Skip To Main Content

Logo Image

Logo Title

Etowah Educator Named 2023 CCSD Teacher of the Year

Etowah Educator Named 2023 CCSD Teacher of the Year

CCSD Teacher of the Year Lara McDonald expresses her thanks to her family and fellow teachers at the event.

The Cherokee County School District saluted educators Thursday night at the 2023 Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration.

The Legacy Makers event held at the Northside Hospital Cherokee Conference Center in Canton honored the Teacher of the Year for every CCSD school, including four finalists who were announced in February.  Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower opened an envelope at the event’s conclusion to announce that Etowah High School science teacher Lara McDonald is the 2023 CCSD Teacher of the Year!

“I was really taken by the energy that you bring to the classroom and the fact that you really want your students to be discoverers, to be thinkers, to be curious and to be excited about science,” Dr. Hightower said as he presented the honor to Ms. McDonald.  “You’ve got it figured out … the more fun you make it, the more engaging you make it, the more your students tend to learn.  The excitement and enthusiasm you bring to the classroom makes science come to life.  We appreciate you and the expertise and commitment you bring to your school and ultimately to the kids.”

teacher receiving plaque
teacher receives plaque

Lara McDonald receives her TOTY plaque from Superintendent Dr. Brian V. Hightower

Ms. McDonald, a 13-year educator who teaches environmental science including AP classes, will advance as CCSD’s nominee for the Georgia Teacher of the Year competition.  She is known for her creative engaging lessons and sponsorship of numerous after-school clubs that further extend her support for students.

“Thank you all for this wonderful honor,” said Ms. McDonald as she accepted her plaque from Dr. Hightower.  “I want to thank my family for the support they give me, my teachers, my admin, my students and the community in general.  I could not do it without your support and without you all helping me and encouraging me.  Thank you so much! This is very exciting!”

The dinner, and the long list of gifts presented to the honorees, all were made possible thanks to the generosity of sponsor donations including Presenting Sponsors: Cherokee County Educational Foundation, Credit Union of Georgia, Northside Hospital Cherokee and Shottenkirk Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram of Canton.

David Booth, general manager of Shottenkirk, announced at the event’s close that Ms. McDonald, as CCSD Teacher of the Year, would enjoy a free one-year lease of the vehicle of her choice from Shottenkirk. 

The Finalists and CCSD Teacher of the Year are selected by a panel of community leaders who evaluate applications from each school’s Teacher of the Year; school winners are selected by their peers.  The three other Finalists, who received additional gifts and recognition at the event, are: Kate Bruner, Hasty Elementary School Fine Arts Academy fifth-grade teacher; Charm Cochran, Oak Grove Elementary School STEAM Academy Special Education teacher; and Wyatt Wilkie, Creekview High School Career Pathway teacher.

School Board Chair Kyla Cromer congratulated and thanked the honorees on behalf of the School Board. 

“Your colleagues chose you to be here this evening because of the outstanding work that you do in your schools,” said Ms. Cromer. “We really do appreciate the job that you do every single day for our students. I just want to say congratulations to you; this is truly your night to shine, and we are so very proud of you!

school board members at banquet

Legacy Makers TOTY dinner:  from left, School Board members Erin Ragsdale, Kelly Poole, Patsy Jordan, Dr. Susan Padgett-Harrison and Chair Kyla Cromer. 

All school Teacher of the Year winners each received a $200 Visa gift card purchased with donations from sponsors; $100 local restaurant gift certificate from Shottenkirk; a free family portrait session from Cady Studios; $50 Amazon gift card from sponsors; $25 gift certificate from Practically Perfect Day Spa in Canton; an engraved plaque; $20 Alma Coffee gift card; $10 Riverstone Corner Bistro gift certificate; $10 Shoe Station gift card, and a tote bag filled with supplies and gifts from sponsors.

The finalists, in addition to these gifts, also each received: a $1,400 LYRIK portable sound system from ProLogics ITS; $500 Visa gift card purchased with donations from sponsors; $200 Visa gift card from Poole’s Insulation Company; Sam’s Club Membership plus $50 gift card from Sam’s Club; choice of CCSD or school logo merchandise from Allegro Business Products valued at $150; gift certificate for bowling for six people from Cherokee Lanes; $100 gift card and gift basket from Kroger; $100 gift card from Practically Perfect Day Spa; Birthday in a Box certificate from Nothing Bundt Cakes, valued at $80; $50 Amazon gift card from Cady Studios; $50 Visa gift card from Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE); $50 gift certificate from Riverstone Corner Bistro; leather rolling laptop case from ABM Industry Groups; gift certificate for a catering tray from Chick-fil-A, Cherokee County; $25 gift certificate from Buffalo’s Café; and a gift certification from Marco’s Pizza.

Ms. McDonald, in addition to the school winner and finalist gifts already noted, also received:

  • A Microsoft Surface Pro X valued at $1,000 from Southern Computer Warehouse;
  • $1,000 Visa gift card purchased with donations from sponsors;
  • Four club-level tickets to a Braves game, including parking and food credit, valued at $550 from Contour Engineering.
  • $250 Visa gift card from Fforg Inc.;
  • $200 gift card from Kroger (in lieu of $100 finalist gift);
  • Spa day package from Practically Perfect Day Spa
  • Two season passes to the 2023-24 theatre season from Cherokee Theatre Company
  • $100 Amazon gift card from Cady Studios;
  • $100 gift card from Riverstone Corner Bistro (in lieu of $50 finalist gift);
  • An additional $50 gift card from Buffalo’s Café; and,
  • A compact laser printer from PAGE.

Sponsors who made all of the gifts possible are:

Presenting Sponsors: Cherokee County Educational Foundation (CCEF); Credit Union of Georgia; Northside Hospital Cherokee; Shottenkirk Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram

Gold Sponsors: ABM Industry Groups LLC; Alma Coffee; Cady Studios; Cherokee Floor Covering; Cherokee Theatre Company; Cobb EMC; Imaan International Inc.; The Kroger Co.; Nova Engineering & Environmental LLC; Poole’s Insulation Company; Practically Perfect Day Spa; ProLogic ITS; Sam’s Club; Southern Computer Warehouse (SCW); World's Finest Chocolate

Silver Sponsors: Allegro Business Products; Buffalo's Café; Center Cut Catering; Cherokee Lanes; Chick-fil-A, Cherokee County; Contour Engineering; Fforg, Inc; Professional Association of Georgia (PAGE); Revolution Church; Riverstone Corner Bistro; Shoe Station

Bronze Sponsors: AngelTrax; Ecolab; Marco's Pizza; Menchie's Frozen Yogurt, Riverstone; Modern Woodmen of America; Nearpod; Nothing Bundt Cakes

car keys being given to teacher

Lara McDonald reacts to the news she will receive a one-year lease on the car of her choice from David Booth, General Manager of Shottenkirk Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Canton.