At just 28 years old, Michael Kobito has reached a pinnacle of success in his career that few Georgia educators ever achieve.
The band director at Woodland High School (WHS) in Cartersville was named the 2023 Georgia Teacher of the Year (TOTY) April 30 at a banquet in LaGrange and will represent the state in the competitive 2023 National Teacher of the Year competition.
An Acworth resident, Kobito was selected from 10 finalists who were chosen in March from a cohort of 145 district teachers of the year across the state. The 2011 Woodland graduate became the 51st educator to win the title since the program began in 1971.
“Shock was my initial reaction, followed by pride in knowing that the work I do here at Woodland is being recognized, and my story will be shared all across the state,” he said. “To be named a finalist was surreal to me, much less to earn the title of Georgia Teacher of the Year. The teachers in this state are incredible, and I’m just proud to be in their company.”
But Kobito’s superintendent, Dr. Phillip Page, wasn’t surprised. “What a tremendous honor to be considered the best of the best in the state by the Georgia Department of Education,” he said. “We certainly knew he was deserving of this honor when he came back to his alma mater, became a leader among his collaborative teams and demonstrated a focus on learning and results.”
Kobito, who earned a music education degree from the University of Georgia, underwent a rigorous full-day interview process in which the finalists did a three-minute speech and a 30-minute interview with the 12-member committee.
“I felt like I represented myself the best that I could, but the other finalists were all so inspiring and impressive,” he said. “Honestly, any of us could’ve been chosen, and the state would’ve been well-represented. I do believe that my beliefs and the topics I’m passionate about align with the themes going on education right now. My ability to speak about and advocate for change is what I believe put me over the top.”
State School Superintendent Richard Woods said he feels “very strongly about the importance of the fine arts in students’ education,” making Kobito the perfect candidate to advocate for Georgia’s public schools, to champion the teaching profession and to serve as an ex-officio member of the State Board of Education.
“We know the fine arts help students find the ‘why’ behind their education, that they connect them with the joy of learning, help them build confidence and improve their ability to learn in all areas of the curriculum,” he said. “Michael just exemplifies all of that. He clearly displays the energy, joy and connection fine arts bring to education. His dedication to students comes across in all he does. I’m confident he will be an outstanding ambassador of Georgia’s public schools throughout his year as state TOTY and will represent us well in the national TOTY competition.”
Kobito, who is pursuing a Master of Music degree at Georgia College and State University, said he has a “great opportunity to represent the great professionals” in the education field as the state TOTY.
“It means so much to me that I’ve been trusted with this role and responsibility, and I am ready to do my best for education in our state,” he said. “I hope to advocate for educators across our state, emphasizing the importance of what we do and every stakeholder’s role in student learning. I hope to encourage teachers to stay in the profession, and I hope to increase interest in teaching in our state. Education is the most important part of a sustaining, stable and thriving society, and I know that we can advocate more for our teachers and our students.”
At Woodland, Kobito manages a 200-member marching band that will participate in the 2023 London New Year’s Day Parade, as well as four concert bands, a basketball pep band, a jazz band, winter guard and a private-lessons institute. He also established an Advanced Placement (AP) music theory class that had a 100% participation rate and 100% pass rate on the AP exam during the first year.
“Michael’s Advanced Placement participation and pass rates are impressive, and under his leadership, the band has been asked to perform at multiple nationally recognized events,” Page said. “His students feel seen, valued and part of a family. I cannot wait to see the impact of his work as he serves as the ex-officio member of the State Board of Education.”
Kobito — who was born in Okinawa, Japan, started school in England then moved to Georgia in second grade — served as associate band director at WHS for three years before becoming the director in 2020.