Macon County Schools Chooses personnel of the Year
Teacher of the Year
Penny Moffitt, Franklin High School (FHS) Business Education Teacher, has been named Teacher of the Year in Macon County. Moffitt has been teaching in Macon County since 2007. She graduated from FHS herself in 1999. She was born in Palm Beach, Fla., but moved to Franklin when she was 12 years old. Aside from teaching her business ed class Moffitt is also the Yearbook Advisor and coached the varsity softball team for 5 years of winning seasons. She tells her students that, “being in Business Ed class is like coming to work. In order to produce a quality yearbook it takes professionalism.” Moffitt knows all about professionalism from her days working at Drake Software before she began teaching. She has been married for 14 years and has four children ages 13, 9, 7, and 2, all girls.
“Last school year I got to be a part of a couple of new events that helped bring positive culture and build community among our students and faculty at Franklin High School.” She explained, “These two events, UNIFY March Madness and the Grad Walk, were planned by students with the help of faculty members. It was an amazing feeling to work alongside our young adults throughout the planning and student leadership of these events.”
This event builds character among students; provides leadership opportunities; offers ways for various student groups to serve; involves the community; and, allows special needs students a chance to shine.
“Although there are so many moments from the UNIFY March Madness game that took my breath away, I’ll never forget the emotions I felt when both UNIFY teams did their pre-game runout. The music, the fans, the students, the faculty and community! It was without a doubt the most powerful experience that I’ve had in my teaching career. It was a true team effort for our FHS family. Our hopes are to continue to provide new experiences for our UNIFY athletes and the Franklin High School student body.
“The Grad Walk was also such an amazing event for Macon County Schools and hopefully the start of a tradition for many years to come. The Class of 2019 had the opportunity to visit their previous schools and show gratitude by giving their Honorary Diplomas to a teacher that made a positive impact on their lives. What an amazing day for our school system.
“I have a passion to be a part of helping cultivate a positive environment for our students at Franklin High School. I love to help student leaders plan projects and events that build community and bring joy to others. I feel like most teachers can look back on their teaching career and remember a year or a group of students that made them a better teacher. I’m thankful for our students and the Class of 2019, they make us better.”
Principal Of the Year
Cotton has taught in Macon County Schools since the fall of 2000 where she was an Exceptional Children’s Teacher and then moved to the Literacy Specialist position for several years and then served as Assistant Principal at Iotla Valley Elementary School before moving to Union.
Prior to teaching in Macon County Schools, Cotton taught Exceptional Children in Mullins, S.C., for five years. She has 12 years experience teaching K-8th grade in a private school. She also taught Exceptional Children in Texas before relocating to North Carolina.
Cotton received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and English at Southwestern Union College in Texas. Her Masters of Education degree in Educational Leadership is from Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. She has been “blissfully married” to Jack Cotton for 40 years. She has three children, Jess, 38, who is an engineer for Lockheed Martin; Hope, 34, is a teacher in Allegheny County; and Benjamin, 30, works at Cotton Commercial Installations and lives here in Franklin. She also has four “amazing” grandchildren, Lily, Emily, Jack and Brice.
“At Union we strive to make students take a hard look at their own lives and be observant of the lives of those around them,” explains Cotton. “Many of our conversations revolve around RISE (Respect, Integrity, Success, Empathy.) We have a time at school when students learn about their habits and attitudes appropriately called habitudes.”
Cotton speaks very highly of her students. One story that is dear to her heart is that of a student who was very proud when she got a part-time job. She had big plans for saving her money to buy her own clothes. However, she took her first paycheck and bought one of her fellow students a pair of new shoes.
“This student was not her best friend or even someone she associated with a lot,” Cotton explained. “She just saw he needed shoes and quietly got them for him. Happily this isn’t an isolated incident. We have graduates who bring in school supplies for our current students. Our students, while working on a project, discussed how they could help students who, at times, didn’t have electricity. They worked to develop a light that works with weights rather than electricity. These stories warm my heart.
“We have such a wide variety of students who have wonderful personalities; they are funny, caring and very personable. You just have to connect with each one in some way to learn what amazing people they are,” she said.
