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Teacher of the Year

The Teacher of the Year program recognizes and honors outstanding teachers in Tennessee. We applaud teachers who care about children, who devote their professional lives to enriching the lives of Tennessee students, and who demonstrate exceptional gains in student achievement. Goals of the program are:

  • Promote effective teaching practices by recognizing and rewarding outstanding teachers.
  • Engage regional teachers of the year in education policy making through the Teacher Advisory Council.
  • Encourage participation by every school in the state so that all Tennessee teachers may be recognized and rewarded.
  • Build a network of local and state corporate sponsors.
  • Provide a network for teachers to share effective practices.
  • Encourage a sense of professionalism in teaching.
  • Encourage greater participation in building a strong community-school partnership.

The Tennessee Teacher of the Year program is designed to promote recognition, respect and appreciation for teachers, to stimulate interest in teaching as a career, and to encourage public involvement in education.

The region level Teachers of the Year are part of the Commissioner’s Teacher Advisory Council. Council members share feedback and advice on issues that impact teachers and help communicate information with teachers in their region. The nine region level Teachers of the Year serve a one year term on the council and the three grand division winners serve a two year term; thus, the council has twelve total members each year.

The Tennessee Teacher of the Year represents Tennessee in the National Teacher of the Year selection process, which is sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Terry Weeks, 1988 Tennessee Teacher of the Year, was named 1988 National Teacher of the Year. 1994 Teacher of the Year Frank Bluestein was named by Disney/McDonald's as the 1996 Performing Arts National Teacher of the Year. The Tennessee Teacher of the Year 2019-20 is Brian McLaughlin of Hamblen County Schools.

Teachers of the Year are selected competitively through five cycles: school, district, region, grand division and state in three grade bands: pre-k–4, 5–8, and 9–12. Please note that these levels refer to the grade(s) taught by the teacher and not to the grade structure or designation of the school.

Teachers selected at each cycle receive local recognition and awards underwritten by local sources. State recognition/awards include a banquet honoring the nine region-level Teachers of the Year.

In order to be considered for the state-level award, a Teacher of the Year candidate must:

  • be a full-time, certified, in good standing, pre-k–12 teacher in a state-accredited public or charter school in Tennessee at each stage of the recognition process (school, district, region, grand division, state, and national levels),
  • spend the majority of the school day in direct instruction to students,
  • have a minimum of three years of experience as a teacher in Tennessee public or charter schools, and
  • have a track record of exceptional gains in student learning.

Teachers of the Year at all levels must:

  • have a broad understanding of research-based models for effective teaching and of current trends and issues in education,
  • be facilitators of learning, skilled in implementing creative teaching strategies,
  • be able to show evidence of positive teacher effect over time related to student achievement through formal and informal documentation,
  • be able to explain, discuss, and defend a personal philosophy of teaching,
  • be poised, articulate, enthusiastic, and energetic,
  • be exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable, and skilled,
  • have a superior ability to teach and to inspire in students a love of learning,
  • be recognized as leaders in the community and in the school,
  • show active involvement and leadership in professional development and extra-curricular activities,
  • inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn, and
  • have the respect and admiration of students, parents, and colleagues.

For School Level Teacher of the Year

  • The department recommends that districts share the goals of the Teacher of the Year program, eligibility, and selection criteria with teachers and principals to inform their nominations. Each school faculty may choose a teacher(s) in each category to participate in the system competition. Categories consist of grades pre-k–4, 5–8, and 9–12. Please note that these categories refer to the grade taught by the teacher and do not refer to the grade structure or designation of the school.
  • While multiple teachers from each grade band may be selected for Teacher of the Year at the school level, it is recommended that the number of teachers chosen in each category does not to exceed one per 20 faculty members (or portion of 20) in that category.
  • It is recommended that school level Teacher of the Year finalists complete part I of the Teacher of the Year application (or some comparable district application). The school-level Teacher of the Year finalist should submit applications to the director of schools (or designee) for the district-level selection process.
  • Each principal submits the school level Teacher of the Year Report Form to the director of schools.

Example of School Report Form

For System Level (School District) Teacher of the Year

  • District selection committees should include a curriculum supervisor, a principal, and a previous Teacher of the Year (district, region, grand division winner, or state Teacher of the Year) to review applications of each school level Teacher of the Year. Each selection committee should include diverse representation based on gender, race, subject areas, and the grade bands to be considered (pre-K–4, 5–8, 9–12).
  • Committees select one teacher from each category (pre-K–4, 5–8, 9–12) to represent the district in the region-level selection process. Please note that these categories refer to the grade taught by the teacher and do not refer to the grade structure or designation of the school.
  • Director of schools (or designee) must submit the names of the district-level Teachers of the Year using the online District-level Teacher of the Year Report Form.
  • After director of schools (or designee) submission, each district-level Teacher (from each category) must complete part I of the Teacher of the Year application and submit electronically by 12 p.m. CT on Feb. 28.

For Region Level Applications

  • District-level Teachers of the Year must use the application provided below in order to participate in the region-level Teacher of the Year selection process. Please type responses directly into the application. Do not exceed any word limits noted in the application.

o   *Helpful Tip—Complete and save the application using Word, which allows applicants to utilize the spell check and word count features. Teachers selected as region-level finalists will be able to copy/paste part I of the application into the online application while completing part II.

