If genes don't help produce excellent teachers, then role models sure do.
And it seems that Lindsey Barker and Jennifer Sappington have benefited from both.
They were among the 59 Muscogee County School District Teacher of the Year nominees the Muscogee Educational Excellence Foundation announced Wednesday in the Columbus Public Library auditorium.
Barker teaches math at Richards Middle School. Sappington teaches social studies at Northside High School. They are the nieces of MCSD Teacher of the Year award winners: Barker's aunt, Amy Willis, taught math at Arnold Middle School when she won in 1995; Sappington's aunt, Pam Carter, taught special education at Hardaway High School when she won in 1991.
Making more links in the proud chain of educational excellence, Sappington told Barker that Willis taught her back then.
"I know what a great teacher my aunt was and Amy was, so it's an honor and a privilege to even be considered in that same category and on that same level," Sappington said.
"It's a legacy for me," Barker said. "There are so many math teachers in my family. Everybody knows Amy, and to know that I can make that same connection is a huge honor."
The nominees are determined by each of the district's schools. They will be honored throughout the year, including breakfast with the National Teacher of the Year in March and culminating with the MCSD Teacher of the Year gala May 2 in the Columbus Convention & Trade Center, where the winner will be announced. The $35 tickets to the gala will be on sale at the Springer Opera House box office April 15-26.
Janet Davis is chairwoman of the selection committee, which also includes Debbie Caballero, Colby Cardin, Travis Chambers, Debra Everett, Tom Hackett, Paul Hampton, Christine Powell and Tom Titus.
MEEF is a nonprofit organization that has awarded more than $1.5 million to innovative teachers through financial incentives in the Teacher of the Year program, the MEEF Grant program and the MEEF Endowment Fund.
"You've got your Oscars and your Grammys, but we've got our real rock stars and superstars here today," MEEF chairman Lee Brantley told the nominees.
MCSD interim superintendent John Phillips added, "It's probably one of the most cherished things that come about, when your colleagues think that you are the best teacher and deserving of this recognition."MCSD TEACHER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES
James Brooks Academic Success Center
Susan Elder Allen Elementary
Ronda Allen Arnold Magnet Academy
Rodolfo Perez Baker Middle
Piper Hudmon Blackmon Road Middle
Robert Ogburn Blanchard Elementary
Stephanie Marley Brewer Elementary
Kim Lester Britt David Magnet Academy
Annette Williams Carver High
Carol Wink Clubview Elementary
Sonya Allen Columbus High
Marilyn Wilson Cusseta Road Elementary
Willie Mae Wade J.D. Davis Elementary
Tamika Freeman Dawson Elementary
Kathryn Stein Kemp Dimon Elementary Magnet Academy
Wendye Melzar Double Churches Elementary
Brian Hale Double Churches Middle
Nicholas Goff Downtown Elementary Magnet Academy
Amy Griffis Eagle Ridge Academy
Christy Grigsby Early College Academy of Columbus
Deborah Robertson East Columbus Magnet Academy
Teresea Marvets Eddy Middle
Mary Jones Edgewood Elementary
Tracy Barnes Forrest Road Elementary
Natasha Anderson Fort Magnet Academy
Amanda Patel Fox Elementary
Ellen Lane Gentian Elementary
Treniece McJunkins Georgetown Elementary
Nancy Willis Hannan Elementary Magnet Academy
Brenda Howell Hardaway High
Brittany Heimlich Johnson Elementary
Rachael DuBois Jordan High
Josiah Sumbry Kendrick High
Sironda Peters Key Elementary
Jennifer Langford Lonnie Jackson Academy
Gabrielle Bryant Marshall Middle
Candice Watson Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary
Donna Vaughan Mathews Elementary
Candace Burkhalter Midland Academy
Jennifer Bray Midland Middle
Doran Yvette Sall Muscogee Elementary
Candace Turner North Columbus Elementary
Jennifer Sappington Northside High
Vanessa Caldwell Reese Road Leadership Academy
Lindsey Barker Richards Middle
Rosie Reynolds Rigdon Road Elementary
Lela Snead River Road Elementary
Jeffery Jones Rose Hill Center/Daniel
Les Cole Rothschild Middle
Lynda Kannady Shaw High
Rachel Wilson South Columbus Elementary
Lamont Sheffield Spencer High
Benjamin Foust St. Elmo Center for the Gifted
Maris Walls St. Marys Elementary Magnet Academy
Blair Tucker Veterans Memorial Middle
Hanna Williams Waddell Elementary
Amber Hurley Wesley Heights Elementary
Theresa Price Woodall Program
Sherrie Meadows Wynnton Arts Academy