10 | KNOW • Volume 15 Issue 2
The students appreciate his service, and
he’s honored during veteran-related
services at the school. Because of that, he
works hard to fold real-world scenarios into
“When you teach in a rural area, many kids
haven’t been to the next county, much less
the next state or another country,” he said.
“I advocate for teachers bringing the world
into their classroom to make the subject
come to life.”
For instance, Tibbetts worked in the
Pentagon in the early 2000s and was
stationed there during the World Trade
Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Part of his
duty that day was to contact staff members
to ensure they were safe and inform their
families. Many of today’s high school
students were toddlers then and have little
recollection of the significant day.
“The students only live in the aftermath of
9/11, and very few know about my role in
it,” he said. “I’m always pleasantly surprised
when a student shows appreciation on
Veterans Day or during a patriotic event
Part of that military training has boosted
Tibbetts’ natural leadership skills and ability
to work with students equally. He often sees
his high school students as the same age
as the soldiers he trained and treats them
with the same level of responsibility in
“In the Army, there’s no black, white or
red — just the green uniform,” he said.
“I don’t let preconceived prejudices get in
the way. Instead, we’re adults who respect
each other and work together.”
Tibbetts is also known at Worth County
High School for his hands-on simulations
that reflect economic principals. If the
cafeteria is filled with students showing off
paper cups, for example, everyone knows
it’s the Gross Domestic Product lesson. If
students are auctioning chocolate, his class
is learning about the effects of inflation.
If they’re creating paper footballs to sell,
the day’s lesson is about specialization and
division of labor.
“I really look forward to these days all year.
I save scrap paper so I have a whole box
ready to go,” he said. “You can do so much
to engage students with simulations, even
with pieces of paper.”
Tibbetts treasures his economics classes
for the connection to the “very fabric of our
daily lives.” Since the Worth County district
dictates that seniors take economics, he
often focuses lessons on understanding
budgets, investments, and government
regulations as they approach graduation.
By linking concepts to the students’
personal relevance, Tibbetts finds they
often pay more attention and find
connections to their own livelihoods.
“Tax increases and Congressional
budgets seem like mundane and
distant decisions for most Americans,
especially students,” he said. “Economics
provides an opportunity to show them
why their citizenship — and how their
vote — matters.”
Outside of the classroom, Tibbetts is a
Teacher Academy for Preparation and
Pedagogy mentor at Worth County High
School and is certified to be a wrestling
referee through the Georgia High School
Association. He also coaches middle school
soccer, is an avid gardener and cares for
25 chickens. His wife, Rhonda Garrett, is a
home health care nurse, and his two sons,
John and Ryan, are graduates of Georgia
Tibbetts often visits his father, G.W.
Tibbetts, for advice about teaching. G.W.,
who lives not far away in Tifton, served with
the Georgia Association of Educators as a
UniServ Director for 30 years and is now a
retired GAE member.
“John was with me at conventions and
helped me deliver membership materials in
the summers,” he said with a laugh.
“We sit down regularly and talk about
As Tibbetts carries on the family legacy
in education as Teacher of the Year this
fall, G.W. hopes his son will speak to
administrators as well. In particular, he
hopes the state will train administrators
how to handle new evaluations and
responsibilities handed down with new
statewide rules and regulations.
“His mother and I are very proud, as are
his five brothers and sisters,” he said.
“We always knew he was good, and we’re
looking forward to his year working on
behalf of public education.”
-Carolyn Crist is a writer based in Athens, Georgia.
IN THE ARMY, THERE’S
NO BLACK, WHITE
OR RED — JUST THE
I DON’T LET
PREJUDICES GET IN
THE WAY. INSTEAD,
EACH OTHER AND
- John Tibbetts