The American Cancer Society says that one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. The stage at which breast cancer is detected influences a woman's chance of survival. If detected early, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent.1

3D mammography is an advanced, clinically proven screening and diagnostic tool designed for early breast cancer detection.

With conventional digital mammography, the radiologist is viewing all the complexities of the breast in one image. Sometimes breast tissue can overlap, giving the illusion of an abnormal area, or hide a small cancer.

During the 3D mammogram, the X-ray arm sweeps over the breast taking multiple low dose images. Then, a computer produces a 3D image in one millimeter slices, decreasing tissue overlap. With the new C-View™ software, the 3D data is used to create the 2D images, eliminating the need for an additional X-ray exposure.

Researchers are finding that Hologic breast tomosynthesis combined with 2D mammography provides:

  • Greater than 25 percent improvement in overall cancer detection rates, finding 40 percent more invasive cancers than conventional 2D mammography alone.3-5
  • Better visualization of masses, distortions and asymmetric densities.6
  • Significant reduction in recall rates by up to 40 percent. 5,7
  • Lower dose and faster 3D mammography through C-View™ software, which uses 3D data to create 2D images, eliminating the 2D X-ray exposure and shorting the exam scan time.



What should I expect during the 3D mammography screening exam?

3D mammography is performed at the same time as the 2D mammogram with the same system. There is no additional compression required and the exam time may be just about the same or shorter than a 2D exam.

Is there more radiation dose?

With the lower dose 3D mammography, very low X-ray energy is used during the exam, just about the same as a standard 2D digital mammogram, and lower than a traditional film mammogram.

Who can have a 3D mammogram exam?

It is approved for all women who would be undergoing a standard mammogram, in both the screening and diagnostic settings.

MammogramWhat is the difference between a screening and a diagnostic mammogram?

A screening mammogram is your annual mammogram that is done every year. Sometimes the radiologist may ask you to come back for follow-up images, called a diagnostic mammogram, to rule out an unclear area in the breast or if there is a breast complaint that needs to be evaluated. Diagnostic mammogram focuses on the area of abnormality or the area of complaint. It is important to have the original images available if you go to a different facility for your follow-up exam.
Please call Diagnostic Radiology Ultrasound & Breast Center at (404) 252-3430 to schedule your lower dose 3D mammogram.



1 Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2011, American Cancer Society. 2 Rafferty E, Park J, Philpotts L, et al. "Assessing Radiologist Performance Using Combined Digital Mammography and Breast Tomosynthesis Compared with Digital Mammography Alone: Results of a Multicenter, Multireader Trial." Radiology. 2013 Jan; 266(1):104-13. Epub 2012 Nov 20. 3 Skaane P, Bandos A, Gullien R, et al. "Comparison of Digital Mammography Alone and Digital Mammography Plus Tomosynthesis in a Population-based Screening Program." Radiology. 2013 Apr; 267(1):47-56. Epub 2013 Jan 7. 4 Ciatto S, Houssami N, Bernardi D, et al. "Integration of 3D Digital Mammography with Tomosynthesis for Population Breast-Cancer Screening (STORM): A Prospective Comparison Study" The Lancet Oncology. Epub 2013 Apr 25. 5 Rose S, Tidwell A, Bujnock L, et al. "Implementation of Breast Tomosynthesis in a Routine Screening Practice: An Observational Study." American Journal of Roentengenology. 2013 Jun; 200(6): 1401-1408. Epub 2013 May 22. 6 Zuley M, Bandos A, Ganott M, et al. "Digital Breast Tomosynthesis versus Supplemental Diagnostic Mammographic Views for Evaluation of Noncalcified Breast Lesions." Radiology. 2013 Jan; 266(1):89-95. Epub 2012 Nov 9. 7 Conant E, Gavenonis S, Weinstein S, et al. "Early Implementation of Digital Breast Tomosynthesis: Comparison of Call-back and Cancer Detection Rates in a Clinical Screening Practice." (paper presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, Chicago, Il, November 2012).


Carolyn G. Dudley, MD
Diagnostic Radiology Ultrasound & Breast Center

Carolyn G. Dudley has over 30 years' experience in breast imaging. She attended Bryn Mawr College, Howard University and completed her Diagnostic Radiology residency at Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital in Pontiac, Michigan. She is board certified by the American Board of Radiology and is a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) Honor Medical Society.

Dr. Dudley was one of the pioneers in developing techniques to diagnose breast cancer utilizing MRI. Presently, she has a private practice in Atlanta, Georgia where she offers patients a wide range of outpatient diagnostic services in a convenient and patient-friendly environment. Her practice is the first non-hospital facility in Georgia to offer the latest advancement in mammography: 3D Mammography (breast tomosynthesis). In addition, Dr. Dudley provides 2D Digital Mammography, bone densitometry and ultrasound utilizing the most up-to-date technology available.



Q: What is the first thing you look for to recognize the wrong size?

A: The band of the bra is the sole of the fit, so that's the first thing we check. 85% of women are wearing a bra that is two bands too big and two cups too small. Since the band is the most important piece we always start there.

Q: How do you ensure that each of your customers get the perfect fitting bra?

A: Each of our bra fitters has an eye for the perfect fit. We allow our customers to try on different bra option during their fitting, giving them lots of styles to try on, and explaining to them why each style is important to their bra wardrobe. 85% of women are wearing the incorrect bra size; most are wearing two bands too big and two cups too small. We take the time during a fitting to provide an education about bra fit and breast health, answering the questions women always wondered but never thought to ask. We leave our clients with all of the knowledge that we have, understanding the fit, the importance of breast health, and why the bras they purchased are going to change the way they feel in their daily lives.

Q: Why do you think a correctly fitting bra is so important?

A: A proper fitting bra is so important for many reasons. The first and most important is general breast health. Outside of the health benefits, it also makes women look good and feel good in what they're wearing. It boosts self-esteem and makes them feel comfortable and confident in their own skin. As we always say, you change your bra, you change your life, and we truly believe in that.

Q: Do you think that an ill-fitting bra can lead to health issues?

A: Yes, an ill-fitting bra can definitely have a negative effect on you. When a bra does not fit correctly, women carry extra pressure in their shoulders, causing indentations, neck pain, and back pain and in the long term, the Dillinger's hump. If the wire rests on the breast tissue instead of flat against the rib cage, that pressure can also cause calcification of the cells within the breast tissue.

Q: How does the "Virtual Fit" on your website work?

A: Virtual Fit is a revolutionary process! We have created a way to bring our unique bra fitting technique to women all around the world from the comforts of their own home! We use Skype to reach women no matter where they are, and give them a personalized bra fitting experience. Following the fitting, our virtual fitters will walk their client through the online shopping process, helping them to navigate the site and show them what styles and products will work best for them. The fitters pass on their product knowledge and teach their clients what they need to know about bra fit and breast health, making sure they leave with some of what they want, and most of what they need.

