Monthly Archives: April 2019

Markus Hood: April Employee of the Month

Markus Hood serves as a PE teacher and Head Boys’ Basketball coach at Marietta High School.
Markus has worked in education for more than 19 years, and this is his first year at Marietta City Schools. Markus loves working with students and is committed to developing and building up the young men involved in the basketball program.
During the 2018-19 season, Coach Hood led the Blue Devils to the first Sweet 16 appearance in 7 years. If you ask Coach Hood if that is the most significant accomplishment in his first season, he would say “no way.”
What is most significant and why Coach Hood is being recognized as an MCS Employee of the Month is because of his positive impact on the lives of people. All students and staff benefit from Coach Hood.
“What I love most about my career is the people,” he said. “I enjoy the students and the people that I work with every day and seeing people do things they did not originally believe they could do.”
What Markus is most committed to is impact and having a positive impact on his students. He loves people and wants to see people smile and laugh, and he is passionate about finding ways to always enrich the lives of others.
The MHS boys’ basketball program strives to mold its players into responsible men. Markus does his very best to influence MCS student-athletes encouraging them to take their academics seriously and make good choices in life.
Together, Markus and his incredible coaching staff lead a book study with the basketball players, and the players read “Pound the Stone” by Joshua Medcalf. The young men have been thoroughly enjoying the book and are engaged with the text, leading to robust discussions and deep connections on and off the court. The philosophy of Markus and his staff is to “teach the game of life through the game of basketball.”
“There are so many tremendous employees and teachers at MCS, and it is very humbling and surprising to be selected for this honor,” he explained.
Markus is a man of integrity, honor and he exemplifies what it means to ‘Pound the Stone’ every day. Coach Hood is selfless and does all he can to be an example of goodwill at Marietta. Marietta City Schools and Marietta High School is Special, Different and Better because of Markus Hood.
We congratulate Markus Hood for being recognized as the April District Employee of the Month!

STAR Student and STAR Teacher: Andy Chinuntdet and Luke Burch

Congratulations to Anderson (Andy) Chinuntdet, a student at MHS, and Luke Burch, a teacher at MHS, for being recognized as a Georgia STAR student and teacher.

The Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program honors Georgia’s highest achieving high school seniors and the teachers who have been most instrumental in their academic development.
Since its creation in 1958 by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the STAR (Student Teacher Achievement Recognition) Program has honored nearly 26,000 high school seniors who have in turn chosen their STAR Teachers to share in this recognition.
To obtain the STAR nomination, high school seniors must have the highest score on any single test date of the SAT taken through the November test date of their senior year and be in the top 10 percent or top 10 students of their class based on grade point average.
“This award means a lot to me; it’s more than just something I can put on my resume,” Andy explained. “My favorite thing about it is that I got to honor a teacher who’s been so influential in my school work and life the past couple years.”
In addition to his academic success, Andy has also played basketball for three years, he serves as the president of the National Honor Society, he volunteers to plan and manage events for elementary students at his church, and he serves as a student leader in his youth group.
Andy plans to attend Georgia Tech next year and study aerospace engineering, as he aspires to pursue a career at NASA, SpaceX, or Lockheed after college.
Andy’s teachers describe him as a rare student who combines great intelligence with a hard work ethic while remaining humble and always willing to help anyone.
“Andy not only works hard and, through his hard work, earns incredible grades and scores on tests but he also exemplifies our MHS values,” said Mr. Burch, Andy’s physics teacher. “He is reflective; humble, willing to help others, and always striving to do his best.”
Each high school STAR student is asked to name his/her STAR teacher, and Mr. Burch, a physics teacher at MHS, was honored that Andy nominated him for the prestigious recognition.
Andy says he nominated Mr. Burch because he helped to make one of the hardest classes for students, manageable and enjoyable for students, while also caring about their wellbeing inside and outside the classroom.
“He isn’t just a good teacher; he’s an amazing man,” Andy said. “He’s taught me how to manage my time well, take good notes quickly, and think outside the box to solve difficult problems. He’s also inspired me to be a better person and a harder worker in all aspects of my life.”
Mr. Burch says that seeing the excitement and getting high fives from a physics student who didn’t understand a concept, but then worked with the concept more and got it, are his favorite moments as a teacher at MHS.
“Every day as teachers we strive to touch students’ lives and make an impact,” Mr. Burch explained. “Often times we do not get to see the fruits of our labor, but occasionally for each of us, we get a glimpse that our work is impacting students. I am no different than the rest of the teachers here in MCS, simply working hard and doing my best to help shape the future of my students. I am humbled and grateful for each moment such as this where I am able to see that what I am doing is having an impact.”
When asked what he loves most about teaching at MHS, Mr. Burch explained that he loves the diversity that MCS and MHS provide, and he enjoys working with students from all different backgrounds, in all different places educationally, all with different needs.
Locally, STAR students and STAR teachers are honored by their schools and receive special recognition in their communities from one of more than 165 civic organizations and businesses that serve as local STAR sponsors.


