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TDOE Announces 2020-21 Tennessee Teacher of the Year Finalists

Wednesday, June 24, 2020 | 05:00pm

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

MEDIA CONTACT: Victoria Robinson 



TDOE Announces 2020-21 Tennessee Teacher of the Year Finalists  

Nine Statewide Finalists Selected, Serve on Commissioner’s Teacher Advisory Council  


NASHVILLE, TN—Today, the Tennessee Department of Education announced the nine finalists from across the state for the 2020-21 Tennessee Teacher of the Year award. 

The finalists represent each of the eight Center of Regional Excellence (CORE) areas in the state, as well as the Shelby County-Municipals area, with three finalists in each Grand Division- West, Middle, and East. 

“The 2019-20 school year has reminded all of us how deeply communities appreciate our educators and value their work. Even in the face of uncertainty, educators across the state have continued to demonstrate their passion and commitment to our students in a new and unprecedented learning environment,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “We are thankful and proud to have exceptional leaders like these finalists in our state serving our students.”

The nine finalists for 2020-21 Tennessee Teacher of the Year are: 

 West Tennessee




CORE Region

Daniel Warner 

East High School

Shelby County Schools


Candace Sanders

Halls Elementary

Lauderdale County Schools


 Katherine Madden-Bruketta 

 Peabody High School 

 Trenton Special School District 



Middle Tennessee




CORE Region

Lauryn England

Fall-Hamilton Elementary

 Metro Nashville Public Schools 

Mid Cumberland

 Samantha Stevens 

Tullahoma High School

Tullahoma City Schools

South Central

Teresa Buckner

 White County Middle School 

White County Schools

 Upper Cumberland 


East Tennessee




CORE Region

Tonya Lee 

Englewood Elementary

McMinn County School


Kami Lunsford

Karns Middle School

Knox County Schools

 East Tennessee 

 Hannah Hopper 

 Fairview-Marguerite Elementary 

 Hamblen County Schools 

First Tennessee


Districts were able to nominate three educators representing each of the three grade bands. Out of over 200 applications, 27 regional semifinalists were identified, and the nine finalists were selected from a CORE region selection committee and state-level selection committee.

“Serving the state’s superintendents has afforded me the opportunity to see firsthand the incredible work happening by our district leaders and educators, especially in light of COVID-19,” said Barry Olhausen, Assistant Executive Director of TOSS, Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents. “I am honored to support the department’s recognition efforts of our exceptional teachers by serving on the state selection committee as we all navigate a new frontier of education.” 

To qualify for Teacher of the Year, candidates must have been teaching full-time for at least three years, have a track record of exceptional gains in student learning, and be effective school and community leaders.

Following a panel interview with each finalist, Grand Division winners and the Tennessee Teacher of the Year will be selected from this group of finalists and announced during an honorary banquet this fall.

The final winner will represent Tennessee in the National Teacher of the Year competition and serve as an ambassador for education in the state throughout the 2020-21 school year.

These finalists will also have the opportunity to serve on Commissioner Schwinn’s Teacher Advisory Council for the duration of the 2020-21 school year. This council acts as a working group of expert teachers to provide feedback and inform the work of the department throughout the school year. Additionally, to provide continuity and leadership, the three Grand Division winners will continue their terms on the Council during the 2021-22 school year.

To learn more about the Tennessee Teacher of the Year award, click here

For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, contact