Q: What can a woman do to extend the life of her bra?
A: There are a few things we suggest in order to keep those bras going! One of our first suggestions is to rotate through bras on a daily basis. We suggest wearing a bra every other day. Another way to extend the life of a bra is to use the right detergent. We suggest washing bras by hand or on a gentle cycle in cold water with a mild lingerie detergent. Always hang bras from the center or lay them flat to dry, never put them in the dryer or hang them by the strap.

Q: How many bras should the average woman have?
A: We suggest that each woman start their bra collection with four bras and build to seven within the span of a year. This is necessary to maintain a healthy bra wardrobe and extend the life of all of your bras.

Best-Self-Mag-Gift-Card-ButtonQ: What inspired you to start LiviRae Lingerie?
A: When we first got into the lingerie business, we worked for a company that catered to a specific type of women. Our hearts were hurting for the women we had to turn away because we didn't have product that suited their needs. We decided to create a place where we could carry bras for everybody with every body! With that, LiviRae Lingerie was created as a judgment free zone for women to come, find the products that they need and leave feeling beautiful, confident and of course lifted and gifted in their brand new bras! As our tag line states "No Bust Too Big Or Small, We Fit 'Em All" and we do just that!


LiviRae Lingerie's Double Divas

Founded by Molly Hopkins & Cynthia Decker in 2006, LiviRae Lingerie is a place where women of all shapes and sizes can shop for gorgeous lingerie in a judgment free zone. Their primary mission is to help women at any age, receive the proper education about bra fit. Carrying bra sizes from 28A – 50N, LiviRae Lingerie fits everybody with every body! Their tag line says it all, "No Bust Too Big or Small, We Fit 'Em All" ...and they do just that!

LiviRae Lingerie is located in Kennesaw, Georgia and provides a lingerie experience that helps women feel confident and comfortable through their entire shopping experience. LiviRae Lingerie specializes in bra fitting, custom lingerie, plus size bras and specialty products such as augmentation and mastectomy bras.

The ladies of LiviRae love what they do because of the difference that they are able to make in women's lives. "We believe we have a God given talent to bra fit women, and we love nothing more than to use that talent every day!"

– Molly & Cynthia


Gestational diabetes is a condition that affects eight percent of all pregnant women. There are generally no symptoms. Therefore, it is usually diagnosed as part of a screening test that measures your blood glucose levels. This test is performed on all pregnant women between 24 - 28 weeks.

For some women, this will be the first time they will be educated regarding this condition.

This is an important first step in their preventive health care planning because having gestational diabetes means an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime.

It is extremely important that you follow your doctor's advice regarding blood glucose level control while you are pregnant to ensure a healthy pregnancy and outcome for you and your baby.



Although the exact cause of gestational diabetes is unknown, it is believed that placental hormones, most notably Human Placental Lactogen, which peaks in mid pregnancy, creates a condition of insulin resistance, thereby making it hard for your body to produce and use the insulin it needs. When there is insufficient insulin, the blood glucose levels rise, and can cause problems with both mother and the unborn child.

The extra glucose crosses the placenta to the fetus, causing macrosomia (very large babies). This increases the risk of prolonged labor, C-sections, shoulder dystocia (an obstetrical emergency) and birth trauma. Metabolic problems that require close monitoring of the newborn are also more common. Additionally, the children born from mothers having gestational diabetes during pregnancy are also at risk for developing obesity and all of the medical conditions that accompany this condition.



The good news is that gestational diabetes can be easily diagnosed and treated, ensuring a healthy pregnancy and a wonderful outcome.

This is one of the reasons it is critically important that all women receive the proper preconception counseling as part of their women's wellness visit to see if they are at risk for gestational diabetes. Based on their history and that of their family, proper counseling can lead to prevention and early detection, which both play an important role in minimizing the impact on mother and child.

It is important to note that although recent public health guidelines suggest that Pap smears may only need to be performed every two years, they fail to convey the importance of continuing your yearly women's wellness visit. The yearly wellness check allows for your provider to screen for other conditions, do a thorough breast exam(breast cancer affects one out of seven women and early detection is key), a pelvic check for abnormal masses (a possible indicator of uterine or ovarian tumors), provide family planning advice and preconception counseling.

At Innovative, our mission is to empower women by informing, providing resources and support, thereby enabling them to make choices that will have a positive and lifelong impact on their health and that of their families and communities.

For more information on women's health issues and the women's health services we provide, please visit our website at www


Melinda Miller-Thrasher, MD, FACOG
Innovative Women's HealthCare Solutions (IWHCS)

Buckhead, Midtown, and Smyrna/Vinings

Melinda Miller Thrasher is a native of NYC and attended Cornell University, Mt. Sinai and NYU for her residency training. Her expertise includes fibroids and minimally invasive surgical procedures to treat fibroids. She is on staff at Emory University Hospital and Piedmont Hospital. Dr. Miller-Thrasher has been selected as one of Atlanta's Top Doctors each year since 2009 as listed in Atlanta Magazine, one of the Gynecologists You Love (Essence Magazine) and she is a Patients' Choice Award recipient. She is also a member of the WebMD medical review board. Her new book, "The Innovative Women's Guide To Managing Fibroids Without Hysterectomy" will be available in late 2014.



As time begins to change the face, tight necks and well defined jawlines are replaced with marionette lines, jowls and fullness in the neck. As this process unfolds, bright, youthful faces often become tired and grumpy looking. A facelift is the procedure that helps to lift the neck and cheek area restoring the youthful features back to the face. I typically see two groups of patients for facelifts. The first group often has a strong family history of double chins. These patients are usually in their late 30s to early 40s, and elect to have the lift so it is a more subtle change, but they get to enjoy it longer. The second group is usually in the 50-80+ year-old range. With these patients, the facial skin has relaxed significantly and the results are more dramatic.

The best way to understand the aging of the face is to think of the face as having several layers, similar to a cake. The aging process not only affects the outer skin layer, but the underlying fat, muscle and bone layers. Every face is unique to start with, and ages differently. Therefore, every facelift should be customized to help restore that individual's natural look.

Over the years, different types of facelifts evolved to address different features of the aging face. Some practitioners muddy the water for patients by creating cute marketing names for their procedure. Often, the more aggressive lifts lead to an unnatural, pulled look. As an educator, I explain to patients why their face is aging and propose appropriate options to help them achieve a natural look.

Because loss of volume is also a factor in making the face look hollow and older, the facelift procedure is commonly combined with fat transfer to help restore the youthful contours to the face. Patients should make certain that a facelift procedure is performed in a fully licensed and accredited facility with board-certified anesthesiologists. Recovery for most facelifts is about a week. Depending on heredity and skin type, the results of most facelifts are generally still being enjoyed
10-15 years later.


