Muscogee County Teacher of the Year semifinalists announced

mrice@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 7, 2014 

Joe Paull jpaull@leder-enquirer.com The 57 teachers representing the Muscogee County School District's 2014 Teacher of the Year nominees stand for a group picture Wednesday during a ceremony in the Columbus Public Library.

The field of 57 nominees to become the 2014 Teacher of the Year in the Muscogee County School District has been narrowed to 10.

The Muscogee Educational Excellence Foundation announced the following semifinalists Friday:

• Yolanda Arnold, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary

• Dolly Baker, Spencer High

• Darlene Cook, Arnold Magnet Academy

• Bruce Fussell, Allen Elementary

• Tamara Garner, Northside High

• Bethany Getz, Forrest Road Elementary

• Robert Harris, Jordan High

• Laura Perryman, Blackmon Road Middle

• Amanda Reynolds, Aaron Cohn Middle

• Brandy Sipling, Midland Academy

The foundation's selection committee determined the semifinalists based on their applications. The committee will interview the semifinalists and choose three finalists. Committee members will observe the finalists teaching in their classrooms. The foundation will announce the winner during its annual gala, May 1, in the Columbus Convention & Trade Center.

Carole Rutland, a retired educator and former director of the Columbus State University Coca-Cola Space Science Center, is chairwoman of the selection committee. Other members are: Crystal Shahid, senior commercial credit analyst at Synovus and chairwoman of Partners in Education; Barbara Buckner, dean of CSU’s College of Education and Health Professions; Vincent Sneed, 2012 MCSD Teacher of the Year and Hardaway High band director; Paul Hampton, a Columbus High drama and math teacher when named 2011 MCSD Teacher of the Year, now the magnet program’s director; Larry Sanders, retired chief executive officer of Columbus Regional Health; David White, vice chancellor of Troy University.

Rutland, in her third year on the selection committee, said the common denominator among the semifinalists is expressing something in their application that makes her think, “Wow. I would have loved to have been a student in that classroom.”

In the applications, Rutland looks at the nominees’ community and professional activities, their philosophy of teaching, how they use test scores and their opinions about educational issues. But most importantly, Rutland said, she seeks evidence of creative instruction reaching students in multiple ways.

“I want to go, ‘Oh, my gosh. I’ve never seen that before. That’s a great idea,’” she said. “I want to see how that would turn kids around, almost like an aha moment.”

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 $1,650,000 since its inception 18 years ago to such educators through the Teacher of the Year program and grants. Those grants include helping teachers to receive more technology and learn how to better use it in the classroom, as well as 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

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