For State Level Application

Region-level Teacher of the Year finalists will be notified that they are eligible to advance to the next stage of the selection process and must complete part I and part II of the application.

Completed applications will be submitted electronically. A link to the online application will be provided to finalists. Additionally, region-level finalists must upload the following documents along with completed application responses:

  • three one-page letters of recommendation that support why the teacher should be the 2020-21 must be from:

o   the principal, who should cite any relevant data on student achievement gains, and

o   the remaining letters may be from a parent, colleague, administrator, or student,

  • a professional biography,
  • one photo headshot.    


Year Teacher School School System Subject Area
2020 Brian McLaughlin Morristown-Hamblen High School West Hamblen County Algebra and Statistics
2019 Melissa Miller
Franklin Elementary School
Franklin Special School District
1st grade
2018 Cicely Woodard West End Middle School Metro Nashville 8th Grade Mathematics
2017 Derek Voiles Lincoln Heights Middle School Hamblen County 7th grade
2016 Catherine Whitehead West Chester Elementary Chester County 3rd grade
2015 Karen Vogelsang Keystone Elementary Shelby County 4th grade
2014 Wanda Napier Lacy Farragut High School Knox County Advanced Placement calculus
2013 Allyson Chick Richland Elementary School Memphis City 2nd grade
2012 Byron A. Booker Knox Central High School Knox County English as a Second Language
2011 Dr. Cheryl Deaton Pigeon Forge Primary Sevier County 4th grade
2010 Patty Kiddy Selmer Elementary School McNairy County 1st grade
2009 Luajean Bryan Walker Valley High School Bradley County Mathematics
2008 Pamela Rector Red Bank High School Hamilton County English
2007 Susanne Frensley Hillsboro High School Metro Nashville Art History
2006 Dawn Heterick Werner Fairmount Elementary Bristol City Title I (K-6) Reading/Math
2005 Karen Blooding, NBCT Homer Pittard Campus Rutherford County K-6 Music
2004 Tracy L. Hoilman Unicoi County High Unicoi County Drama, Speech, English
2003 Deborah Smith Glencliff Elementary Metro Nashville Kindergarten
2002 Melinda K. Day Lenoir City Elementary Lenoir City 5th grade
2001 Dorene Harris Lowery Black Fox Elementary Bradley County K-5th grade
2000 SuEllen Whitson Indian Trail Middle Johnson City 6th grade
1999 Alana Delise Teague McNairy Central High McNairy County 11th/12th grade English
1998 Linda Arms Gilbert Black Fox Elementary Murfreesboro City Music, Band,Chorus
1997 Cathy A. Pihl Kate Bond Elementary Shelby County 4th grade
1996 Linda L. Cheek Ingleside Elementary Athens City Multiage
1995 Pamela Jean Burish Eakin School Metro/Nashville 3rd grade
1994 Frank Bluestein Germantown High Shelby County Theatre/Communication Arts
1993 James H. Kirk, Jr. Alcoa Middle School Alcoa City 6th grade
1992 Delores Doyle Reeves-Rogers Elem Murfreesboro City 2nd grade
1991 Joseph S. York Fayette-Ware High Fayette County AP/11th grade English
1990 Geraldine Hawes Cleveland High Cleveland City English, Speech and Drama
1989 Edna Loveday Sevierville Primary Sevierville County Kindergarten
1988 Terry Weeks Central Middle Rutherford County 7th grade Social Studies
1987 Carol Gardnes Transou Science Hill High Johnson City AP American history
1986 T. Dan Duggar Ottaway Elementary Greene County Reading and Mathematics
1985 Susan Ingram Gendrich Bradley Elementary Murfreesboro City English as a Second Language
1984 Sandra Hunter Crouch White Co. High White County 9th grade Consumer Homemaking
1983 Eleanore M. Zurbruegg Ridgeway Elementary Memphis City 2nd grade
1982 Martha Sue Elkins Willow Brook Elementary Oak Ridge City 6th grade
1981 Dr. Brenda Thompson (Smith) Gulledge Tusculum View Elementary Greeneville City 5th grade Language and Social Studies
1980 Irene L. Fox Woodland Elementary Oak Ridge City Music
1979 Joan Newby Edgington Watertown High Wilson County English
1978 Delores LeCornu Archie Milan High School Milan City Mathematics
1977 Cora R. Cox Andrew Johnson Elem Kingsport City Teacher for autistic children
1976 Donald Wayne Hood Ross M. Robinson Jr. HS Kingsport City American History
1975 Woodrow Wilson      
1974 Evelyn Crunk McBroom Stratford High Metro/Nashville Language & Mathematics
1973 May McGlothin Coalfield Elementary Morgan County Kindergarten
1972 Ruby Street Cooley Dyersburg High School Dyersburg City Mathematics
1971 Edna Ruth White Jennie Bell Elementary Dyersburg City Special Education
1970 Vallie Hunter Putnam Co. Senior High Putnam County English
1968 Maxie Wilson Cocke County High School Cocke County English, Latin I and II
1967 Dr. Flora Joy   Johnson City   
1966 Elizabeth Reed   Giles County   
1965 John Pechonik   Jackson   
1964 James Muskelly   Memphis City   
1960 Fayna Kennedy Moore   Franklin County