Wyatt Almy: April Student of the Month

The Marietta City Schools April Student of the Month, Wyatt Almy, is an outstanding student and a 1st grader at West Side Elementary.
One thing that shines about Wyatt is his motivation to always give his best efforts towards his work inside and outside of the classroom. When any task is assigned, Wyatt is quick to jump in and ready to participate to show what he knows. He is a MILE student and catches on easily to concepts he learns in class, but he is always eager for a challenge and to better understand the material that is presented to him.

Wyatt is always willing to take on new challenges and exhibit his leadership skills. Wyatt participates in his book club as a “book club leader.” This is where he meets with three other students each morning to read, complete tasks, and dive deeper into understanding of texts through discussion. His role is to check what the activity is for his book club and make sure all members are on task as well as cooperative. During Book Blub, he stays focused and encourages others to do their best. Wyatt is always so proud to explain to his small group in detail the strategies he is using to help him become a better reader, as well.
Outside of the classroom, Wyatt plays sports in the community and is an avid college basketball fan.
A recent time that Wyatt persevered through a challenge was when he was involved in a skiing accident during mid-winter break. He broke six ribs and punctured a lung, which left him in the hospital for days and at home recovering. He FaceTimed with his teacher several times over the span of two weeks, and he was so eager to get back to class to see his friends. He also was excited to share about his favorite college basketball team, South Dakota State.
During this time, he took on a challenge his teacher gave him to work on while he was home and resting. She suggested he try writing a letter to his favorite basketball team, introducing himself and letting them know why he thought they were incredible. Little did he know that in a few short weeks he would receive a personal letter from his favorite player and an autographed poster in the mail.
“If you saw Wyatt today in class you would barely recognize that he was recently involved in an accident,” said Christina Wagoner, principal at West Side Elementary. “He is still just as eager to learn and participate in class. We are all so very proud of his positive attitude and motivation to recover.”
Congratulations to Wyatt Almy, the Marietta City Schools Student of the Month!

Jordan Lyons: April Student of the Month

The Marietta City Schools April Student of the Month, Jordan Lyons, is an outstanding student and a Pre-K scholar at the Emily Lembeck Early Learning Center (ELC).
Jordan is a well-rounded student who exemplifies all of the character traits that are championed at the ELC. He works hard and practices his schoolwork while helping and encouraging others to succeed. Jordan always follows directions and is willing to help any child or teacher without even being asked. He is also a fun student to be around, he works well with others, and he is kind to all.
If Jordan needs help with anything he asks for it then attends to the task diligently until he has it mastered. He is always up for a challenge, and he enjoys learning how to write about pictures that he draws.
Jordan leads by example because he is continually doing the right thing. He’s helpful to both teachers and students and encourages his fellow students to do the right things, as well.
Recently, when Jordan’s class was lining up to go inside from recess, Jordan saw a fellow classmate who had not heard the direction to line up. Jordan called out his name, ran over to him, and very excitedly called to the boy saying, “Come on ‘Friend’ we are lining up!”
Outside of the classroom, Jordan enjoys playing sports and is active in community events.
Congratulations to Jordan Lyons, the Marietta City Schools Student of the Month!


Leon Grant (1)Marietta High School teacher Leon Grant’s love for teaching and youth influenced him to become a teacher. He has served as a Sunday School teacher, a youth minister, a pastor, an adjunct professor, and now a high school teacher.  

“I prefer the dialogue of teaching to the monologue of proclamation,” Leon explained. “I love the learning that takes place in preparation to teach…I love finding innovative ways to teach new and old concepts.”

Each fall Leon’s first-year students are introduced to the engineering design process. This year students were paired in teams of two and had to design a lunch container for a school-age student in a country that they drew out of a box. Students had to work cooperatively and communicate in and out of class to develop a solution.  They had to research the people for whom they were developing a solution.