RiceL00Q & A with Dr. Maloney

I chose to specialize in surgery and rejuvenation of the face and neck. As a result, in my 27 years of practice, I have performed thousands of facelifts. I have detailed some of the advances of my cosmetic procedures in over 80 book chapters and articles which I have authored. I have also taught facelift courses across the country and internationally.

There are lots of great options to explore. Everything from fillers to liposuction and ThermiRF can help to restore a more youthful look – right in the office. During consultation, we will discuss your goals and use computer imaging to illustrate potential outcomes. We will work together to find the right "fit" specifically for you.


The "Beauty" of Giving Back
Dr. Maloney, and each member of his Maloney Center team, is committed to treating patients as "family." Patients from all over the world come to see Dr. Maloney because of his artistry and genuine compassion. It's a culture of caring that naturally spills over into the Atlanta community. Each year, The Maloney Center is pleased to host Charity Days to benefit local, Atlanta organizations.


Dr. Maloney is an award-winning, internationally recognized, double board certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon.  He is the founder of the world-renowned Maloney Center for Facial Plastic Surgery located in Atlanta.  Dr. Maloney is a National Trainer for Allergan, the maker of Botox Cosmetic,® Juvederm,® Voluma,® and Latisse.®  He instructs doctors from all over the world on the latest facial cosmetic surgery procedures and has been regularly featured in national media including Discovery Health, The Learning Channel, CNN Headline News, ABC News and more.


Friday, 24 October 2014 17:35

Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy



As we age and begin to approach mid-life, men and women often find themselves thinking about hormone therapy and whether it is the right thing for them to do. While traditional methods of hormone replacement have been shown to increase your risk for certain types of cancer and heart disease, there are more natural options available to you. Many people are choosing to take a more natural approach to hormone health through bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, or BHRT.
BHRT offers patients who are looking for relief from their imbalanced hormones a more natural option and none of the synthetics that are found in traditional hormone therapy.


Bioidentical Hormones Defined

Bioidentical hormones are created to replicate the chemical structure of hormones in your body and come from naturally occurring sources, such as yams and soy. Specialized compounding pharmacists can determine your current hormone level and then create a bioidentical hormone regime that fits with your body and needs. Large pharmaceutical companies are unable to patent bioidentical hormones due to the fact that each patient's regimen is customized. When going through menopause or andropause, bioidentical hormones can be more appealing to patients because they are derived naturally and the body can metabolize them safely.


BHRT at BodyLogicMD

At BodyLogicMD, Dr. Donohue will assess your hormone imbalance symptoms to decide if you are an appropriate candidate for BHRT. Services for BHRT include a comprehensive review of symptoms, medical, family and personal history, accurate testing: saliva, urine and/or blood laboratory analysis, ongoing evaluations with a highly-trained physician, natural hormone balancing using bioidentical hormones, a customized fitness program, stress reduction plans and nutrition planning.
Common Hormone Imbalance Symptoms

coupleFor women:

  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Weight gain
  • Mood swings

For men:

  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Loss of energy
  • Poor mental focus
  • Weight gain


Dr. Jeff Donohue


Jeffrey A. Donohue, M.D., is the leading provider of BHRT in the Greater Atlanta Metro area. He is a member of the American Academy for Anti-Aging Medicine and has completed the fellowship in Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine.

Dr. Donohue earned his medical degree from Louisiana State University (LSU) in 1992 and completed his residency in Family Practice at the University of Alabama College of Community Health Services in 1995. Dr. Donohue received the Resident Excellence in Teaching Award in 1994 and was the Chief Resident in 1994-1995. He was Board Certified as a Diplomate by the American Board of Family Practice in 1995.

Board Certifications, Associations and Training:

  • Member of BodyLogicMD, a national network of highly trained physicians specializing in Natural Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT)
  • Member of the American Academy for Anti-Aging Medicine
  • Extensive training in anti-aging provided by the fellowship in Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine
  • AMA Board Certified Family Practice
  • Board Certified in ABOM American Board of Obesity Medicine
  • Board Certified in Regenerative and Functional Medicine


BodyLogicMD of Atlanta

2941 Piedmont Rd. NE, Suite C | Atlanta, GA 30305
Phone: (404) 334-5781 |

Twenty-nine million—that is the number of Americans living with diabetes, and more than eight million of them don't even know it, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Chances are you have a family member who is diabetic, and those chances are multiplied if you are a minority.

So, what exactly is this disease diagnosed in nearly two million adults each year? Diabetes develops when there are abnormally high glucose or sugar levels in the blood, and it can lead to heart disease, blindness, amputations, and even death when not managed properly. But research has produced promising findings—a healthy lifestyle can cut your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for an estimated 90 percent of diabetes cases.

Educate yourself about diabetes, its risk factors and the preventive measures you can take today to avoid a troubling diagnosis later in life.

How does diabetes affect the body?

Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are the most common forms of the disease. Your body naturally produces insulin to regulate the blood glucose level. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin. The condition, which is treated with insulin supplements, is prevalent among children and teens. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body cannot respond normally to the insulin it produces.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Contact your doctor if you are experiencing one or more of the following symptoms:

  • frequent urination
  • excessive thirst
  • unexplained weight loss
  • extreme hunger
  • extreme fatigue
  • irritability
  • blurry vision

doctorconsultWhat are the risk factors for diabetes, and how can I lower my risk of developing the disease?

A family history of diabetes increases your risk of developing both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. While it is unclear how to prevent Type 1 diabetes, research shows that obesity is a leading risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. Lower your risk by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.

If I have diabetes, what steps can I take to manage it properly?

  • Keep your blood sugar (glucose) levels well controlled. Test your blood sugar to be sure it is in the target range set by you and your doctor. Take blood sugar medication as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Ask your doctor if you should take low-dose aspirin along with cholesterol or blood pressure medicine to help prevent heart attack and stroke.
  • Eat a healthy diet. The right nutrition is key to preventing and managing diabetes.
  • Stay or become more physically active. Try walking for 30 minutes at least five days a week. If you're overweight, losing as little as seven to 15 pounds can make a big difference in your health.


Richard Ellin, M.D.
Kaiser Permanente Alpharetta Medical Office

Dr. Richard Ellin is board-certified in internal medicine and practices at the Kaiser Permanente Alpharetta Medical Office. He completed medical school and his residency at Emory University. Read more about Dr. Ellin at

Did you know that Kaiser Permanente offers free healthy living classes to the public? If you have been told you have pre-diabetes or a family history of diabetes and want to learn your risks, register for our Preventing Diabetes class. This one-session class will help you understand what puts you at risk and how to take control of your future.

Visit for details or call 404-364-7117 and leave a message.