Union Academy has approximately 120 students enrolled in the program each year. On staff are two middle school teachers who each teach two core subjects to all 7th and 8th graders. The middle school science and math teacher utilizes projects to incorporate real world skills in these subjects. Each of the four core areas has a certified high school teacher who teach all the subjects for their areas. One business teacher also teaches the high school and middle school student’s health and PE classes, as well as personal finance to each student before they graduate and an Entrepreneurship class as an elective. In addition, an Exceptional Children’s Teacher co-teaches inclusion core classes, resource pullouts and manages the OCS (occupational course of study) program. She leads the school-based training programs such as selling the bat houses the OCS students build. Also on staff is an EC (exceptional children) assistant teacher; an online facilitator who assists students who must take the majority of their electives online; and an ISS (in school suspension) coordinator who instills life skill strategies in students who are assigned to him temporarily.
Cotton is proud of all of her teachers and for the wonderful support staff. She brags, “We have an amazing secretary, bookkeeper, data manager who connects with students and listens to them intently while juggling all those duties. She once took care of one of our student’s newborn for several weeks in the front office until a spot opened in daycare. Happily we now have our first ever school counselor this year. This addition to our school will benefit students immensely.
“Without these amazing people, our school would never have all the successes we have seen for our students.”
The one thing that can disappoint Cotton is when her students don’t get what they need to overcome and succeed because of constraints in budgets, time or people.
She explains, “My staff and I want so much for them that would provide job security after graduation, such as more vocational type classes, to teach them employable skills. We need plumbers, masons, chefs, electricians, nursing assistants, veterinary assistants, mechanics, office managers, carpenters, the list is endless. Many of our students excel at learning skills they can ‘do’ rather than just paper and pencil activities because they can see, feel and participate in growing their own successes. I hate that schools, teachers and students are judged on unrealistic isolated high stakes test scores rather than skills they can use to be successful in life. I hate when lawmakers make mandates. I hate when our school is referred to as ‘the school for bad kids’ rather than the school for opportunity and second chances.”
Cotton’s passion for her students and school personnel is strong. She also expressed how grateful she is for MCSO Officer Anthony Zari, the school resource officer assigned to Union Academy.
“Officer Zari runs the Molding Tomorrows Leaders Club with some assistance from the Sheriff’s department. Nothing would thrill me more than being able to change the perception of Union Academy to one of helping these students grow just like all the students in our school system. They are not different than students anywhere. We have to work together as a community to impact their futures and prepare them to be productive, caring citizens without judgment and unfounded perceptions.”
Support Person of the year
Diane Taylor, receptionist at South Macon Elementary School, was named Support Person of the Year. Taylor has been with South Macon for 12 years. She is the “go to” person when a parent, student, or teacher needs help. If she doesn’t have the answer she will locate someone who does. Taylor started out as a teaching assistant (TA) at East Franklin Elementary School in 1995 then transferred to South Macon in 2001. In 2010, she became the receptionist at South Macon.
Taylor is married and has two children and two grandchildren.
“I feel very honored and attribute my success to the supportive staff and faculty that makes my job easier. I enjoy dealing with the public, I am a people person,” said Taylor.
Taylor does a lot of multitasking on a daily basis. some of her duties include meet and greet whoever show up at the front desk. Communication with parents, teachers, staff, students and others is a daily occurrence at South Macon. She was recently given the task of being in charge of the new scanning device recently implemented in all the schools. As visitors come in they are required to scan their license to sign in and then take a photo to get a badge to visit a teacher or other staff member. The device has some kinks but Taylor is very patient and assists the visitors graciously.
One of the stories that sticks out in her mind is when she and Principal Allison Guynn, spotted a strange car parked in the lot with a man inside, He was just sitting there in the parking lot. She remembers, “Ms. Guynn and I walked arm in arm to see who he was and what he wanted. It was like the Wizard of Oz following the yellow brick road. I had no idea what we would do when we approached him. Luckily he drove off and that was that.” That was before they had an SRO on staff and before all the security systems were put into place.
Josh Keefer, a student at South Macon, remarked about Taylor, “She is very helpful and always gets us what we need whether it is to see the nurse of even get a change of clothes because your others ones got ruined. She doesn’t get mad at you.”