The Engineering design cycle was taught in context with a just-in-time delivery model. Each step of the process was introduced as a tool to solve the problem. Finally, they had to create food models and a prototype lunch container to evaluate against their constraints.  Students communicated their solutions and how they met the constraints via a 12×24 graphics ad and a 30-second promotional video. This approach helped students to see the design process as a tool for solving problems that is valuable whether you are an engineer or not.

Leon Grant_resizedIn 2013, upon joining the Marietta City Schools family, Leon established the Engineering Pipeline at Marietta City Schools.  The Engineering Pipeline is a K-12 engineering education initiative that provides resources, academic partnerships, and industry partnerships with deep STEM immersions across elementary, middle, secondary, and post-secondary grade bands centered in real-world engineering problems/projects.  As the Engineering Pipeline Founder & Director, he provides vision and maintains program oversight for partner development, program funding, and teacher development.

The Pipeline hosts three major events each year: the Engineering Pipeline Open House; the Summer of Exploration Conference, and the Research Symposium.  The Pipeline has developed deep partnerships with over 45 partners such as Google, Lockheed-Martin, and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The Pipeline has raised more than $150,000 in grants and in-kind giving that has been shared between high, middle, and elementary school partners. The Pipeline currently partners with the Middle School and three elementary schools and has reached over 1200 students this year through various events.

The Pipeline efforts have been recognized at the state and national levels by the Technology Association of Georgia, DiscoverE, The Association of Career and Technical Educators, and the Women Engineers Proactive Network. The American Society of Civil Engineers is using the Engineering Pipeline as a model to reform their Civil Engineering Club initiative. 

But, beyond the accolades and accomplishments, Leon is most proud of the connection he has been able to build with his students.

“My greatest accomplishments in education are winning the trust of my students, helping students discover their passion, and coaching students to levels of excellence,” Leon shared. “Classroom procedures and expectations are extremely important to maintain classroom discipline.  However, I have found that I can lead students who trust me much farther than I can mandate students who don’t trust me.”

From having former students ask him to perform their marriage ceremony to being named the godfather of another former student’s child; Leon counts the impact of these long-lasting relationships as treasures in his teaching career.

Grant is one of three Teacher of the Year finalists for Marietta City Schools. The district will celebrate its award-winning teachers and employees May 28, 2019, at its annual Teacher of the Year and Employee Awards Luncheon at Roswell Street Baptist Church.

2019 TOTY Finalist Announcement.Final

MHS Junior Marcos Rios Scores Perfect ACT Score

Marcos Rios, a Junior at Marietta High School, recently accomplished a pretty rare feat by earning a perfect score on the ACT; an accomplishment less than one percent of students nationwide achieve.

Marcos prepared for the ACT in a few ways. He took both the SAT and ACT early to get experience completing both tests, and once he had a feel for each test, he went over content he didn’t know well and made sure to get plenty of rest the night before the test. Additionally, Marcos participated in the prep class at the high school.

Marcos took the ACT previously and scored a 35, so he decided to take the test again to see if he could earn a perfect score.

“I set an alarm for 1:00 a.m. the day I knew the scores would come out, the Wednesday after President’s Day,” Marcos explained. “I woke up, logged in to see the scores, said a little prayer, then clicked on the score report. I fell out of bed, cheered a little, then took a screenshot that I immediately sent to the family group chat before going straight back to sleep. I woke up again at 4 a.m. when I heard my parents shouting upstairs with joy.”

The ACT consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading, and science, each scored on a scale of 1-36. A student’s composite score is the average of the four test scores.

The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement exam that measures what students have learned in school. Students who earn a 36 composite score have likely mastered all of the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed in first-year college courses in the core subject areas.

In addition to his academic success, Marcos is involved in several extracurricular activities and leadership roles, including serving as the president of the Technology Student Association and Society for Pre Engineering, Vice President of Model UN, National Honor Society service coordinator, and Flute Section Leader and Band Librarian in the marching band. Outside of school, Marcos serves as the Youth Preparedness Programs Committee Chair of FEMA’s National Youth Preparedness Council, and he’s a co-teacher for the special needs class at his church every Sunday.

Marcos’ mom, Margarita Ojeda, says that while she was so excited, she wasn’t surprised about the big news.

“A different score wouldn’t have changed what we think of him or his outcomes, but I am glad he gets to relax a little and cross off one of the things on his bucket list,” she explained.

