Bryan Sorohan, professor of education at Brenau University, speaks during the Masters of Teaching: Life Changers at Work on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Bryan Sorohan, professor of education at Brenau University, speaks during the Masters of Teaching: Life Changers at Work on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Annual Program Recognizes Nine Instructors, Including Brenau Teachers, Alumni, as Masters in their Field

Mar 21, 2018
Kristen Bowman

A Brenau University professor, three alumni and a former Brenau Academy teacher were some of the nine honorees at the 10th annual Masters in Teaching: Life Changers at Work program presented by Featherbone Communiversity and Brenau on Wednesday, March 21.

Masters in Teaching honors a group of instructors annually from Northeast Georgia who excel in their expertise, influence and personal qualities as both instructors and individuals.

The honorees were Bryan Sorohan, professor of education in Brenau’s College of Education; Amanda Studer, third-grade teacher at Mundy Mill Academy; Jenna Blackwell, fifth-grade teacher at Lakeview Academy; Cynthia Grier, mathematics teacher at East Hall High School; Andrew Pedry, history teacher at Riverside Military Academy; Jennifer Graff, associate professor of art at the University of North Georgia; Adondra Little, first-grade teacher at Fair Street International Academy; Christy Morris, kindergarten teacher at Oakwood Elementary School; and Maura Pittman, fourth- through eighth-grade teacher at the Academy of Innovation.

For many of the honorees, education was a second career. Sorohan, now in his 21st year of teaching, received a bachelor’s degree in archaeology from the University of North Carolina. But he eventually followed in his father’s footsteps and went back to school to become a teacher.

“Even at the age of 55, I still draw inspiration from my parents,” he said. “My father retired in 1993, and what I always noticed about him was that he had such an impact on such a large scale. At one time, every school in North Georgia had a teacher he had taught.”

Sorohan’s interest in social studies developed from his mother’s influence. “When I was little, everywhere we went she would know a cool story about something that happened there,” he said. “I thought, ‘Wow, it is great to know those sorts of things.’”

Pedry also had an early interest in social studies – the subject matter he teaches at Riverside. Teaching is also a second career for Pedry, who served four years with distinction in the Marine Corps. He said he realized his interest in teaching social studies during a particular moment while serving in Iraq in 2003.

“I like to think things through ahead of time. So I was there, talking to my wife, thinking, ‘What happens if I come back with no legs?’ These are the kinds of things you should think about beforehand,” he quipped. “And I realized I could come back and teach history. It was 10 years before I would end up in the classroom, but I knew from a young age that I enjoyed history and would enjoy teaching.

“What brought me to teach social studies was traveling the world and seeing America’s place in the world. I’ve seen the role of education in shaping the world. I’ve seen places that have almost no educational system in place, places ruled under communist regimes and the educational systems their children are brought up in. And I’ve seen our country. For America to continue to be the light and hope I think it still is, it requires us to teach and to teach well.”

John Tibbetts, the 2018 Georgia Teacher of the Year, was the keynote speaker Wednesday. He said he was so moved by the panel of honorees that he took notes throughout their remarks.

Blackwell, Grier and Studer all earned their master’s degrees from Brenau University. Blackwell began teaching upon graduation, but Studer too entered it as a second career. With a bachelor’s in marketing, she worked for years at a boat dealership, but said it “wasn’t clicking.” Becoming a teacher, she said, was one of the best decisions she ever made.

Grier also entered teaching after a career in business, having worked for the Gainesville Times in advertising for years. She taught at Brenau Academy after receiving her teaching certificate and has now been at East Hall for 20 years.

“I think that every person has a calling,” Grier said. “When I was in the advertising industry and opportunities were closing to me, the Lord was working it out for me to go into a field that was my purpose in life.”