Society of Mary USA, Marist Ministries Society of Mary, Marists in the USA, Roman Catholic Priests, Brothers, and Laity

Reach Teacher Named 2014 Distinguished Educator of the Year

On May 2, Reach for Excellence language arts teacher Lesley McClendon was honored at the State Capitol with the 2014 Distinguished Educator of the Year Award by the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust.

In addition to teaching at Reach for Excellence for the past seven years, Ms. McClendon is a language arts special education teacher at Shiloh Middle School in Snellville.
Reach Teacher Named 2014 Distinuished Educator of the Year
(left to right): Mr. Jay Barbour, Assistant Principal at Shiloh Middle School; Ms. Lesley McClendon (center), 2014 Distinguished Educator of the Year by the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust; and Mrs. Karen Dessables, Executive Director, Reach for Excellence

As a language arts teacher, Ms. McClendon incorporates lessons of the Holocaust into her curriculum and exposes students to the horrible reality of this tragic time in our history. At Reach, she has brought the subject matter to life by complementing classroom instruction with visits to The Anne Frank in the World Exhibit and The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, and she has incorporated participation in the Holocaust Learning Trunk Project into her lesson plans.

Ms. McClendon connected students through private lectures to Holocaust survivor Mr. Benjamin Hirsch and Dr. Perry Brickman, an Atlanta oral surgeon who uncovered a history of anti-Semitism at Emory University Dental School during the period 1948-1961. These distinguished guests shared their personal stories and left lasting impressions that Reach students refer to as some of their most memorable experiences during their three years in the program.

Ms. McClendon's passion reaches beyond the walls of the classroom, exposing her students to meaningful lessons that have been transformational in their lives. Her monumental efforts to inform students about the Holocaust and issues connected to anti-Semitism embody an innate desire to make education a catalyst for preventing the repetition of our past's tragic injustices against humanity. Fittingly, Ms. McClendon's award is inscribed with a quote from Benjamin Franklin: "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."

Reach for Excellence was founded by the Society of Mary and is hosted at Marist School in Atlanta, Georgia. The program began in 2001, the 100-year anniversary of Marist School, as an extension of the Society of Mary's values and mission to provide educational enrichment to those who may not otherwise have access to it. Though it is hosted by Marist School, Reach is an independent 501(c)(3) that is responsible for its own funding and is governed by its own board of directors.

Learn more about Reach for Excellence