In what is the biggest day of celebration for teachers each year — except maybe the last day of school — a packed sanctuary of educators came together Thursday at Central Baptist Church to honor the 33 best-of-the-best teachers from Douglas County’s elementary, middle and high schools and name Douglas County’s Teacher of the Year. 

New Manchester High School teacher Casey Bethel was selected as the 2015-2016 Douglas County Teacher of the Year. He will go on to represent Douglas County in the Georgia Teacher of the Year recognition program.

Nick Epstein, physical education teacher at Dorsett Shoals Elementary School, was named Elementary School Teacher of the Year. Adrienne Griffin, physical education teacher at Fairplay Middle School, was named Middle School Teacher of the Year. 

Teachers named as semi-finalists were: Matthew Nauman, Bill Arp Elementary School; Kimberley Haile, Burnett Elementary School; Meghan Rathel, Holly Springs Elementary School; Thomas Thorne, Yeager Middle School and Grant Fossum, Douglas County High School.

Bethel began his teaching career in 2005 in Dekalb County before coming to New Manchester High School in 2013. He teaches Biology and Physics at New Manchester, where he also coaches boys’ soccer and sponsors the Chick-fil-A Leader Academy and the Project Manhood Mentoring Group. He is an adjunct professor at Strayer University and has spent the last five summers conducting authentic biochemistry research at Georgia Tech. This year, he spoke at the International Teacher Science Partnerships Conference. 

Upon being named Teacher of the Year, Bethel said, “We should all believe in teaching. We should all believe in the education system.”

In naming the Teacher of the Year, the committee agreed that Bethel “is a positive influence and role model and would be a great voice of the school system.”

A colleague spoke of Bethel, “We are always amazed at how much of a presence he can command from a group with little or no effort. When this teacher speaks, he lifts you up and makes you want to be better, do better, give more, try harder, inspire others and never give up.”

His principal, Connie Craft wrote, “He has proven to be a stellar teacher who goes the extra mile to both motivate and engage his students.”

Bethel and his wife, Elise, have two children – twins Jaxon and Harper. The entire family was on hand to witness Thursday's ceremony.

Contact Liz Marino by email at or by phone at 770-942-6571 ext. 233.

© 2015 Douglas County Sentinel. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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