop is nominated,” Lowrey said. “The judging is done out of town.”

After being nominated, teachers fill out their own qualification forms, denoting their philosophies of teaching; their relationship with students, parents and the community; and their accomplishments.

Jones joined the International Academy in 2001 and continues to work with that school of mostly Spanish-speaking students in addition to the K-5 Blue Ridge Elementary. An Alabama native, he studied Spanish and spent 12 years living in Honduras.

Since Blue Ridge is 90 percent Hispanic, Jones is able to use his bilingual abilities to work with the students and often acts as interpreter for their families. He is currently writing his doctoral dissertation on the quality of education Hispanic students receive.

“This is the most caring, passionate group of educators I’ve ever worked with. They have a heart for the work,” Jones said. “There were a lot of details with opening a new school, but it was made easier because of the staff we have.”

Jones’ wife Daphnie and children, Kristen, a junior at Kennesaw State, and Justin, a junior at Northwest High, helped him celebrate the award.

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