The Scoop on LLLT

Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is a non-surgical option for those with hair loss or thinning hair. A form of phototherapy, LLLT is a treatment option that can help stabilize hair loss. Clinical studies have shown that LLLT can halt the progression of hair loss, stimulate hair growth and give a patient thicker, stronger hair shafts. The treatment has also led to re-growth of hair follicles in many patients. LLLT is ideal for those who do not require surgery, or are experience thinning hair or hair loss. It is also suggested that LLLT be combined with other treatments, such as topical solutions, prescription medications and even hair transplants. Dr. Anderson often recommends that his patients get LLLT for additional stimulation after hair surgery to provide maintenance to the hair that has been transplanted and to help strengthen and help the
re-growth speed up. 

Hair Restoration and LLLT

LLLT has been around since the 1960s and was used to treat varied medical conditions in a number of different medical fields. It has now been accepted as a treatment for hair loss by hair restoration surgeons. After doing extensive research on laser light therapy, Dr. Anderson believes that the Capillus272 laser cap device is the most effective treatment that will offer his patients the long-term benefits they are looking for.

HairGuyThe Results

When applied to the patients scalps, LLLT has been shown to:

  • Increase cell metabolism and improve the health of blood vessels in the scalp that will help the patients have thicker, supple, and more resilient hair.
  • Halt the progression of hair loss.
  • In some cases, encourage the re-growth of hair.
  • Promote distribution of nutrients and oxygen to the hair roots.
  • Increase melanin production in hair follicles, sometimes darkening gray hairs.
  • Stimulate the glands for hair that looks silkier.


Dr. Anderson
Anderson Hair Sciences Center

Ken Anderson, MD, is the founder and Chief of Surgery at the Anderson Hair Sciences Center. Dr. Anderson is a double-board facial plastic surgeon who has devoted his practice to the the treatment of hair loss in men and women for over 10 years. He is a welcoming and friendly physician who has designed the Anderson Hair Sciences Center around giving his patients the most natural and permanent hair restoration results.

He is a highly experienced surgeon, and an internationally prominent educator in the field of hair restoration surgery. He has spoken to audiences in several countries, and across the United States. He received his medical degree with honors from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 1996. Following medical school, he completed seven years of specialty surgical training after receiving his medical degree, including a residency in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (ENT surgery) and a fellowship in Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Michigan Medical Center. In 2003, he joined a busy hair restoration practice in Beverly Hills, California, and also the staff at the UCLA School of Medicine. In 2008, Dr. Anderson was recruited by EMORY Healthcare to be their Hair Restoration Specialist. He held that position at EMORY until 2012, when he returned to private practice and founded the Anderson Hair
Sciences Center.


Refreshing. Flavorful. An Atlanta summer staple. These might be the descriptions that come to mind when someone mentions "King of Pops," but when Best Self Atlanta sat down with Steven Carse, the company's creator, we discovered there's even more to the product than that. In addition to being tasty treats, King of Pops products are local, sustainable and help reduce food waste.

Carse says his inspiration struck when he visited his older brother, an anthropologist doing field work in Latin America. "The model there is pretty ingenious," he says. Farmers take their produce to market, but not all of it sells. Instead of letting the food (and their potential earnings) go to waste, the farmers make the leftover fruit into popsicles called paletas. "That was something that just really made a lot of sense to me," Carse explains, citing that not only does the practice extend the life of the food, but it also creates another valuable product from a local source. But Carse had a typical 9 to 5 job at AIG, so it seemed unlikely that he would be able to bring the paletas concept to America.

WILLETT BESTSELF KINGOFPOPS-0089Sometimes the push you need comes in a pink package. Well, a pink slip, to be exact. In 2009, Carse was laid off. He says at that point, "I didn't really feel like I had anything to lose." Without a spouse or kids to consider, he dove head first into this idea that had been on his mental back burner since that family trip. "That winter, I made a ton of pops. I don't even really remember [the flavors]. I was trying every single thing I could consider and forcing it down people's throats," he jokes.
Beyond the "making pops" part of the process, though, he didn't have a grand plan. "I envisioned sitting there every day, just at North Highland and North Avenue, having a small following and someone eventually to help me in the kitchen." But the hope of laid back days was soon eclipsed by long, busy hours, thanks to overwhelming consumer demand. "It kind of took off fast," Carse admits modestly.

Soon, he asked his brother to come on board. Since his brother was leaving a lucrative law career, they made it a point to crunch the numbers and confirm that this popular idea could really be a successful business. Having a family member for a partner, Carse says, "has only been good. We have very complementary skill sets. We can be honest with each other and have each other's best interests in mind." Soon it was in the whole family's best interest to be a part of the business: now Carse's mother and father are on board. "It is kind of a family affair," Carse says. "We haven't had any bad experiences yet."

These days, Carse's vision of selling pops from one cart has expanded to six cities outside of Atlanta, with 25 carts in Atlanta alone. Originally, he reveals, "We thought the cart was going to be a very, very small part of our business. We were going to open up a shop." After putting the product out there, Carse says, he got feedback that encouraged them to change their original idea, leading to the cart-centered King of Pops Atlanta knows and loves today. "I don't think our business would have been the same if we hadn't just run with it the way we did."

WILLETT BESTSELF KINGOFPOPS-0076That attitude of adaptation serves Carse well in the off season, too. Naturally, pop sales drop off in the winter months, but instead of slowing down, the company just shifts gears. In recent years, their initiative called Tree Elves has provided a way for the team to stay busy while providing another sustainable service to Atlanta: delivering live, potted Christmas trees to Atlanta homes and then replanting them at the end of the season. This winter, Carse adds, "We're also toying around with a high-end chocolate bar for the holidays."

Even as he branches out, Carse also prioritizes staying true to the inspiration: local, sustainable ingredients for his pops. To that end, they recently purchased 68 acres of farmland west of Atlanta, near Douglasville. "The plan is to get more serious about local than we already are. We'll have bees for honey, and we will be doing our own compost. We'll be starting with berries, herbs and melons." They also want to further invest in their relationships with local farmers, emphasizing the method of using pops to preserve ingredients that would otherwise go to waste. "If these guys have extra fruit, we want to become the person that they will call."

At the end of the day, Carse says, "The more successful we are, the more help we are able to do for the local community." By purchasing from local farmers, Carse feels he's introducing every King of Pops customer to the delicious options that can be found right on Atlanta's doorstep, including the options that will eventually come from King of Pops' own farm. "One of my biggest hopes is that people can see where the food is from, taste the difference and see what it is all about." Because whether it's a wildly successful business or the local food movement itself, a tasty pop may be just the beginning.


