Ann Culbreath, the principal of Dunwoody’s Austin Elementary School, was chosen by Auburn University College of Education as its 2019 Outstanding Educator, an award given to alumni.

“I was elated and honored but felt it was surreal,” Culbreath said of winning the award. “It is so humbling to have been selected by my alma mater by other educators in the field.”

Principal Ann Culbreath, center, recently had her award celebrated by teachers who wore Auburn University’s colors. The teachers are, from left, Lisa Victory, Ashley McGukin, Anne Conoley, Jennifer Westrick and Hallie Christensen. (Special)

The school community celebrated by declaring April 10 as Austin “War” Eagles Day.

The award adds to a list of recent awards for Austin Elementary and its leadership, including the public school’s recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in 2018 and Platinum Award Winner from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement for four years in a row.

Culbreath was also nominated for 2018 Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding Leadership by the U.S. Department of Education.

She helped established the Austin Eagle Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps pay for curriculum materials not covered by county or state funding, and led the creation of the school’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program.

Culbreath has been an educator with the DeKalb County School District since 1987 after graduating from Auburn. She has served as Austin’s principal for seven years, and will next year lead the school into its next chapter as a new, 900-seat school expected to open in fall 2020 to relieve overcrowding.

The school is being built on the former Dunwoody Senior Baseball fields less than half a mile from the existing school. Culbreath said the school is excited for the new facility, and hopes to grow the partnership with the Dunwoody Nature Center since it will be closer.

Q: What are you most looking forward to with the new school?

A: I am looking forward to a brand new state-of-the-art facility where students enjoy coming to school each day to engage in learning while having fun!

Q: What major changes will the new school bring?

A: The biggest change will be an increased enrollment with my students and staff. The school has the capacity to hold 950 students and our current enrollment is 680. We currently have a partnership with the Dunwoody Nature Center, but we look forward to more collaboration since we will be next-door neighbors. My hope is that our students can “play in the dirt” all the time!

Q: What keeps you going year after year?

A: I always feel like there is always more to give and learn since education is always evolving. I truly believe in life-long learning!

Q: What do you hope students learn from you?

A: That hard-work and perseverance pay off. Also that you can do anything you set your mind to doing if you believe in yourself.

Q: How has educating changed since you became an educator?

A: The level of accountability has increased for everyone, as well as the level of instruction for our students. In addition to increased accountability, technology has transformed how students learn and teachers teach. Lessons are now planned integrating technology to engage students and make learning fun.

Q: What is your favorite memory at your school?

A: When students see me in the hall or in their classrooms and they tell me sweet stories about themselves or me. Most recently a student wrote me card that said, “Congratulations on your trophy! I will see you at Auburn when I get to college.” It is amazing to me how impactful I am as their principal and how the students look up to me on a daily basis.