headshots of each GCS teacher of the year

CALHOUN, GA – Gordon County Schools (GCS) is pleased to announce the 2023-24 School Teachers of the Year Winners. 

In the spring semester each school year, each GCS school is asked to select its own Teacher of the Year using nominations received from fellow staff members and community stakeholders. All school-level winners then become eligible to compete for the honor of being named the Gordon County Schools System Teacher of the Year.

The annual system-wide competition is judged by a panel of community partners, retired educators, and system leadership based on applications submitted by school-level winners and classroom observations.

Three system finalists will be announced the week of March 27th and the 2023-24 Gordon County Schools System Teacher of the Year will be announced at the annual banquet tentatively scheduled for May 2nd. The winner of the system-wide honor will represent Gordon County Schools on the state level for the Georgia Teacher of the Year competition.  

Gordon County Schools 2022-23 School-Level Teachers of the Year:

Ashworth Middle: Judson Peacock

Belwood Elementary: Brenda Gilmor

Fairmount Elementary: Christy Smith

Gordon Central High: Neal Crawford

Red Bud Elementary: Brooke Cigainero

Red Bud Middle: Jacqueline Cascio

Sonoraville Elementary: Heidi Murphy

Sonoraville High: Carmelita Everett

Tolbert Elementary: Cathy Musacchio

W.L. Swain Elementary: India Bennett

Learn more about the 2023-24 School-Level Teachers of the Year:

Judson Peacock: Mr. Peacock serves as a sixth-grade Social Studies teacher at Ashworth Middle School. Peacock has served as an educator for twenty-one years, eight of which have been with Gordon County Schools.

Peacock, who pursued a career in education with the hopes of helping young people learn and grow, was very proud to learn of the Teacher of the Year award from his peers at Ashworth Middle School. “I am humbled by the Teacher of the Year recognition because I have worked with so many wonderful teachers who are just as deserving,” shared Peacock.

Mr. Peacock loves his career as an educator and working his students to help them become passionate about learning. Judson shared one of his favorite quotes that he has carried with him throughout his career: “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think” -Margaret Mead

Peacock holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education in History and a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education in Social Sciences, both from Columbus State University.

Peacock is married to Jill Peacock, a Physical Education teacher at W.L. Swain Elementary. Together, they have two wonderful adult children: Leslie Peacock Lowell who is a pharmacist in Columbus, Ga., and Daniel Peacock who works with Eastman Chemical in Kingsport, Tn.  Leslie is married to Ted Lowell of Plains, GA and Daniel is married to Kennedy Weber Peacock of Cicero, Indiana. 

Brenda Gilmor: Ms. Gilmor is a first grade teacher at Belwood Elementary School. Gilmor is currently in her 14th year teaching, three of which have been with Gordon County Schools.

Gilmor first pursued a career as an educator by realizing her passion for wanting to make a difference in young lives and for the opportunity to inspire students to be the best they can be. “I wanted a way to give back and honor those teachers that meant so much to me when I was in school. I hope to instill a love for learning in all of the students I teach,” said Gilmor.   

Ms. Gilmor holds a Master’s Degree in early Childhood Education from the University of Phoenix, and received her Undergraduate Degree in Psychology and Sociology from Shorter College.

Gilmor has been married to her husband Kevin for twenty-five years. Together, they have one daughter, Addison, and a Havanese dog named Jasper.

Christy Smith:  Ms. Smith is a Kindergarten teacher at Fairmount Elementary School. Smith is currently in her twenty-fourth year teaching, twenty-one of which have been with Gordon County Schools.

“I am honored to represent Fairmount Elementary School. I work alongside many fantastic teachers and staff that have helped me to be a better teacher,” said Ms. Smith. “We have phenomenal individuals at FES that go above and beyond to foster relationships and meet the needs of the students in our ‘little school with a big heart.’”  

'Ms. Christy' as she is lovingly called by her students loves the excitement she witnesses on a child's face when they grasp the lesson they are learning or get the correct answer for the first time. "Through experiences like this, I am able to shape and. provide a positive classroom environment where students feel comfortable and motivated to learn," said. Ms. Smith.

