Barber makes strides in teaching, wins award



Barber received an award for Teacher of the Year by the Georgia Council Teachers of English

Hannah Silver

Many teachers cherish their time working, but to AP Literature teacher Susan Barber, she sees her job as more than just being an educator.

Barber has been a teacher for 21 years. The last five of those have been at Midtown. Recently, Barber was named Teacher of the Year by the Georgia Council Teachers of English (GCTE). Not all English teachers in Georgia are part of GCTE, but anyone can be. Teachers are nominated for the award and are required to submit items in various categories to be reviewed by a panel.

“I found out in October or November that I had won the award,” Barber said. “I got a call from Dr. Brenda Logan, who is in charge of the whole thing, and that’s how I found out. I’ve been put up to win this award in previous years, but it just hasn’t worked out because I was unable to go to the convention where the award is presented.”

Before coming to Midtown, Barber worked in a suburban school setting at Northgate High School. She says that coming to Midtown has opened her eyes to a different working experience.

“Midtown kids are great; it’s such a unique environment to work here,” Barber said. “The population is just so diverse in so many ways, and people are really celebrated here for their differences.”

Midtown English teacher Kate Carter, Barber’s colleague and friend, admires Barber’s work ethic, and how she has been able to learn from her.

“She makes me and everyone in the English department happier to be at school, and better at what we do,” Carter said. “She’s an incredible mentor, friend, and she’s taught me how to be as good as I can be for my students and myself.”

Outside of her traditional classroom environment, Barber hosts a teacher blog with a friend, has written a book on AP Literature and is the Student Government Association and Book Club sponsor.

“I share a blog with a friend from New York, who is also a teacher, and we send out a newsletter to English teachers [about 10,000 teachers] across the world every week,” Barber said. “Building community through this has been rewarding, and I also had the opportunity to write a book for Norton.”

Barber said her students and colleagues have played a large role in her experience as a teacher.

“Honestly, I’ve learned far more from my students, probably than they have from me, and same goes with what I’ve learned from my fellow staff members,” Barber said. “Our faculty here is amazing, but each is different in our own ways, and we all make each other better.

Senior Lily Morris loves the uniqueness of Barber’s classroom.

“I really like how she makes her lessons and lectures very interactive for her students,” Morris said. “It makes her classroom a much more positive environment and allows for us to really learn the material.”

Carter shared a classroom with Barber when Carter started at Midtown during the second semester of the 2019 school year, where she was able to learn from Barber’s example.

“I look up to her incredible career accomplishments and her joy for life,” Carter said. “She is so good at what she does, being able to share a classroom with her was probably the best thing that ever could’ve happened to me professionally.”

During the pandemic Barber was able to compile a series of videos alongside another AP Literature teacher to provide thorough review for students leading up to their AP exam. 

“The most meaningful opportunity that I had, happened during COVID,” Barber said. “I got a call from College Board pretty soon after the pandemic had just started, and they chose me and Carlos Escebar [a teacher in Miami] to make a series of 35 videos to essentially teach the rest of the AP course because everyone was just scrambling.”

The community that Barber found through this endeavor was one she will not forget.

“We knew in the beginning that this would be something that would impact people, what we didn’t really realize was that not only students were watching, but also English teachers, and it built something during a time when everyone felt isolated due to the pandemic,” Barber said. “These lessons were watched by hundreds of thousands of people, and we did this day-after-day for 35 days to make 35 videos.”

Compared to teachers that Morris has had in the past, she thinks that Barber is special and has a way of teaching and cultivating a welcoming classroom environment that students thrive in.

“I think that Ms. Barber definitely understands us better as students, and what it is like to be a student,” Morris said. “She is forgiving and understanding, but also can push us to be the best version of ourselves as people and as writers.”

Getting the award for Barber is less about the title, and more about the accomplishment.

“It’s nice to be recognized by your peers and other people in your profession,” Barber said. “Awards are interesting, too, because a lot of this award is about what I do in and out of my classroom, but honestly I feel like my colleagues that I work with and other teachers that I know across the state are equally as deserving of something like this as I am.”