Friday, 24 October 2014 15:11

Diabetes: Life Can Still Be Sweet

Nearly 30 million Americans are affected by diabetes – more than one million in Georgia alone. Diabetes is one of the most common chronic illnesses in Georgia and across the Southeast, and is the seventh highest cause of death among Georgians. Despite its prevalence, many cases of diabetes are preventable, and even those who have already been diagnosed can still enjoy a happy, healthy and productive life.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that prevents the body from making or efficiently using insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps cells absorb glucose, a sugar that provides our bodies with necessary energy. Without insulin, glucose builds up in the blood. High blood sugar – called hyperglycemia – can cause blurred vision, headaches, slow healing and even organ damage or coma if not treated.

Type 1 diabetes occurs most often in children and young adults and comprises only a small percentage of all diabetes cases. In Type 1 diabetes, the body doesn't produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes, by contrast, can occur at any age and is much more prevalent. In this form of the disease, the body cannot adequately use the insulin that it produces. Most cases are diagnosed in people ages 40 to 64, but Type 2 diabetes is on the rise in children as well. Other forms of diabetes include latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA), sometimes called Type 1.5, and gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy and typically resolves when the pregnancy ends. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 to 95 percent of diagnosed diabetes in adults.

Sidebar-1Symptoms and Complications

Of the nearly 30 million Americans with diabetes, as many as eight million aren't even aware that they have the condition. The earliest signs of diabetes, such as blurred vision and fatigue, can be easy to miss or explained away as a natural part of aging. Other common symptoms include increased thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, and numbness or tingling in the feet. Less commonly, diabetes may present with frequent bacterial or yeast infections, recurring sores or boils, or periodontal disease.

If diabetes progresses undetected or is poorly managed, these symptoms can worsen or develop into even more serious conditions, such as:

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage). This condition may first present as tingling and numbness in the extremities. It can lead to loss of sensation, most commonly in the feet, and can lead to amputation. "Approximately 73,000 patients undergo amputations each year due to diabetes," says Dr. Twiggy Harris with Kaiser Permanente.

Glaucoma and cataracts. Unmanaged high blood sugar can be a contributing factor in these eye problems, as well as diabetic retinopathy, a condition of the blood vessels in the retina that can lead to vision loss. "[Diabetes] is the leading cause of blindness in ages 20 to 74," says Dr. Dawn Smiley-Byrd, endocrinologist and associate professor of medicine at Emory University. Dr. Smiley-Byrd explains that in a 24-hour time period, anywhere from 48 to 55 people with diabetes will go blind, and that 28.5 percent of adults with diabetes have diabetic retinopathy.

Kidney damage. Diabetes can lead to kidney damage and eventual kidney failure, requiring dialysis.

Cardiovascular disease. While all diabetes-related conditions should be taken seriously, another threat looms. Dr. Jamie Noll, Certified Diabetes Educator and author of "The 95% Vegan Diet," reveals, "Most people with Type 2 diabetes [...] don't die from kidney failure." Instead, she says the real culprit is cardiovascular disease. Brooks Kent, licensed dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with WellStar, agrees. Kent describes heart disease as the number one complication of diabetes and stresses the need for managing blood pressure and cholesterol along with blood sugar.


Treatment and Recovery

Treatment for Type 2 diabetes is comprehensive and can change over time based on the current health of the individual, always with the goal of long-term management of blood sugar levels. Oral medications are the most common treatment. Metformin, which has been on the market for over 45 years, is the top prescribed oral agent for diabetics and often pre-diabetics as well. Metformin is an effective tool for managing blood sugar, and it can aid with weight loss and help prevent heart attacks and strokes. Unlike many of the newer oral agents, metformin is very affordable, only pennies a day, and is consistently the most reliable oral treatment for diabetes.

Insulin injections are another common treatment for diabetes. Insulin may be used for long-term blood sugar management or for more immediate management of symptoms. When a person with diabetes is admitted to the hospital for diabetic complications such as a build-up of sugar in the body, they are at risk for illness and organ damage. In cases like that, or if their A1c number is too high, Kent says insulin may be necessary for breaking the glucose toxicity. Insulin can be discontinued once blood sugar is back within a healthy range, and diabetes can then be managed through a combination of diet, exercise and possibly oral medications.

Better eating habits and regular exercise are both an important part of diabetes management. The sooner after diagnosis that dietary and exercise habits are improved, the better for long-term health and minimizing the need for other treatments. A mix of strength training and aerobic exercises provides an ideal balance, and a daily brisk walk can be the first step toward improved health.

Even with excellent diet and exercise habits, however, people with diabetes may still find an increased need for medications or insulin as they age. Over time, the pancreas produces less and less insulin. As a result, a person with diabetes is likely reach a point where insulin becomes a necessity. "Patients should not look at the need to intensify therapy as a personal failure," Dr. Noll stresses, but rather should see it as part of lifelong diabetes management. While insulin is often viewed as a worst case scenario treatment, it's actually one of the easiest treatments to control.

The most important aspect of diabetes treatment is regular monitoring. Blood sugar checks before and two hours after meals are necessary for identifying the causes of elevated blood sugar levels and adjusting medication accordingly. Regular visits with an endocrinologist, including A1c checks at least twice a year, should be prioritized. Because people with diabetes are at risk for depression, finding good emotional support is a must. Daily checks for wounds or other changes to the feet and skin should also be a part of regular diabetes management and are an important part of preventing diabetic complications.



While Type 2 diabetes can be managed through a combination of lifestyle changes and good medical care, those at risk for diabetes should focus on prevention. Certain risk factors like age, race or ethnicity and family history can't be changed, but many other risk factors can. Dietary changes and regular exercise significantly lower the risk of developing diabetes.

"According to the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) study, just losing seven percent of body weight along with exercise can reduce the chances of getting Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent," says Dr. Noll. DPP participants who lost seven to 10 percent of their body weight continued to show a lower rate of diabetes throughout their lives.

Another important part of prevention is regular screening. People who are overweight, have a family history of diabetes, have had gestational diabetes during pregnancy, or who belong to a higher risk racial/ethnic group (Black, Hispanic, Filipino, Native American or Asian-American) should consider diabetic screening every one to three years and make sure their doctors are aware of their risk factors.

"Get screened, especially if you have risk factors," Dr. Smiley-Byrd says, because though diabetes is preventable and treatable, it is still a chronic illness. "It's serious," Kent says. "It is a serious condition, and should be taken seriously and controlled."

Now that you have the information you need about this condition, you can take steps to ensure your own health for a life that's just the right amount of sweet.


Editorial Resources
Twiggy Harris, MD, Kaiser Permanente –
Brooks Kent, MS, RDN, LD, CDE, WellStar Diabetes Educator –
Dawn Smiley-Byrd, MD, Emory University School of Medicine –
Andrew Muir, MD, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University –
Jamie Noll, PharmD, LD, CDE –



Friday, 24 October 2014 14:38

Giving Thanks for Atlanta Area Teachers

Everybody has one – that special teacher who always went the extra mile. Who made learning fun and easier. Who listened and really cared. During this month of giving thanks, Best Self Atlanta wants to applaud and celebrate the Atlanta educators who make a genuine difference in their students' lives. Local area public and private schools, PTAs and students, told us about these teachers who truly stand out, not only because of their effective teaching methods, but also for the way they relate to and interact with the young people they teach every day. These instructors are just the tip of the iceberg, representing the many wonderful teachers who comprise Atlanta's educational system. And today we say thanks to each of them for being that "one" to so many.



