Superintendent Surprises Three Teachers as 2023 District-Level Teachers of the Year

2023 TOTY

Around the District this week, teachers were returning to their classrooms to prepare for the 2023-24 school year. For three of those teachers, this day will be remembered for a long time to come. Superintendent Chris Ragsdale surprised them with the news that they are the 2023 Cobb Schools Teachers of the Year (TOTY) for elementary, middle, and high school. The District-Level TOTY winners are Dr. Elizabeth Goff at Bells Ferry Elementary, Annelisa Bellack at Awtrey Middle School, and Suzette Spinelli at Lassiter High School.

"This is one of my favorite days of the school year," said Superintendent Ragsdale. "I always look forward to welcoming our teachers back and recognizing the outstanding educators who make Cobb Schools the best place to teach, lead, and learn."

At Lassiter, 48-year teaching veteran Suzette Spinelli was at a loss for words when the Superintendent told her the exciting news. "This was the last thing I expected today," the high school art teacher said. "It's just surreal to me."

Ms. Spinelli has been selected before as TOTY at both Simpson and Daniell Middle Schools, but this is her first selection as a District-Level winner. She has been teaching in Cobb Schools since 1983 and loves being at Lassiter. 

"Lassiter is where I found my home," she said with a smile. "The administration is great because they support us and make sure all the students excel. They make them go higher, and that's what I promote in my classroom. I make them go to higher levels, even though they're not comfortable there."


Great teachers run in the Spinelli family. Chalker Elementary's TOTY in 2022 was Cara Smith, Ms. Spinelli's daughter. "We thought it would be great for us to be Teachers of the Year at the same time. She won last year, so we missed by a year, but that's okay," she said with a smile.

At Awtrey, Annelisa Bellack also had close ties with a District-Level winner. Derrick Tucker, a social studies teacher at Awtrey, was the Middle School TOTY in 2022. "I worked with Derek, and the two of us have been in the trenches for a while, and we were a great team," Ms. Bellack said.

Ms. Bellack loves being a teacher, and she loves teaching in Cobb. "I love the people here," she said. "I love that Cobb invests in the teachers. I love all the different ways Cobb supports us."


Regarding her favorite moments of being an educator, Ms. Bellack reflected on the long-term aspect of her job. "I love the a-ha moment when kids get it. I love the critical thinking. I love the skills that they come away with. I love seeing them out in public later on and seeing how they've grown up and how they've changed, how it comes full circle. It's such a neat thing to be able to see kids grow."

The Elementary TOTY was shocked when Superintendent Ragsdale made the announcement at Bells Ferry. "It was hard to think straight," Dr. Goff said after the excitement began to settle. "I was very surprised and honored to look out and see the faces of my peers smiling and clapping for me. It was the greatest honor. I'm so grateful to be working with such amazing people."


Dr. Goff and all her amazing colleagues at Bells Ferry were busy working hard in the building and their classrooms in preparation for another school year and new names and faces. "This is what I look forward to every year, seeing my students. I can't wait to see them. I want to do everything I can to make sure that they are learning, they are cared for, and that they're ready to do their best," said the Elementary TOTY with joy in her voice.

Congratulations to this year's District-Level TOTY! Your dedication and perseverance are inspiring examples to all of us in Cobb Schools. Well done!