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.

2017 GCSS Board and Officer Election Candidate Biographies



Jennifer Dawson - Cobb County Schools

Greetings GCSS members! I sincerely appreciate the privilege to run for President-Elect.

After becoming a second-career teacher in 2000, I’ve taught World Studies at Cobb County’s Lost Mountain Middle since 2001 and am passionate about helping students embrace the wider world.

Since 2004 I’ve annually attended GCSS conferences and presented on topics including engagement, global education, and hands-on learning related to geography and economics. I’ve presented at NCSS and my students were featured in “Students Doing Social Studies” during Atlanta’s NCSS Conference. For more than a decade, I’ve been involved with district curriculum writing.

I served two consecutive GCSS Board of Trustee terms. While serving, I initiated GCSS establishing a social media presence (Facebook/Twitter) and currently serve as GCSS Social Media Coordinator. During my second term, it seemed providing an electronic presentation-sharing platform would strengthen the conference. Having piloted Edmodo in my school/district, I broached using Edmodo as a free avenue to share GCSS session presentations/handouts. I’ve continued coordinating this effort.

My honors include GCSS Outstanding Educator, Cobb County TOTY, and Georgia TOTY Finalist. I traveled to Germany (Goethe TOP Fellow) and Ukraine (Teachers for Global Classrooms Fellow). I’ve attended multiple teacher institutes in Canada and am a Study Canada Teacher Associate.

I’m heavily involved in service learning (especially childhood cancer research advocacy), an avid Braves fan and a passionate traveler (all 50 states are checked off). 

If given the privilege to serve as president, I welcome the opportunity to creatively and fervently advocate for SS in today’s STEM-focused society.


Heather Mackenzie - Henry County Schools

“You can’t light a fire with a wet match: be an enthusiastic leader” is a motto that has often inspired my work. As someone who is fiercely passionate about social studies content, instruction, teachers, and leaders, it is an honor to be nominated for president-elect of the Georgia Council for the Social Studies. I currently have the privilege of serving Henry County Schools as the K-12 Social Studies Coordinator, a position I assumed three years ago after 14 years as a special education, elementary, and middle grades classroom teacher. As a member of GCSS for over a decade and former Gwen Hutchinson honoree, I have grown as a professional and benefitted from the resources, networking, and experiences offered through this organization. When I became a board member over two years ago, I vowed to “pay-it-forward” by advocating for GCSS and for social studies teachers throughout our state, beginning with my own county. As GCSS president, I promise to be a constant advocate for the effective social studies teaching and learning tenets of the GCSS. We are at an exciting point in our state and it is my aim to support my peers at the local, state, and national level to grow the great work being done by our teachers. Thank you again for your consideration!



Board of Trustees


Clarence Brantley - Barrow County Schools

Greetings All,

I am Clarence Brantley, Jr. and I humbly come before you seeking election to the esteemed GCSS board.

I am a graduate of Georgia State University with a MAT in Middle Level Social Studies and Language Arts.  I’ve spent my 5 year career as an 8th grade Georgia Studies teacher in Barrow County, Georgia. My areas of passion is middle level learning; adolescent sociology; and using pop culture in the classroom

If elected, I would like to give voice to the new teachers entering the field of social science education. I also hope to give voice to the minority teacher’s perspectives which affects what happens in the classroom for teachers and students.

Professionally, I work hard to grow myself and my students in the field of social science. In Barrow County, I currently serve as co-chair of the Social Studies Department at Bear Creek MS. I also serve as a member of Barrow County’s 8th grade “Common Formative Assessment” team where we create the county content pacing guide and unit assessments. Currently, I’m piloting the Instructional Conversation pedagogy model for the University of Georgia’s The Center for Latino Achievement and Success in Education (CLASE). I am a member of the National Council for the Social Studies. Lastly, this summer I was selected to participant in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian’s 2017 Native Knowledge 360 summer institute. 

I have a passion for social sciences, and I hope to contribute positively to the field!


Christa Evans Heath - Fulton County Schools

My background in education includes an undergraduate degree in History Education from Kennesaw State University, a Master’s Degree from Valdosta State University in Accomplished Teaching and a Specialist degree from Kennesaw State University in Instructional Technology.  I am presently a Doctoral Candidate at Kennesaw State University in Instructional Technology.  I have taught social studies in Fulton County for eight years to English language learners, gifted and special education students.  I was honored to be part of the Georgia Middle School Team of the Year in 2014.  As a sponsor of an internationally recognized Middle School Model United Nations team, I have worked to build active citizens through the understanding of civic responsibility and international collaboration. 