Christina-Edwards-2Christina Edwards
Sylvan Hills Middle School

"Students need a mentor – someone who can build a relationship with them to show they care."

Every now and then, a former student stops by and says hello to Christina Edwards, a seventh grade English language arts teacher at Sylvan Hills Middle School. The visit always makes the enthusiastic educator, a 10-year teaching veteran, smile. She recalls how difficult this particular student was in a variety of classes and that, one day, the two bonded over Edwards' nail polish. "At first, I was taken aback. But then I thought, 'Maybe I can use this to motivate her,'" she explains. "I told her that if she would come to class and behave and complete her assignments in all of her classes, then I would take her to get her nails polished by professionals." Edwards secured permission from the student's parents, and after two weeks of recognizing her outstanding effort and improvement, the dedicated teacher made good on her promise. And that student improved in all of her classes for the duration of the year.
"Students don't only need a teacher – they need a mom away from home, a mentor and someone who can build a relationship with them to show they care," says Edwards, who knew she wanted to be a teacher even as a child. "Teaching is my innate ability, and my joy of teaching hasn't changed – even after 10 years. Seeing the faces of my students when they finally get a concept is priceless." And the way she guides them to that understanding can be summed up in one Benjamin Franklin quote, she says: "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn."


Geri-Flanary-3Geri Flanary
Duluth High School

"I am blessed with a career that inspires me to work hard every day."

Tenth grade AP world history teacher Geri Flanary has a sign hanging in her classroom: "It's not what you know. It's what you understand." An educator at Duluth High School for 18 years, Flanary, who previously taught AP human geography for 12 years, takes these words to heart. "I want my students to go beyond memorization and learn to think critically and analytically," she says. "I want them to dive into their learning and to truly seek understanding – to question and then want to learn even more."
A teacher for 28 years and the recipient of numerous awards, including Teacher of the Year, Star Teacher and the Nasdaq Teaching Award, Flanary can't remember a time in her life when she didn't want to be a teacher. And ending up at Duluth High School was a dream come true. "I am surrounded by competent, capable and enthusiastic educators. They do not know it, but they push me every day to be a better teacher and a better me," she says. "And Duluth High School has much social and economic diversity among the student body; I learn much from the students every day. They bring the world to my classroom!" They also give Flanary the opportunity to chair a unique program called the Care Team, which helps students who have financial needs that interfere with their learning at school. She says, "When I take a student to get eyeglasses, I watch them choose a pair that will help them to better participate and learn at school, but I also get to watch them take pride in their appearance. How cool is that?"
With such a rich career, it's almost impossible for Flanary to choose her most memorable teaching moment. "After all these years, I still take great delight in the daily wins that are part of a teacher's life," she concludes. "What is my most memorable moment? Ask me tomorrow. Chances are the answer will be different because I am blessed with a career that inspires me to work hard every day."


Sam-BiglariSam Biglari
The Galloway School

"Teachers can learn from students as much as students can from teachers."

Sam Biglari often has his work cut out for him. Not many freshmen enjoy political science or government, so this 22-year teaching veteran at The Galloway School has to find ways to make the subject as engaging as possible. And he clearly does. In fact, Biglari says, one of the most rewarding parts of teaching ninth grade political science, 10th grade AP U.S. government and 12th grade AP comparative government is "seeing students who were not even interested in government or politics at the beginning of their freshman year take all of my government classes, major in political science or international politics, get involved in political campaigns and civic organizations and pursue a career in law or politics."
In many instances, students can credit Biglari and his personal teaching philosophy for helping them develop that enthusiasm for the field. "Students learn best when they are drawn to learning," he notes. "And teachers can learn from students as much as students can from teachers." That reciprocal approach to teaching has been apparent in Biglari's classroom – and championed by The Galloway School – since he became a teacher in 1992. According to Biglari, "I have the support of our school and administration, which is very important for a teacher to be successful. I have always had a passion and interest in working with students, and being at Galloway has maintained my energy and passion for the profession."


Sara-Geiger-2Sara Geiger
St. Pius X Catholic High School

"I wanted to help build confidence in [young girls] so they could go on to do big things."

For Sara Geiger, who teaches ninth, 10th and 12th grade math, including algebra, geometry and statistics, it was her own high school experience that encouraged her to enter the teaching profession. "My high school years were so important to my growing as a person, and I learned so much about myself that I wanted to help others do the same," says Geiger, who also serves as assistant athletic director, head women's soccer coach and assistant cross country coach at St. Pius X Catholic School. "I wanted to become a teacher because I wanted to provide a positive role model for adolescents. I also have a big heart for all of the young girls that struggle with body image and wanted to help build confidence in them so they could go on to do big things in their lives."
For the last seven years, she has done just that – and was awarded the Teacher of the Year honor for the 2013-2014 school year. Geiger attributes her success in the classroom not only to the supportive St. Pius community, but also to using humor and her own passion for math to help gain her students' attention and make the subject interesting to them. It also helps that she is a truly vibrant, creative and tech-savvy educator who wants to see her students flourish in all areas. "I really enjoy getting to know my students by showing them that I am interested in their successes in math as well as their other classes, team performances and social areas," she concludes. "So many times you will see someone in your class succeed, and that slight bit of success will help build confidence that is inside each child. Seeing their glowing faces makes it worth it every day."


Jason-HolcombeJason Holcombe
Dacula High School

"Education is not a job to me – it is a way of life."

During his 14-year career as a teacher, Jason Holcombe has had the honor of working at Cedar Shoals High School, Dacula High School, North Gwinnett High School and Jackson County High School. In each school, he found great success. But he loved Dacula High School and the surrounding community so much that he recently returned to teach 10th grade AP world history, as well as serve as assistant athletic director and director of football operations. "I have made it my home," says the University of Georgia graduate, who is fully certified to teach broad field social studies and AP courses for U.S. history, American government and world history. "Education is not a job to me – it is a way of life. I absolutely love that my job allows me to raise my family and let them be a key part of what I do for a living."
And what Holcombe does, along with his "band of brothers and sisters" in the social studies department, is quite impressive. "My teaching philosophy is to teach students the relevance of history and how it shapes their lives," he explains. "I try to make them productive citizens who want to improve our society. I try to make history fun and interesting rather than just names and dates." That approach helps Holcombe dare to be great – something he encourages in and expects from each of his students. "I challenge my students to be great in all things because there are so many negative forces in the world that we must face. And they are not alone in this challenge because I'm doing it with them as we go through the year."
The effort clearly has worked. In fact, Holcombe's favorite experience as a teacher is watching his students walk across the stage at graduation. Often, one stops to thank him for the hard work and lessons they learned – something he remembers from his own high school days. "It is those relationships that I cherish most," he says. "Knowing that you have had a positive influence on a student and the world makes all the long hours and hard work well worth it."


