Athens Drive’s First Year Teacher of the Year award 2022


Photos by Hannah Suehle

The poster for the First Year Teacher of the Year. The one presented to the teachers also includes their photo and name, to be hung in their classroom.

This year, the First Year Teacher of the Year award was given to Taylor Tippins, a history teacher, and Justin Reitz, who teaches special education. The awards, given to a first-year teacher at Athens who displayed exemplary work while at Athens, were presented to them both by Stephen Mares, Principal, alongside a blown-up poster, balloons and a small gift basket.

Mares with Taylor Tippins, after he presented the award to her on December 4th. Tippins was also nominated as a finalist for the county-wide award of the same title. (Photos by Taneshia Harris)

Taylor Tippins is a recent graduate from Appalachian State. She received a degree in secondary social studies, and student taught at a small college in Ashe County. She came to Athens Drive because of the draw of the Magnet Program.

My goals are to be the best teacher I can be and to create a positive classroom environment where students feel safe,” said Tippins.

Stephen Mares and Justin Reitz, after Mares presents the award. The award was presented to Reitz on December 4th. (Photos by Taneshia Harris)

Justin Reitz is a graduate of McDaniel College in Maryland, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History in 2009, and a Master in Science degree in Exercise Science and Physical Education, also from McDaniel College, in 2014. He completed a Residency Licensure program, allowing him to bypass student teaching altogether.  He was drawn to Athens for its reputation of having a tight-knit group of teachers. 

“Being recognized as [a] first-year teacher of the year means that even though I have had my tough moments, that I am in fact doing a good job and am helping to make a difference for my students,” said Reitz.

Both of these teachers have been nominated for a state-wide award for First Year Teacher of the Year for their accomplishments at Athens Drive, where Tippins became a finalist.