The Muscogee County School District's 2014 Teacher of the Year nominees were presented Wednesday during a ceremony in the Columbus Public Library.
The faculty at each of the district's 57 schools and centers selected a teacher for the Teacher of the Year program, conducted by the Muscogee Educational Excellence Foundation.
"This is a great day for you to feel proud of the work that you do," Betsy Covington, the foundation's chairwoman told the nominees gathered in the library's auditorium.
The winner will be announced May 1 at the annual gala in the Columbus Convention & Trade Center. Before then, the nominees will be treated to a breakfast with the national teacher of the year in March.
Superintendent David Lewis told the nominees, "You are in every respect a model for other teachers and in whom we have the greatest pride."
Two of the nominees -- Dionne Winston-Bolden of Dawson Elementary and Lydia Winston of Rigdon Road Elementary -- are sisters, so they can look at each other as models of teaching excellence.
"Oh, my God, I was so excited to be chosen to represent Rigdon," said Lydia, 50, who teaches second grade, "but when I found out my sister had been chosen, too, it just meant so much more."
"It's an honor to be nominated in and of itself," said Dionne, 38, who teachers fourth-grade English language arts and social studies, "but to be nominated with my sister is icing on the cake."
They come from a long line of educators. Their mother is a retired teacher in New Orleans and once was named her school's top teacher.
Lydia came to Columbus in 2001, and Dionne followed in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina flooded her school district.
"She's always been my hero," Dionne said of Lydia. "I've always looked up to her."
Then she added with a laugh, "I've worn her shoes; I've worn her makeup; I've worn her perfume."
Their sisterhood boosts them professionally and personally. They brainstorm on lessons and trade teaching tips. They also watch each other's children when they have meetings to attend or errands to run.
"When Lydia was in college, I was a first-grader," Dionne said. "So we're closer now. I have to depend on her, and she has to depend on me."
And they give the same reason for teaching:
"I love the children," Lydia said. "I love to watch them learn."
Dionne added, "They come in as clean slates. I just love to see them grow."
The foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering educational excellence by focusing on teachers who are innovative and exceptionally effective. The foundation has awarded more than $1.5 million since its inception 18 years ago to such educators through the Teacher of the Year program and grants. Those grants include selecting teachers to receive more technology and learn how to better use it in the classroom, and selecting teachers for a summer session of professional development at Harvard University.
IF YOU GO
What: Muscogee County School District 2014 Teacher of the Year gala
When: May 1; reception starts at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m.
Where: Columbus Convention & Trade Center
Tickets: $35, on sale April 14-25 at the Springer Opera House box office
MCSD 2014 TEACHER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES
Aaron Cohn Middle: Amanda Reynolds
Allen Elementary: Bruce Fussell
Arnold Magnet Academy: Darlene Cook
Baker Middle: Latshia Stephens-Archibald
Blackmon Road Middle: Laura Perryman
Blanchard Elementary: Monica Harris
Brewer Elementary: Amelia Hall
Britt David Magnet Academy: Susan DuBois
Carver High: Pierre Coffey
Clubview Elementary: Min Hae Hernandez
Columbus High: Maribeth Hood
Cusseta Road Elementary: Shantae Crawford
Davis Elementary: Tosha Leake
Dawson Elementary: Dionne Winston-Bolden
Dimon Elementary Magnet Academy: Dacia Irvin
Double Churches Elementary: Valerie Black
Double Churches Middle: Melissa Gray
Downtown Elementary Magnet Academy: Courtney Heath
Eagle Ridge Academy: Charlotte Mills
Early College Academy: Tekeshia Hill
East Columbus Magnet Academy: Courtney Thornton
Eddy Middle: Angeleque Johnson-Borom
Edgewood Student Services Center: Dianne White
Forrest Road Elementary: Bethany Getz
Fort Middle: Madeline Boykin
Fox Elementary: Myya Washington
Gentian Elementary: Paige Bowden
Georgetown Elementary: Jeremy Williams
Hannan Elementary Magnet Academy: Ashley Davis
Hardaway High: Charmaine Martin
Johnson Elementary: Jeremiah Edwards
Jordan High: Robert Harris
Kendrick High: Angela Josey
Key Elementary: Sherah Cash
Lonnie Jackson Academy: Stephanie Jones
Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary: Yolanda Arnold
Mathews Elementary: Pamela Weldon
Midland Academy: Brandy Sipling
Midland Middle: Kimberly Martin
Muscogee Elementary: Todernesia Ford
North Columbus Elementary: Kristin Glenn
Northside High: Tamara Garner
Reese Road Leadership Academy: Laura Leigh Rucker
Richards Middle: Melissa Phelps
Rigdon Road Elementary: Lydia Winston
River Road Elementary: Danielle Graves
Rothschild Leadership Academy: Shirley Jernegons-Love
Shaw High: Christie Leveille
South Columbus Elementary: Donessa Moore
Spencer High: Dolly Baker
St. Elmo Center for the Gifted: Barry Cosby
St. Marys Road Magnet Academy: Shandreka West
Veterans Memorial Middle: Kelly Roberts
Waddell Elementary: Anna Walden
Wesley Heights Elementary: Angel Vines
Woodall Program: Teresa O'Donnell
Wynnton Arts Academy: Stacey McClary