Amber Stewart - American Graduate Champion | American Graduate Champions | PBA30

Keeping Teachers in Classroom Main Objective of Atlanta Group

by Shelby Lin Erdman • MARCH 17, 2015

Video produced by Gordon Ray and Gary Lieberman

Every year thousands of teachers leave the profession. A federal study released last year found 17 percent of new public school teachers leave the classroom after just four years on the job. Some education experts believe the number is even higher.

That’s one of the reasons the Atlanta Families’ Awards for Excellence in Education, or AFAEE, works very hard to reward and retain good teachers.

On its website AFAEE lists a statistic that’s even more staggering, that in 2014 ”roughly half a million teachers left the field of education in the United States” and that 40 to 50 percent of new teachers “will leave the classroom within the first five years of their career.”

The success of a student hinges on the teacher that’s standing in front of that classroom and hinges on the school leader that’s running that school

Our “mission is to elevate the quality of public education by identifying excellent educators and then empowering them to expand their impact,” said AFAEE executive director Amber Stewart.

Under Stewart’s leadership, that’s exactly what AFAEE does and that’s why Amber Stewart is an American Graduate Champion.

Teaching young students is a hard job, often thankless and stressful. Teachers often feel overworked and underpaid, according to some education officials, but officials also say it’s a very rewarding and fulfilling career for dedicated teachers

“There is an invaluable impact that a great teacher has on a student,” Stewart explained to Public Broadcasting Atlanta during a recent interview. “Research supports that great teachers make a tremendous difference in the lives of children,” she continued.


The Atlanta Families’ Awards for Excellence recognizes and rewards top metro Atlanta educators every year with a grant as a way of showing them how much the community appreciates their hard work. The grant includes money for personal use, money for professional development and also money for a project of their choice.

“We have these excellent teachers who are remaining with children, therefore perfecting their craft, honing their best practices, and impacting students in a great way,” Stewart said.

“The success of a student hinges on the teacher that’s standing in front of that classroom and hinges on the school leader that’s running that school,” she added.

PBA's Atlanta Champions


Scott Allen

"He is such a dedicated teacher who says that he is awed by his students’ creativity and original thought."


Mouhammed Bah

"I think education brings more wealth to being successful than any other thing in life."


Travis Brown

"He just does everything he can to insure that when a student comes in his class he’s removed all barriers so that they can truly learn."


Atia Butts

"You always want to have the mindset of succeeding and if you know the people around you are not going down that path then do your best to be nice, be cordial, but distance yourself from those".

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Kim Bearden

"No child should ever be allowed to be invisible in a classroom."

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Barry Blackmon

"I use a lot of different methods and try to mix my own type of gumbo within the classroom, such as discipline and humor."


Meria Carstarphen

"We really want parents to help us get children in school, on time, every single day and that starts with getting up and making sure they can get out of the house on time, into the bus or walking to school."

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Ron Clark

"We’re trying to lift the spirits of our students so they’ll be excited and they’ll be eager to learn."


Megan Gilroy

"Health can still be fun. It doesn’t have to be this drudgery exercise in this terrible thing."


Dave Howland

"Literally every single grade a kid gets in high school has an impact on their future trajectory. So making sure that that’s a big piece, helps them stay on track to graduate."


Kesha Payne

"Every decision you make, keep students first. I say communicate clearly with parents and administrators. I say collaborate effectively with your colleagues and keep students top of mind."


Immanuel Reed

"When I was a kid, being a part of a program like this helped me tremendously, and I think that me doing the same thing for others, giving them chances, giving them the opportunity to make the best decisions, it’s full circle for me."


Dan Sims

"The hope is in the school house and we hold a primary place in inspiring kids to look beyond this time frame."


Amber Stewart

"The success of a student hinges on the teacher that’s standing in front of that classroom and hinges on the school leader that’s running that school."


Darryl Terry

"As a student in one of the most impoverished areas of Atlanta, I’ve always known that education is going to be my only way out."


Stuart Thorn

"We’ve been able to take the graduation rate for this cohort of kids up from probably what would have been in the neighborhood of five to 15 percent up to now above 85 percent."


Dennis Tolliver

"He captures his students’ attention and they hold on to every word that he says because they know what he gives will truly benefit their lives."

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Jayongela Wilder

"There is nothing more rewarding then seeing a kid that you taught graduate from college."