Jeremy-Karassik-replacementJeremy Karassik
Chamblee Charter High School

"Nothing comes easy, but when it does come, the payoff is tremendous."

Jeremy Karassik is honest about his first day as a teacher. "I had no formal training and no idea what to really expect," he muses. Things certainly have changed over the last 10 years, as the ninth grade U.S. government/civics and 12th grade economics teacher has become one of the most respected educators at Chamblee Charter High School. Much of that success can be attributed to his approach to teaching. "A quote from Frederick Douglass that has been on my syllabus more than others is, 'If there is no struggle, there is no progress,'" he says. "Nothing comes easy, but when it does come, the payoff is tremendous."
And Karassik, who also serves as an athletic liaison, wants his students to experience that kind of payoff. That's why he strives to make the material he presents daily relevant to their lives. "If they can make a personal connection to the lectures, activities and assignments, they are going to remember it and, more importantly, apply it," he notes. Because he understands that the subject matter may not be terribly compelling to young people, he tries to bring his lessons to life. For instance, instead of lecturing about the three branches of the U.S. government, he invited a federal law enforcement agent into the classroom to make it more interesting. It's that kind of unique thinking that makes him stand out. Yet, Karassik is humble and actually credits his longtime colleagues with allowing him to enjoy success at Chamblee Charter High School, where he has spent his entire teaching career.
"My department is great. I have worked with Steve Rubino, Jennifer Tinnell, Kurt Koeplin, Gail Barnes and Brian Ely my entire career. They are the best resources I know," he says. "Most of them attended my wedding, and they are great friends and real inspirations. They are all much more deserving of attention than I am."


Erica-Periera,-3Erica Pereira
BEST Academy High School

"My teaching philosophy is to celebrate our mistakes."

Being in Erica Pereira's Spanish class doesn't always mean sitting in a desk. In fact, you never know where you might end up. "We have hiked volcanoes in Nicaragua, visited the Panama Canal, seen the Mayan pyramids in Tikal, Guatemala, and visited U.S. diplomats at the embassies abroad," explains Pereira, who teaches all levels of Spanish to grades nine through 12 at BEST Academy High School, an all-male, public school in Atlanta's Bankhead community. These once-in-a-lifetime experiences are part of the school's annual study/volunteer abroad program, which Pereira herself started. The program is supported financially and logistically by parents, the administration, and people and resources in the host countries. The program allows students to visit Spanish-speaking locales, live with host families for two weeks, volunteer with local children's organizations and immerse themselves in the language and culture. "The students return seeing themselves as global citizens and have more of an understanding of their place in the world and their community here in Atlanta," she continues. "It is life changing to my students and their families."
The opportunity to share these experiences with students is something Pereira never expected, especially since she had no plans to be a teacher. A former interpreter and translator, as well as an adult educator at Berlitz Language Centers, Pereira was encouraged by a friend to apply for a teaching job in the Atlanta Public School system. She finally did and has now been a teacher for 12 years; she also is a founding teacher of the relatively young BEST Academy. Her extensive experience made her a perfect fit for teaching young people, and her unique teaching philosophy has made learning a new language more accessible to them. "My teaching philosophy is to celebrate our mistakes," she notes. "Learning a new language can be a daunting task, especially for teenagers who want to express themselves in a clear and mature way. However, when you learn a language, you have to make mistakes. On the first day of class, I explain to the students that they have to make a million mistakes to become fluent. This makes class a lot less stressful, and you can see them becoming braver and more confident throughout the school year. Celebrating mistakes and even learning to laugh at yourself are vital in Spanish class – and even more so in life!"


Patricia-McCrery-2Patricia McCrery
Montgomery Elementary School

"All children are special, and all children can learn."

Patricia McCrery was inspired to pursue a career in teaching when she was in the seventh grade. Her teacher, Mrs. Pat Kidder, was the kind of instructor that she knew she wanted to be. "She demonstrated patience, empathy and respect for all of her students," says McCrery, who has taught fifth grade math and science at Montgomery Elementary School since 2007. "You could tell when you walked in her classroom every day that she cared about you and that she wanted you to be successful. She even made diagramming sentences seem fun!"
Seeing that kind of passion and attentiveness has translated into McCrery's own 16-year teaching career. "All children are special, and all children can learn," she notes. And she credits a particular source for her ability to succeed in her profession while providing her students with the tools they need to perform at the level she knows they can achieve. "I would not be able to perform my job effectively without the support of my [students'] parents," she concludes. "Fortunately, over the years, I have had extremely supportive and helpful parents. They have donated their time and resources to help me be the best teacher that I can possibly be. For that, I am truly thankful!"


Jim-ReasonJim Reason
Duluth High School

"I set high standards for my students and athletes. I expect their best effort at all times."

When Jim Reason's neighborhood swim team needed a coach in 1990, he decided to give it a try. He had been a swimmer since childhood, and it seemed like a good fit. Little did he know that his hobby ultimately would lead him to a career teaching U.S. history. "Working with kids, coaching and my love of history – it just made sense to pursue this career," he says. Today, Reason is in his 21st year as a teacher, and his 16th at Duluth High School. He teaches AP U.S. history to juniors and coaches the swim team. "I'm so thankful for the people around me – the other teachers and coaches that share my experiences," he notes. "I can lean on them and learn from them, and we work together well."
He also is grateful for the many experiences he has had at Duluth High School, including being recognized as a National Board Certified Teacher and watching Kelsey Scott become Duluth's first individual girl state champion swimmer when she won the 500 Freestyle in 2005. "It doesn't get much better than that," Reason says.
Of course, Reason always strives for improvement from both his students and himself. "Be pleased but never be satisfied," he says. "I set high standards for my students and athletes and tell them I expect their best effort at all times. I try to create a comfortable classroom setting that allows them to think for themselves and learn to improve in all areas."


Johanna-Mitchell-4Johanna Mitchell

"I believe in love and logic, optimism and leading by example."