“Marcos works really hard and likes to set goals for himself,” his mom continued. “I am glad he has enjoyed seeing them come to fruition. However, it is his servant heart and helpful and kind disposition that makes me most proud. No matter what he is working on, if somebody asks for help, he stops what he is doing and helps. That is not determined by a score or a grade.”

In fact, Marcos has great advice for other students who aspire to score high on the ACT.

“To any other student trying to score high, the best thing I can recommend is being prepared for the test, outside of the test,” Marcos explained. “Read a lot and keep your math skills sharp…I also recommend taking the test early on, so you know what you do well on and you know what you can improve on.”

Marcos is the third Marietta High School student to receive a perfect score on the ACT in the past year.

Marietta High School Girls’ Basketball Welcomes New Head Coach

Marietta City School announced Derrick DeWitt as the new head varsity coach for the girls’ Blue Devil basketball team at Marietta High School.

Coach DeWitt joins the Blue Devil family from Cherokee County School District after coaching the Sequoyah High School Girls Basketball Program for seven years and taking them to the State Playoffs for the past six consecutive years. His teams have 147 wins and 61 losses and shattered five team records.

Coach DeWitt earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Stetson University and holds a Master of Arts in Teaching in Special Education from Brenau University. DeWitt received Academic All-Conference honors in basketball as an undergraduate.

Over the past ten years, Coach DeWitt has successfully been a head coach of highly competitive basketball teams for Class 5-A and 6-A high school athletic programs. DeWitt played Division-1 Basketball for Stetson University where he ranks #2 in all-time three-pointers made and played in more than 100 games.

“Two things that stand out immediately about Coach DeWitt are his enthusiasm for working with young people and his commitment to doing things with integrity,” said Craig McKinney, Athletic Director, Marietta City Schools. “His personality and value system fit the culture of the Marietta Basketball program.”

Coach DeWitt is married to Renee DeWitt, also a Stetson graduate who played for the Lady Hatters. Coach DeWitt and Renee have two daughters, Leah and Alana. The district will formally introduce and welcome Coach DeWitt and his family Wednesday, April 17, 2019, at 7:00 p.m. at Marietta High School in the Seminar Room.

Parents, students and community members with an interest in girls’ basketball or who want to support the program are invited to attend.



Emily Lembeck Early Learning Center teacher Karen Kresak didn’t always aspire to be a teacher. In fact, her career choice throughout college was to be a therapist who worked with children. She went to graduate school and earned a Master’s in Counseling Psychology.

Karen Kresak“I loved working with the children during my internship at a school for children with emotional disorders,” Ms. Kresak explained. “I also worked full time in a psychiatric hospital with young children. It was stressful at times, but I learned a lot from the children and my colleagues.”

When she returned to Georgia, it was difficult to find a job in her field. So, she went back to school and earned a Master’s in School Psychometry, hoping she would be more marketable if she had assessment skills. Ms. Kresak began working with Northwest Georgia RESA as a teacher in one of their satellite classes for students with severe emotional behavior disorders, and she obtained a provisional certificate and then earned the credits she needed to be certified. The position allowed her to use some of the skills she had learned in her graduate program and opened up a whole new world for her. She quickly realized she loved teaching! It was then that she knew that teaching was the right career choice for her.

Ms. Kresak started her career at Marietta City Schools teaching in the self-contained emotional behavior disorder (EBD) classroom with grades 2-3. She obtained the endorsement for preschool special education and began teaching in the special needs preschool program. She had finally found her niche.

“Being able to intervene early and teach the skills that the children need to learn is very rewarding,” she explained. “Their accomplishments at this age are always reasons to celebrate, no matter how small. Knowing that I am having a lasting effect on a child’s growth and development makes me thankful that I chose this path.”

Karen Kresak (1)

Additionally, Ms. Kresak serves on several committees that allow her to meet and collaborate with different organizations and members of the community and provide knowledgeable input regarding young children and their development and education. She has served as the representative for MCS to the Metro Preschool Coordinators’ Consortium since 2003. She also serves as a member of the Marietta High School Career Pathways Community Advisory Committee, the Cobb Early Learning Initiative Committee, and the Cobb County Head Start School Readiness Committee, and she is a member of the Cobb Douglas Interagency Coordinating Council. She has also served on the Local Arrangement Committee for the 2015 Division of Early Childhood Conference Committee.

