The Department of Juvenile Justice’s (DJJ) Education Division held its annual Professional Learning Meeting at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain on June 5-7. Administrators and educators from the division and its Georgia Preparatory Academy (GPA) gathered to discuss future plans, recognize awards and successes and participate in innovative training sessions. The theme of the conference was “Teamwork and Transformation: Real School, Right Here, Right Now.” That theme highlights the need to deliver quality education to youth in DJJ facilities.
DJJ Commissioner/Superintendent of Schools Avery D. Niles addressed attendees during the opening luncheon: “We came together and we will lead together. Education is first, security takes care of everything else. Every child should have an opportunity to learn. Every child should have the opportunity to engage.” Commissioner Niles also reminded teachers that they not only have to be prepared to teach, but prepared to inspire.
Jean Lee also addressed conference attendees. As the recently installed Associate Superintendent, Lee told teachers, “I am astounded by the dedication and professionalism I have seen to date. Keep up the good work!” Her vision for GPA schools includes collective goal setting, increased accountability, and further engagement of parents and stakeholders.
Arisha Dancy-Mattox was honored as the 2016 DJJ Teacher of the Year. She has spent five years as an English-Language Arts teacher at Aaron Cohn RYDC. Dancy-Mattox works hard to instill a love of learning within her students and strives to boost their self-esteem and confidence. She holds a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and certifications in Educational Leadership, Early Childhood, English-Language Arts and Special Education.
Attendees also participated in the Gang Awareness Training Session led by Ryan Foles of the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division and a DJJ wellness education program conducted by Lauren Gean, Chief of Nutrition and Food Services.
Winifred Pierce introduced the conference’s keynote speaker, Dr. Earl Suttle. A speaker who motivates leaders, Dr. Suttle has worked with Fortune 500 companies, corrections organizations, government and healthcare workers, educators and athletes. He told attendees to continue their professional development and to not only teach their students but to lead them as well.
GPA is Georgia’s 181st school district and serves students in 26 secure facilities around the state. GPA abides by Commissioner Niles’ philosophy “Each one reach one, teach one and keep one.”