The Mission of the Georgia Council for the Social Studies is to advocate for, support, and celebrate the advancement of quality social studies teaching for Georgia students.

The Vision of the Georgia Council for the Social Studies is to prepare students to be knowledgeable, effective decision makers and engaged citizens in a globally interdependent world.

2016 GCSS Board and Officer Election Candidate Biographies


All current GCSS members will receive an email with instructions for voting for ONE candidate for president-elect and ONE candidate for board of trustees.  Voting will take place electronically.


Candidates for President-Elect


Dr. Debra Pope Johnson

It seems like each school year flies by faster than the last, and that is exactly how I feel about my time on the GCSS Board.  I am completing my second term as a member of the Trustee Board.  As I reflect back on tenure and involvement with GCSS and I realize that I have had many collaborative and supportive relationships where the give and take of ideas has pushed me as an individual and as a Social Studies Educator.  I live and work in Albany, GA (“the other Georgia”).  Last year, I returned to the classroom as an eighth grade Georgia Studies teacher.  Previously, I worked for seven years in the Dougherty County School System as a curriculum coordinator for social studies grades 3-12.  I had a four-year stint at Georgia Southwestern State University as a technology specialist, director of clinical experiences, and professor.

As president elect of the GCSS Board, I would like to continue to provide and expand the excellent resources/support that are afforded to social studies educators.  I am passionate about the teaching of social studies as a necessity for future global citizens.  I would like to enhance the reputation that GCSS has on the national level and the partnership/participation of Georgia educators on the NCSS Board and committees.  I anticipate many opportunities to inform the teachers and policy makers as we continue to expand as a discipline to become inclusive of the history of future citizens of Georgia and the United States.



David T. Kendrick – Bear Creek Middle School

Greetings GCSS members,

I humbly accept the nomination to run for President-Elect of GCSS.  I would be honored to receive your vote in the upcoming election.

GCSS is the active voice advocating for and supporting incredible social studies teachers and students around Georgia.  As an elected member of the Board of Trustees for the past three years, I am part of the leadership that increased overall membership of GCSS, as well as increasing attendances, starting a collaboration of other core subjects to advocate with a common voice for educators, and recognized deserving educators in our state.  Now, it is my duty to continue the mission and vision of GCSS by leading the charge for advocacy and civic engagement to prepare Georgia students for the future.

I have been honored by GCSS as a Gwen Hutcheson Social Studies Educator of the Year and director of a GCSS Program of the Year for implementing a student-driven service project remembering September 11th in their community.  As a frequent presenter at our annual conference, I have encouraged further civic engagement through Civil War battlefield preservation, for which the Civil War Trust recognized me as the 2015 National Teacher of the Year.

Finally, as a member of NCSS and as its Awards Committee Chair, I hope to strengthen the ties between the national and state councils.

GCSS has made such a positive impact on my career and I would love to be your voice for the future.


Board Position # 1


Keena Ryals-Jenkins, Ph.D.

Keena Ryals-Jenkins is currently the Director of Humanities for Fulton County Schools in Atlanta, GA.  She is responsible for developing, planning, managing, supporting, organizing, and implementing the Humanities programs within schools and provides leadership for district-wide initiatives in Language Arts, Social Studies, and World Languages programs.  She also provides direction and leadership for the overall administration and coordination of the Humanities programs in support of effective instructional practices, communication and operational efficiency in all Fulton County Schools.  As a result of her role, Keena has developed extraordinary broad-based programs knowledge in educational organization and the ability to design and implement educational programs.

In addition to providing curriculum leadership in the Humanities Department, Keena serves on cross-functional academic councils and boards. She is a member of the National Social Studies Supervisors Association, National Council of Teachers of English, National Council for Social Studies, and the Georgia Council for the Social Studies.  She is also a member of the Woodruff Arts Center Education Board and the Fund for the Advancement of Social Studies.

Keena’s ongoing mission is to support Humanities education and promote the development of global learners.  The philosophy behind all of her work is believing that all students should be empowered to be global leaders and developers.  She is a graduate of the University of Georgia.  She enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her husband and three children.


Kimberlynn H. Weston, K-12 Social Studies Coordinator, DeKalb County Schools

It is with great enthusiasm that I respectfully submit my application to serve on the Board of Trustees for the Georgia Council for the Social Studies.  The organization’s mission to advocate for, support, and celebrate the advancement of quality social studies teaching and learning aligns with my professional mission to energize social studies educators to create meaningful and relevant learning experiences for all students.

I have a total of nineteen years of teaching and leadership experience.  I currently serve as the K-12 Social Studies Coordinator in the DeKalb County School District.  In addition to coordinating academic competitions such as the Social Studies fair and National History Day, I have supported and encouraged stellar social studies instruction through partnerships with various entities including the Georgia Department of Education, Georgia Council for Economics Education, Georgia Public Broadcasting, the Georgia Bar Association, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

As a trustee, I will bring my experiences as a classroom teacher, building administrator, and a district curriculum coordinator to support the growth of the Georgia Council for the Social Studies.  I look forward to strengthening current partnerships and building new ones for the betterment of our content area.

Thank you for your consideration.


Board Position # 2


Laura Ambrose

I am honored and excited about the possibility of serving on the GCSS board.  I started my social studies career as a fourth grade teacher, taught high school social studies in Hawaii and Illinois, served as department chair and taught high school social studies at Clarke Central High School in Clarke County, worked as a social studies coach and International Baccalaureate coordinator at Burney Harris Lyons Middle School in Athens, and currently work as the Social Studies Content Coach for grades K-12 in Clark County School District, presented at GCSS, and I am an active member of the Georgia Council for the Social Studies Supervisors.  In my teaching, curriculum work, and coaching of social studies teachers the goal is to help prepare students who can make reflective decisions and participate successfully in the civic life of their communities, nation, and the world.  The key component that separates social studies as a content area from other areas of study is citizenship.  I have sought to connect students to social studies and being active citizens through my role as a sponsor to Young Democrats and Young Republicans clubs, supervising service learning trips around the globe, supervising and presenting about study abroad programs, and creating voter registration opportunities for students in high schools.  As a member of the board I would seek to carry out all the great opportunities that GCSS has afforded me and so many educators.


Michele M. Celani

As a Georgia educator who is passionate about social studies education and desires to inspire and energize educators, school administrators, and Superintendents to make social studies education their number one academic priority, I am honored to be nominated for the Board of Trustees.

My background includes an undergraduate degree in Secondary Education and History and a Master’s degree in Literacy.  I have taught social studies to English language learners, gifted and special education students in the elementary, middle and high school levels in the Metro-Atlanta and middle Georgia areas.  Additionally, I have: developed a website for educators, The Social Studies Project at; online social studies curriculum for use in the digital classroom; reviewed books for content for Teacher Created Materials; led professional development sessions involving literacy and social studies, and since 2013 presented annually at the Georgia Council for the Social Studies conference.

Prior to entering the classroom in 2005, I consulted and did contract work for the Atlanta History Center where I developed: curriculum resources in conjunction with the exhibit Native Lands: Indians and Georgia; hands-on activities and video narrative for the Treasures from Mount Vernon exhibit; and contributed to the publication, Adventures in Georgia History.  Currently, I serve alongside historians as a member of the Georgia Historical Marker Committee; am a 2016 Barringer Research Fellow; and authored and had published an article, on the blog of the American Association of Local and State History, “Stop the Drive Bys: A Teacher Makes the Case for Local Historical Markers”.