I have led professional development sessions in my school district.  Additionally, presented at the Georgia Council for Social Studies, National Council for Social Studies, International Society for Technology in Education, and Georgia Educational Technology Conference on the topics of Model United Nations, Inquiry Based Learning in Social Studies, and Personalized Learning.

I am honored to be nominated as a trustee and will use my experience as a classroom teacher to advocate for the commitment to the role social studies in our schools and we develop global learners and engaged citizens.


Dr. Todd Dinkelman - University of Georgia

It is my honor to have an opportunity to serve the social studies profession in Georgia by running for a position on the GCSS Board of Trustees.  I have been a social studies educator for three decades.  The most recent half of that time, I’ve been a faculty member in the social studies education program at the University of Georgia, currently housed in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice.  A long-standing commitment to social studies teacher education centers my scholarship and teaching.  I believe all social studies educators have an obligation to advocate for meaningful, critical social studies teaching and learning, not just in their classrooms but also in other school, community, and broader contexts.  At UGA, one of the most satisfying aspects of my work is witnessing so many terrific socials studies teachers launch their careers in the Georgia schools, and then maintain and develop their commitment to powerful social studies education over time.  Many of these teachers are active members of GCSS.  I would be happy to join them in their efforts to push social studies closer toward its critical democratic promise.  This work has always been important, but arguably never more so, in light of the current social and political climate in this state and country.  Social studies needs to take a more visible public stand in support of democratic citizenship education.  I welcome the opportunity to support GCSS in its mission to promote social studies teaching and learning that makes a difference.


Dr. Charles J. Elfer - Clayton State University

Charles currently serves as Associate Professor of History Education at Clayton State University in Morrow, GA. He teaches courses on historical geography, Sub-Saharan Africa, history and social studies methods, and educational foundations. Charles also serves as the Coordinator of Secondary Education Programs and, together with colleagues at the National Archives at Atlanta, as co-coordinator for the National History Day programming in the south metropolitan area. A former high school teacher  (Jefferson City Schools, Jefferson, GA), Charles received his doctorate from the University of Georgia in social studies education in 2011. His primary research interests include curriculum history, place-based education, and social studies methods.


Ashley Goodrich - Oconee County Schools

It is an honor to be nominated for a position on the Georgia Council for the Social Studies board and I am excited at the possibility to serve the social studies education community again in this capacity. I have taught for eleven years as a high school social studies teacher in Georgia's public schools, in both urban and suburban districts. In 2012, I was selected to be a C-SPAN Teaching Fellow and have been recognized for my classroom teaching at the school, district, and state levels. I serve as a teaching consultant with UGA's Red Clay Writing Project and have worked on curriculum projects for the Georgia Department of Education. 

We are fortunate, as teachers in this state, to have the opportunity to network and share expertise through GCSS.  In this way GCSS certainly benefits us professionally, but perhaps most importantly, it benefits the social studies education of our students. It would be an immense privilege to serve my profession by being elected as a GCSS board member.  If elected to this position, I will continue to promote the important work social studies teachers are doing for our students across the state.


Dr. Ernie Lee - Savannah-Chatham County Schools

2016 Georgia Teacher of the Year, Ernie Lee, was a corporate lawyer for over 20 years before becoming a public school teacher. Several life events in 2010 led to soul searching that left him coming up empty.  He asked himself “What have I done to make a lasting and positive impact on the community and in the lives of others?” In response he began working as a substitute teacher. Next Lee received a teaching certification from the GaTAPP program and became special education co-teacher in 2011. Lee now teaches International Baccalaureate History, AP Psychology, and Sociology at Windsor Forest High School in Savannah.   He sponsors the Student Council.

Lee holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Mercer University and a Juris Doctorate from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University. His years practicing law and explaining complex concepts to clients have paved the way for instructional techniques that challenge and excite students.  He treats students with both understanding and a high level of respect, which leads to a winning classroom combination.  Lee is a dynamic speaker and leads workshops on building both meaningful and positive relationships with students.

In 2016 Lee was selected by the Council of Chief State School Officers and Education First to study the Finnish Education system Helsinki, Finland.  For summer 2017 Lee was given a teaching fellowship to conduct research at the Smithsonian Institute on the Indian Removal Act.  Lee’s research will culminate in lesson plans to be published on the Smithsonian’s interactive website.