Ms. Kresak believes that we have to take a more balanced approach to teaching and learning that develops the whole child; supporting students’ social, emotional, and cognitive development produces positive student outcomes.

“Teaching preschool can be loud, chaotic, and unpredictable,” Ms. Kresak explained. “It is also greatly rewarding because I get to witness the growth and development of young minds. Knowing that I am helping build those connections in their brains is a remarkable feeling. I am not only a teacher, but a brain architect, helping to build a strong foundation for lifelong learning.”

Ms. Kresak one of three Teacher of the Year finalists for Marietta City Schools. The district will celebrate its award winning teachers and employees May 28, 2019 at its annual Teacher of the Year and Employee Awards Luncheon at Roswell Street Baptist Church.

2019 TOTY Finalist Announcement.Final (1)

Marietta Students Place First in State at Georgia Literary Contest

Marietta High School (MHS) students Calvin Rausch and Carson Shearer took home 1st place State wins at the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) State Literary Meet, held at Buford High School, Saturday, March 16, 2019.

The GHSA Literary competition, created to advance sportsmanship and an appreciation for the study of music, speech, and other fine arts through Region and State competitions. This was the first time in 15 years that Marietta has competed in this prestigious competition.

Marietta High School finished 2nd overall with three students advancing to the State competition as region champions.

Calvin won 1st place in the International Extemporaneous Speaking category, and Carson won 1st place in the Humorous Interpretations category.

Congratulations and job well down to our MHS Literary team led by Coy Dunn, Fine Arts Director, and a special thank you to the team’s coaches and instructors – Lars Grevstad, Carla Mills, Shannon Lawson, Theresa Duarte, Tim Nielson, Holly Smith, and Craig McKinney.

Marietta Teacher of the Year Finalist Profile: Barbara Esquijaro

Burruss Elementary teacher Barbara Esquijarosa did not always dream of becoming a teacher. In fact, teaching was an unlikely career option for this English as a Second Language (ESOL) teacher. As a student, Ms. Esquijarosa struggled academically throughout her elementary school years.

Barbara Esquijarosa“Like so many families whose children attend Marietta City Schools, my mother and father did not get beyond a high school diploma and worked tremendous hours to support our family,” says Ms. Esquijarosa. “My parents exemplified hard work.”

A turning point in her education was the attention paid to her by her tenth-grade math teacher, Ms. Haney.  “She was the first one to give me confidence. She had a no-nonsense approach, knew how to keep my attitude in check, and I grew to love her.”

Taking an unconventional path to the classroom, Ms. Esquijarosa started her career as a school secretary in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and after completing her Bachelor’s degree in education, she obtained a fifth-grade teaching position. It was a challenging class that had seen a lot of inconsistency with its leaders, but that didn’t deter Ms. Esquijarosa.

“The students were angry, disconnected, and the data showed that they were performing below expectations. Their issues made me determined to reach them. I pushed through and saw amazing results, socially, emotionally, and academically. At the end of the school year, we all cried together. I fell in love with teaching. I sought to progress through professional development, constantly reflecting on how to be better. I began coaching and mentoring other teachers. By my third year of teaching, I won Village Green Elementary School’s Rookie Teacher of the Year award.”

When Ms. Esquijarosa joined Marietta City Schools, she set out on a mission to learn as much as she could about her new school community. She became a mentor and advocate for students, families, and teachers. She implemented mentorships between teachers and English Language Learner students and led professional development sessions on best practices and culturally responsive pedagogy. Her goal was to ensure that teachers were equipped to support students whose first language was not English. She saw great success academically with her students, and while she does celebrate the data that supports her efforts, nothing compares to the human impact that validates her work.

“Seeing the face of a first grader from Mexico read a story for the first time, and the ah-ha moments’ teachers experience after professional development are priceless. I heard statements like, “Barbie, I had no clue, thank you!” and “This strategy you recommended has been working!” The hugs of appreciation received from a new teacher who whispered, “Thank you for being there for me in my hardest times!” and the words, “Gracias Ms. E,” from a parent after many tears will never be forgotten. Lastly, the phrase I hear from students whom I have never taught as I walk down the hallway, “Ms. E, when will you come into my class?”

Ms. Esquijarosa is one of three Teacher of the Year finalists for Marietta City Schools. The district will celebrate its award-winning teachers and employees May 28, 2019, at its annual Teacher of the Year and Employee Awards Luncheon at Roswell Street Baptist Church.

2019 TOTY Finalist Announcement.Final

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