The candidates in contention to be the Muscogee County School District’s 2017 Teacher of the Year have been whittled from 56 to 10.
The Muscogee Educational Excellence Foundation announced Friday the following semifinalists for this year’s honor:
▪ Tesharra Alexander, Blackmon Road Middle School, sixth-grade English language arts.
▪ Cindy Applegate, Mathews Elementary School, fifth-grade math.
▪ Vanessa Ellis, Fort Middle School, sixth-grade social studies.
▪ Cholana Foley, Forrest Road Elementary School, second grade.
▪ Ron Forgie, Columbus High School, AP U.S. History.
▪ Tabitha Ginther, Northside High School, English language arts.
▪ Lynn Hall-Green, Richards Middle School, seventh-grade math.
▪ Clyde Johnson, Spencer High School, American literature and multicultural literature.
▪ Shane Larkin, Early College Academy, AP U.S. History, Human Geography and World History.
▪ Andrea Reese, Britt David Magnet Academy, fifth-grade math and science.
Coalition for Sound Growth coordinator Carole Rutland, a retired teacher and retired executive director of the Columbus State University Coca-Cola Space Science Center, chairs the selection committee. The other members are 2015 MCSD Teacher of the Year Sheryl Green of Jordan Vocational High School, Sendreka Lakes of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, Allen McMullen of McMullen Funeral Home, Marquette McKnight of Media Marketing & More, Daniel Parker of Coldwell Banker, Theresa Robertson of Outdoor Events, Gwen Ruff of Columbus Water Works, Mike Venable of Columbus and the Valley/Valley Parent magazines and David White of Troy University-Phenix City.
The committee members selected the 10 semifinalists based on their applications. They will interview the semifinalists to choose three finalists. Then they will observe the finalists teaching in their classrooms to select the winner, who will be announced during the foundation’s annual gala, May 4 in the Columbus Convention & Trade Center.
McKnight, who also is MEEF’s administrator, said it always is difficult to narrow the field, but she explained what sets these 10 teachers apart from the other 46 nominees.
“It probably was their ability to show that they utilize all the tools and resources they have at their disposal,” McKnight said in a phone interview with the Ledger-Enquirer. “They went above and beyond and never gave up on any kid. They take very strongly their responsibility to learn how to reach that child at that moment.
“These top 10 teachers look at the wider community as a resource to bring into their classroom. When they volunteer, they bring kids with them or they bring groups in to talk to their kids, mentor them and help these kids be successful.”
The semifinalists also demonstrated, McKnight said, how they use testing to improve student achievement and their effectiveness as teachers.
“All of these teachers are active data collectors,” she said. “They read that data and comprehend that data and figure out what they need to do differently.”
In its 21-year history, MEEF has awarded educators more than $2.1 million through the Teacher of the Year, Harvard Fellows and other programs or grants, McKnight said.
IF YOU GO
What: Muscogee Educational Excellence Foundation gala, including the announcement of the Muscogee County School District 2017 Teacher of the Year.
When: May 4, 6 p.m. reception, 6:45 p.m. dinner and program.
Where: Columbus Convention & Trade Center, 801 Front Ave.
Tickets: $40, on sale April 10-14 at the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts box office, 900 Broadway.