by Katie Stepp

Passion and commitment is what you get when you Go West. Just ask Veterans of Foreign Wars 2017 Georgia Teacher of the Year John Garner (‘08 ’13).

“I love what I do and have a true passion for teaching that was ingrained in me during my days at the University of West Georgia,” said College of Arts and Humanities and College of Education alum Garner, who currently teaches AP government, human geography and civics at Newnan High School. “Throughout my time at West Georgia, I had some amazing professors in both the education and history department who showed me what it meant to be passionate about your craft. I have since taken these lessons and have incorporated them into my teaching style.”

John Garner

The Veterans of Foreign Wars 2017 Georgia Teacher of the Year recognizes teachers at all levels of schooling for going above and beyond in teaching American history, citizenship and patriotism to their students.


“Being a recipient of this award truly meant a lot to me,” shared Garner, who has a B.A. in history and an M.Ed. in secondary education. “I have made it a point over the past nine years of my career to engage students and bring history alive through the incorporation of veterans into my lessons both during and after school.”

Garner makes it a point to teach citizenship both inside and outside of the classroom to ensure that students understand the meaning behind the American flag and learning to respect and honor the men and women who fought for America’s freedom.

In addition to teaching, Garner co-sponsors the Newnan National History Club. The group was named as the largest history club in the country for 2015 and 2016 and History Club of the Year for the last three years by the National History Club—a nonprofit organization that aims to build the skills students need to become competent citizens.

He also serves as the co-chair of Civics’ Day, where they bring in 10-12 local and state officials two times a year to talk with their freshman classes about their roles in government.

In 2013, Garner was recognized as a Georgia Master Teacher by then-Governor Sonny Perdue for his teaching methods, which led to rapid increases in his students’ achievement scores on the Criterion Reference Competency Test (CRCT).

Further in 2013, he took his history club at Carrollton Junior High to UWG to hear Eva Kor discuss her experiences as a Mengele twin at Auschwitz. It evoked strong discussion among the students in regards to citizenship and integrity in the midst of social pressures. They also visited the Bremen Holocaust Center, where they met and interacted with another Auschwitz survivor, Helen Weingarden.

“It is important for a student to leave my class or club being a more well rounded or informed citizen,” shared Garner. “It is an honor to teach these young minds and the future of our great nation.”

His fervor for education can be traced back to UWG where his unlimited potential was unleashed.

“My experience at UWG taught me how to be passionate,” he concluded. “Whether taking classes through the education or history department, I was constantly blown away by my professors’ excitement about their disciplines. This shaped not only my college experience, but also it has made me a more engaged teacher who instills this same level of passion and commitment into my class every day.”

Posted on November 16, 2017