In 2017, Smith was recognized for her devotion to her students when she received the Fairmount Elementary School Teacher of the Year title.

Ms. Smith holds an Educational Specialist degree in Administration and Supervision from Lincoln Memorial University, a Master’s Degree in Special Education from Georgia State University, and a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from Georgia Southern University.

Christy Smith and her husband of seventeen years, Gary, have been residents of Fairmount, GA for sixteen years. Together, they have three daughters, Kasie, Haley, and Emma, and one granddaughter, Wrenley Mae.

Neal Crawford: Mr. Crawford currently serves as a music educator at Gordon Central High School. He is in his thirty-seventh year of teaching, twenty-seven have been spent serving the students of Gordon County.

Mr. Crawford first pursued a career as an educator to share his love and passion of music with others. “I don’t teach music. I use music to teach the kids,” shared Crawford.

Upon being notified of this award from his peers at Gordon Central High, Crawford shared “I’m honored to be nominated by my peers. Gordon Central is full of quality teachers. I’m humbled to represent our school.”

Mr. Crawford hold a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Music Education from Jacksonville State University.

In his free time, Mr. Crawford enjoys spending time with his wife Marianne, his sons Bryan and Matt and his granddaughters Ruby and Addy. 

Brooke Cigainero: Ms. Cigainero has been teaching for eleven years. Her career first started in Tennessee where she taught second grade until she moved back to Georgia in 2017. Cigainero joined the Red Bud Elementary community in 2021 where she currently serves as a fifth grade Reading, ELA and Social Studies educator.

Ms. Cigainero was influenced throughout her life by the educators in her family who shared the love of educating students with her. Cigainero shared “the best part of my job are the students! Each year I strive to build a successful classroom community. When students feel loved and can see that you love your job, it creates strong long-lasting relationships. Every child has a story, and I feel it is my responsibility to know, value, and foster that story to ignite their love of learning.”

“I am humbled, grateful, and ecstatic to receive the 2023 Teacher of The Year Award for Red Bud Elementary School,” shared Ms. Cigainero. “This is an incredible honor that I feel has come after hard work and intentional dedication to children.”

Cigainero holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and Master’s Degree in Reading from the University of West Georgia.

In her free time, Cigainero enjoys spending time with her husband, Brian, their son, Stockton, and their two dogs, Hud and Gus. Together, they enjoy spending time outdoors on their farm and working with their cattle. Cigainero is extremely grateful for the support she has received from her husband throughout her career.

Jacqueline Cascio:  Ms. Cascio currently serves as an eighth-grade educator at Red Bud Middle School. Cascio is in her seventeenth year of teaching, two of which have been spent with Gordon County Schools.

Cascio first began to pursue a career as an educator with the hopes of sharing her love of learning with her students. “I wanted to pass the ‘flame’ of learning onto others, and, even if this sounds cheesy, make the world a slightly better place by building positive relationships with students and passing on scientific knowledge that could make the world a better place,” said Cascio. “I love working with young people and developing positive relationships with my students.  I am also a science nerd at heart, and my favorite day in the classroom is when we get to do laboratory investigations.”

Upon receiving the Teacher of the Year award, Cascio stated, “My school is a great place to work, and I hold my fellow teachers and their experience as educators in high esteem. The fact that I was chosen by my peers makes me feel so very honored.”

Cascio holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology degree and a Bachelor of Science in Science Education with an emphasis in Biology, both from the University of Georgia.

Ms. Cascio has been married to her husband Anthony for fifteen years. Together, they have two children, Sophia and Joseph.

Heidi Murphy: Ms. Murphy is an ESOL teacher at Sonoraville Elementary School. Murphy has been an educator for twenty-five years in the Gordon County Schools system.

Murphy has always had a love and passion for reading since her childhood. Chasing that passion, Ms. Murphy pursued a career in education to instill that same love in the students she interacted with. “I love to see children learn and the sense of wonder they bring to learning experiences,” said Murphy.

Ms. Murphy has a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and a Bachelor of Science Degree from Kennesaw State University.

