FORTSON, GA (OCTOBER 28, 2021) – The Harris County School District has announced the Teacher of the Year and Support Person of the Year.

District Teacher of the Year

New Mountain Hill Elementary’s (NMHE) Second-grade Teacher Jessica Burns has been selected as the District Teacher of the Year. Burns has been at NMHE for the past four years.  Prior to moving to Harris County, Burns taught for four years at Holly Springs Elementary School / STEM Academy in Cherokee County. Her enthusiasm for teaching and learning inspires her students and colleagues as well. 

 Principal Mark Gilreath said of this year’s honoree, “Our New Mountain Hill community is very blessed and fortunate to have an educator as outstanding as Mrs. Burns to represent us as our Teacher of the Year. We are all extremely excited for her and her latest accomplishment of being recognized as the District Teacher of the Year. She is very deserving of this recognition, and she will represent our school district with tremendous pride. She is passionate, enthusiastic, innovative, organized, and efficient when it comes to teaching. Students enjoy her classroom, and they are constantly engaged throughout her lessons. Mrs. Burns continuously incorporates STEAM concepts into her teaching to enhance her instruction and to ensure that her students are using critical thinking and problem-solving skills.”

 In addition to her classroom teaching, Burns also contributes to the success at NMHE in a variety of other ways including as grade level chair, Multi-Tiered Systems of Support co-chair, Local School Council member, STEAM Committee member, STEAM Club coordinator, and STEAM Competition chair. 

 Gilreath added, “Burns simply enjoys having a positive and meaningful impact on students and she is willing to do whatever it takes daily to make sure that happens. We are so thankful that she is making that impact within our Harris County community.”


The District Teacher of the Year represents Harris County in the selection process for the Georgia Teacher of the Year. The teacher selected for that role is then part of the selection process for the National Teacher of the Year.

District Support Person of the Year
The Support Person of the Year for the district is Shannon Cotton of Mulberry Creek Elementary (MCE). After having two children to attend MCE, she served as a substitute teacher. Then, Cotton became a fourth-grade paraprofessional, which she has done for six years.

 MCE Principal Amy Allen shared, “We so appreciate Mrs. Cotton’s willingness to help not only her class but the entire grade-level and school. She is very involved with their STEAM projects. She’s very proactive to help anyone – adults and children – across the school.” Allen shared that the nominations included comments such as, “she always has a smile on her face,” “she always has a positive attitude,” and “she is always willing to help someone in need.” Allen added, “We are so happy to have her on our team and for her to be recognized for all that she does for our MCE family.”

The teacher and support person nominated from each school were recognized at the 50-yard line during a recent home football game at Tiger Stadium. The honorees included (Teacher of the Year/Support Person of the Year):

Harris County High School – Kathy Bolar/Connie Wright

Harris County Carver Middle School – Kimberly Acosta/Cynthia Silvers

Creekside Intermediate School – Tammela Fulleton/Lora Carter

Mulberry Creek Elementary School – Alicia Lisle/Shannon Cotton

New Mountain Hill Elementary School – Jessica Burns/Lori Jodts

Park Elementary School – Katrina McClung/Sharon Thompson

Pine Ridge Elementary School – Paige Dunn/Tammy Patterson


The Harris County School District is in Hamilton, Ga. For more information, visit www.harris.k12.ga.us or call 706-628-4206.

Pictured (left to right):

Photo 1: Jessica Burns (District Teacher of the Year) and Shannon Cotton, District Support Person of the Year)

Photo 2: Kathy Bolar, Connie Wright, Kimberly Acosta, Cynthia Silvers, Tammela Fulleton, Lora Carter, Paige Dunn, Katrina McClung, Sharon Thompson, Jessica Burns, Lori Jodts, Alicia Lisle, Shannon Cotton

Not pictured: Tammy Patterson

Photo 3:Shannon Cotton, Alicia Lisle, Lori Jodts, Jessica Burns, Sharon Thompson, Katrina McClung, Paige Dunn, Lora Carter, Tammela Fulleton, Cynthia Silvers, Kimberly Acosta, Connie Wright, Kathy Bolar