Johanna Mitchell, who teaches seventh grade English and seventh and eighth grade journalism at KIPP STRIVE Academy, recently found herself in awe of her students. "My journalism students had the opportunity to interview the superintendent of our school district," she recalls. "I'll never forget the immense amount of pride I felt while I watched them apply their reporting skills and represent their school in an impressive way."
For Mitchell, these are the moments that confirm she chose the right career path seven years ago. "It's gratifying to hear them use new vocabulary words in conversation and make connections between our class novels and current events," she says. "Most of all, I love witnessing their unbridled enthusiasm and excitement for learning, especially when they finally understand a challenging concept."
The daughter of an educator, Mitchell's perspective on education has always been a positive one. "I believe in love and logic, optimism and leading by example," she says. "All children can achieve great things, and all teachers can help their students be successful, but both parties must be unrelenting in their pursuit of excellence. A teacher who has a mindset of continuous improvement inspires students to do the same."


Caitlyn-Kelly-4Caitlyn Kelly
Charles Brant Chesney Elementary School

"Students with special needs teach me more in a day than I can teach them in a lifetime."

Caitlyn Kelly teaches students with severe and profound disabilities in the second, third and fourth grades. The terms "severe" and "profound" are based on a range of IQ scores, but that's not how this devoted educator sees the children in her classes. "My students are much more than IQ scores and labels," she asserts. "They are smart, kind, funny children, and they are just like everyone else."
That keen understanding led Kelly to pursue a career in teaching with an emphasis on special education. And for the last two years, she has adhered to an important teaching philosophy. "Every student can learn," she says. "Sometimes it takes some creativity and out-of-the-box thinking to give students with special needs access to the general education curriculum. My philosophy involves making sure that all students are receiving what they need to be successful. If a strategy is not working, it is important to come back to the drawing board until something is found that works."
That includes finding resources that are grade-level appropriate and will challenge students, such as the poem "The Bear in There," which her class truly enjoyed and comprehended – just like the general education class. It also involves Kelly working with her fellow teachers and visiting therapists to tailor lessons to the students' motor skills and communication needs. But in the end, it all comes down to one thing for Kelly. "There are fewer opportunities for people with special needs, and it is important to me that this changes – that people with special needs have just as many opportunities," she concludes. "I love to teach because I love to come up with these opportunities and hopefully create opportunities for my students once they leave school. I wanted to become a teacher because I fell in love with students with special needs. And they teach me more in a day than I can teach them in a lifetime."


Alexander-Shannon-3Alexander Shannon
Tapp Middle School

"Now is the time to make an investment in the person you want to become."

Alexander Shannon considered himself an unlikely candidate for a job in teaching. He initially wanted to work in law enforcement and, upon graduating from Mississippi State University, accepted a position as a juvenile probation officer assisting with closing probation cases. His job brought him to many schools to speak with probationers, and one day he had a realization. "Most of the students I was interacting with were young men of color who were doing poorly in school," he relates. "I began to wonder why so many of these young men found themselves in trouble in and out of school – and what I could do to help curb this problem." After much soul searching and counsel from his pastor and a fellow church member, he decided to go into education and was hired as a middle school special education teacher. "This began my unlikely tenure as an educator some 17 years ago," says Shannon, who has worked at Tapp Middle School for the last eight years and currently teaches sixth grade science.
"My reason for choosing this profession has not changed. I'm still very passionate about young people realizing that they have endless potential and possibilities if they are willing to work hard," Shannon notes. In the classroom, he often tells his students, "Now is the time to make an investment in the person you want to become." But he also wants them to know that he is making an investment in them as well. "The essence of this profession lies in one's ability to see the endless possibilities within each student. And not only seeing the possibilities, but also motivating, challenging and inspiring students to take an introspective look at themselves."
Just when he needed confirmation that his approach truly makes a difference, Shannon received an email from a former student. She had been trying to locate him and wanted to inform him that she was attending college and studying to earn a degree in education. "She wanted me to know that I made a positive impact on her life, and she wanted to say thank you," he says. "Needless to say, I was more than appreciative to have gotten this email. The daily work of educating young people will never be in vain when you are working in your God-given purpose."


Christiane-Wyckoff-3Christiane Wyckoff
Sope Creek Elementary School

"My teaching philosophy: teach with passion and humor, create problem solvers and encourage a sense of morality and respect for others."

The students in Christiane Wyckoff's fifth grade class at Sope Creek Elementary School get paid to be there. Well, they get paid in Wyckoff WildCat dollars, which they use to rent their desks, computers and cubbies, pay for taxes and insurance and make charitable contributions. "We have a mini-economy, which means that every student has a class job that they apply for and are hired for the whole year," says the 13-year teaching veteran. "And at the end of every semester, a group of students researches a few charitable organizations, and they vote on where to give their real, hard-earned-at-home dollars." In the last few years, Wyckoff's class has donated to Project MailCall (which sends care packages to military men and women overseas), the Children's Miracle Network, Children's Hospital at Scottish Rite, the World Wildlife Fund and Toys for Tots. She explains, "Beyond the curriculum, I like to think that I teach my children to be wonderful human beings who are organized, enthusiastic learners, and compassionate and caring toward others."
Wyckoff's lessons, as well as her penchant for wearing fun hats and playing Enya music during tests, have made students remember her long after they leave her classroom. And that's what she wants, especially since fifth grade is the last year of elementary school, as well as the last one in which students have one teacher for all subjects. Wyckoff wants to make the most of that precious year. "I am a farmer. I sow seeds into young minds that will grow in a variety of different ways – many of which I will never actually witness in full bloom," she notes. "There are three main tenets to my teaching philosophy: teach with passion and humor, create problem solvers who will become good contributing members of society and encourage a sense of morality and respect for others, our community and our country."
With such a deep-seated love of teaching and a truly effective instructional approach (as well as a degree in elementary education from Skidmore College), it's almost hard to believe that Wyckoff was a stockbroker for 16 years before becoming an educator. However, after leaving the brokerage industry to spend more time with her three children and being asked to be a supply teacher in the Target program at Sope Creek, she was hooked. And she's been an educator ever since. "My favorite quote is from Ghandi: 'Be the change you wish to see in the world,'" she concludes. "And I strive to live up to it every day."


Donna-McDonald-4Donna McDonald
Birmingham Falls Elementary School

"Our future is in delightful hands."

For years, Donna McDonald worked in a variety of industries, from retail to consulting, and every job focused on training and teaching adults. "Adults learn just like young people, and now I get to work with young people," says McDonald, who joined Birmingham Falls Elementary in August 2013 as a fourth grade teacher. This year, she moved into teaching fifth grade math and science. And regardless of what – or whom – she is teaching, her approach remains the same.
"I am truly dedicated to my classroom, and my students come first," McDonald says. It's a straightforward philosophy that has given this enthusiastic educator unparalleled joy and a deep sense of gratitude, as well as great hope for the future. "The rewards that come daily from the excitement on a student's face when they grasp a difficult concept [are the most memorable to me]," she continues. "I will never forget the incredible talents that our young people share. I have gotten chills from the stories they have written, the skits they perform and the talents and gifts I see exhibited during extracurricular activities that I feel privileged to be invited to see. Our future is in delightful hands."