In her free time, Ms. Murphy enjoys spending time with her husband, children, and grandchildren.

Carmelita Everett: Ms. Everett is a science teacher at Sonoraville High Schools. Everett has been an educator for fifteen years, all of which have been served at Sonoraville High.

Ms. Everett is known for being extremely passionate about her students and the classes she teaches, doing her best to intentionally excite her students to learn and participate in class. “I have created engaging lessons that bring in real-world investigations so that my students get hands-on experiences with Forensic Science.  We create mock crime scenes and study the different types of evidence,” said Everett.

“I am especially grateful for the opportunity to represent Sonoraville High School as Teacher of the Year,” said Everett. “It means the world to me that people at my school and in my community think that I deserve to be the Teacher of the Year. I work hard to bring the best to my students, and it is amazing to be recognized for doing so. I love what I do and I love going to work every day. Creating engaging lessons that make my students want to be in my class is my main goal. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve my school, my students, and my community.”

Everett has a degree in Middle Grades Education from North Georgia College. Ms. Everett has a son, Keegan, who is currently a senior at Sonoraville High.

Cathy Musacchio: Ms. Musacchio currently serves as a fourth-grade teacher at Tolbert Elementary. Her career as an educator began in 1993 in a small rural town in California. Musacchio moved to Georgia in 2007 and began teaching at Tolbert Elementary in 2015.

Ms. Musacchio is extremely passionate about engaging with her students, especially in mathematics. She also loves all the relationships that are a result of her service. “The students I teach make me laugh every day. You never know what they are going to say or do,” said Musacchio. “The people that I work with at Tolbert are amazing! They are all willing to do whatever it takes. When you have a support system like that, you feel like there is nothing you can’t do.”

Upon receiving the recognition, Musacchio stated, “Winning this award is still a bit surreal. To get nominated you need one person that thinks you’re a good teacher to put your name in the hat. But to win, that means several people think you’re a good teacher. My fellow nominees are amazing and being in the same category as them is such an honor.”

Musacchio holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from California State University of Bakersfield.

Musacchio and her husband, Nick, have been married since 2000. Together, they have two daughters, Alexis and Jaden. Alexis lives in Idaho and is a sonographer. Their youngest daughter, Jaden, is currently enrolled at the University of Georgia. In their free time, Nick and Ms. Musacchio, along with their dog Colby, like to go camping, ride side by sides, and bike.

India Bennett:  Ms. India Bennett currently serves as a fifth-grade educator at W.L. Swain Elementary. Bennett is currently in her nineteenth year of teaching, eleven of which have been spent with Gordon County Schools.

Bennett, known for being a dedicated teacher, is impassioned about the opportunity each day brings to instill a love of learning in her students. “This is a profession of the heart. There are long hours of preparing lessons, but all that hard work will shine when your students grow,” said Bennett.

Bennett discovered her love of teaching when she was in high school. “I found a love for working with students.  I was placed in a class called early childhood growth and development, which was also the daycare at Gordon Central High School.  After a few weeks of working with the three-year-old students, I knew that I was destined to be a teacher,” said Bennett. “I loved the feeling of watching the lightbulb light up, but most of all, I loved how it felt each day knowing they were excited to be in the class and ready to learn. The students depended on me and looked forward to what each day held for us, and it made my heart smile. From that moment on, there was only one profession for me - teaching.”

Bennett holds a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education degree from Kennesaw State University.

Ms. Bennett is married to her husband, Lane. Together, they one daughter, Laney Kate Bennett who is 11. Bennett is extremely thankful for her family, especially her husband, for always supporting her. “I couldn’t do what I love or be the teacher that I am without him.”


About Gordon County Schools
Gordon County Schools system serves approximately 6,500 students in schools across the county including six elementary schools, two middle schools, and two high schools. The mission of the Gordon County School system is to build a collaborative culture that engages all students and staff in learning experiences leading to growth, empowerment, and transformation. 

Contact at Gordon County Schools:
Kendra Pannell
Communications Coordinator
Email: kpannell@gcbe.org 
Phone: (706) 629-7366 ext. 8151 
Website: www.gcbe.org