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'Miss G' named Carroll teacher of the year

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

FANCY GAP — The Fancy Gap Elementary School librarian leads anything but a quiet life — and now she's in the spotlight as Carroll County Public Schools' 2009 teacher of the year.

Kathy Giambattista of Hillsville — also known as Miss G — heard the cheers of the students as administrators surprised her with news of the award Dec. 8.

The 20-year teacher and media specialist, who trained in anthropology at State University of New York at Stony Brook and earned her masters in educational media at Radford University, has spent her entire professional career in various Carroll County schools.

Giambattista sees it as her role to work for the students and parents, other educators and the community, and she stays busy whether school's in session or not.

She takes her tasks as a teacher seriously, acting as a partner to parents and guardians to nurture and guide the children.

"As educators, we are responsible for the hearts and minds of the most precious beings in this world — our children — and this is a duty not to be taken lightly," she wrote in information submitted to the teacher of the year selection committee.

Children are individuals who need guidance in academics, socials skills and values and the support they need to find their own natural gifts and strengths, Giambattista wrote.

"Furthermore, we are not here for the short term but rather to help our students develop life skills for the long term for their entire lives," she said.

And each student deserves a team of educators "who are willing to work hard on their behalf and treat them with respect, patience, understanding, kindness and fairness."

As a specialty teacher, Giambattista also makes it her goal to provide necessary resources and support to other educators divisionwide in order to help them with the mission of serving students.

She wants the library to have the feeling of a "positive environment" and a "comfortable sanctuary" where the students and staff can benefit from the materials.

Inspiring a student to read proves to Giambattista that she is getting through to a young person.

"Nothing makes me happier than when I am finally able to match the interests of my students with a book they will enjoy," she said. "Until then, I am concerned because I know I am not serving their needs, but I can't give up and finally I connect them with a book and they are off on their own discovering book after book."

Students saying they're enjoying a book or lesson becomes a reward for Giambattista. She also feels gratified when she can help a parent outline a child's reading needs.

"If I am considered an outstanding teacher, and this is hard for me to say about myself, it is that I work extremely hard to provide my students and my fellow staff members with the resources and information they need for academics, personal enjoyment and for life skills," she said. "I care very deeply about their welfare, feelings, safety and success and do all I can to create a welcoming library and treat them in the same way that I want to be treated with respect, understanding, kindness and fairness."

Becoming a librarian, after nine years of active duty in the U.S. Air Force, seems a perfect blend of her love for children and for books, Giambattista noted.

Educators she has known gave her good examples to follow, too — and that includes her father, who taught thousands of students over a 44-year career.

Besides her school activities, Giambattista also devotes considerable time and energy to her community.

Knowing she's a role model for young people, Giambattista makes community service a part of her life, too. She hopes they will realize that they can give back in the same way.

Giambattista has organized annual food drives to benefit the Skyview Missionary Baptist Church food pantry, and she added hungry pets to the effort in cooperation with the Twin County Humane Society with a special reading program called "Go On a Reading Safari."

A volunteer for the Galax-Carroll regional library system, Giambattista has organized special summer reading programs, such as the one for the 100th anniversary of the historic first flight of the Wright Brothers in 2002.

Her services to the library continue in that vein by arranging regular displays in the facilities, such as one commemorating this year's 40th anniversary of the first man to walk on the moon.

This list of Giambattista's activities and accomplishments go on: a member of the U.S. Air Force for 21 years, an assistant Girl Scout leader, a member of the Veterans Administration Volunteer Advisory Council, a Special Olympics volunteer, Sunday school teacher and more.