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TDOE Announces 2021-22 Tennessee Teacher of the Year Finalists

Thursday, June 03, 2021 | 02:56pm


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

NASHVILLE, TN—Today, the Tennessee Department of Education announced the nine statewide finalists for the 2021-22 Tennessee Teacher of the Year award.

The nine 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.

“Through perseverance, determination, and a commitment to providing all our students with a high-quality education, our Tennessee educators have gone above and beyond the call of the duty this past school year,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “I am thrilled to honor these nine teachers for their incredible work leading up to this moment and especially throughout the past several months. Our state is home to dedicated teachers who embody the Volunteer spirit and give their all for our students each and every day.” 

The finalists for 2021-22 Tennessee Teacher of the Year are:  

West Tennessee

Teacher School District CORE Region
John Frizzell
Riverdale Elementary School      

Germantown Municipal

School District

Brianne Matheney

Chester County

High School

Chester County Schools
Danielle VanCleave
Sharon School
Weakley County Schools

Middle Tennessee

Teacher School District CORE Region
Laura Lavery Boyd


Grove Middle School

Franklin Special

School District

Mid Cumberland
Robyn Olson Richland School Giles County Schools South Central
Erin Blalock

Warren County

High School

Warren County Schools
Upper Cumberland

East Tennessee

Teacher School District CORE Region
Sheron Smith

Arnold Memorial

Elementary School

Cleveland City Schools
Elizabeth Evans

Grand Oaks

Elementary School 

Anderson County Schools
East Tennessee
Morgan Rankin
South Side School
Johnson City Schools
First Tennessee


Nominations of up to three educators representing each of the three grade bands were accepted from the state’s school districts. Out of more than 237 applications, 27 regional semifinalists were identified by CORE region selection committees, and the nine finalists were then selected by a state-level selection committee.

Legislators representing the finalists’ home areas commented on this prestigious recognition and achievement, saying: 

“I would like to congratulate Elizabeth Evans on becoming a finalist for Tennessee Teacher of the Year,” said Lt. Gov. Randy McNally. “She does an outstanding job on behalf of the students at Grand Oaks Elementary. Her effort and dedication is an inspiration to all Tennessee teachers who work hard every day to serve their students. This is a proud day for Anderson County Schools.”

“I am thrilled to congratulate John Frizzell as a finalist for Tennessee Teacher of the Year,”  said Senate Education Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey. He is a shining example of the  dedicated teachers who inspire Tennessee students every day.”

 “Teaching is a gift that keeps on giving and there is no greater gift than a gifted teacher,”  said Deputy Speaker Janice Bowling. “ I congratulate Erin Blalock for being chosen as a finalist  for Tennessee Teacher of the Year and for being such a gifted teacher.”

“Laura Avery Boyd exemplifies how teachers have the ability to transform the lives of young people, inspire a joy of learning, and empower students to reach their full potential,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson. “I had the privilege of visiting her classroom via Zoom last fall and know she is very deserving of this award. It is an honor to recognize her as a finalist for the Tennessee Teacher of the Year Award.”

"I am very happy to honor Sheron Smith as a finalist for 2021 Teacher of the Year and grateful to educators who consistently go above and beyond for their kids every year,” said State Sen. Mike Bell.

"I am so pleased Erin Blalock received this recognition,” said State Rep. Rush Bricken. “She has a love for teaching, helping her students and her community.  I know Warren County and the Morrison community are very proud of her."

“Thank you to Robyn Olson for setting an excellent example for our children and our teachers, and congratulations on being selected as a finalist for Tennessee Teacher of the Year,” said State Sen. Joey Hensley.

“It is my honor to congratulate Danielle VanCleave for being selected as a finalist for this year’s Teacher of the Year Award,” said State Sen. John Stevens. “Congratulations for doing an outstanding job in inspiring our students to do their best every day.”

“I am delighted that Brianne has been rightly recognized with this nomination for her considerable achievement,” said State Sen. Page Walley. “She is a bright star among many in our Chester County system.”

“I am proud to congratulate Morgan Rankin for receiving this high honor,” said State Sen. Rusty Crowe. “We are fortunate to have outstanding and dedicated teachers, like Rankin, who focus their lives on inspiring students and helping them to reach their full potential.”

“Congratulations to Robyn Olson on being named a finalist for the Tennessee Teacher of the Year Award,” said State Rep. Clay Doggett. “Robyn is a brilliant educator, and the Richland School community is fortunate to have her instructing our students. She is very deserving of this honor, and we are so appreciative of her dedication to her profession.”   

“Laura Lavery Boyd is one of the bright, shining stars in Tennessee education,” said State Rep. Sam Whitson. “She is very deserving of being named a Teacher of the Year finalist. Our community and Poplar Grove Middle School are fortunate to have her as a part of our school family, and we extend our good wishes to her as the Department’s selection process for Teacher of the Year continues.”

“I want to extend my warmest congratulations to Morgan Rankin on being named a finalist for this year’s Tennessee Teacher of the Year,” said State Rep. Rebecca Alexander. “We are fortunate to have a great number of outstanding teachers educating the youth in Tennessee, and I am proud that one of East Tennessee’s finest is receiving the recognition she so greatly deserves.”

“I want to congratulate Brianne Matheney for being recognized as one of Tennessee’s top teachers this year,” said House Education Administration Subcommittee Chairman Kirk Haston. “Our educators make an immeasurable impact on the lives of so many of our young Tennesseans, and I applaud Brianne and the fellow finalists for their incredible work in educating our next generation.”

“Our Tennessee teachers are held to the highest standards,” said State Rep. John Ragan. “What an honor it is for one of our own to be recognized for their talent and their dedication to educating future Tennesseans. Congratulations, Elizabeth Evans, on this outstanding achievement.”

“Sheron Smith is one of our best and brightest educators in Tennessee, and we are very fortunate to have her as part of the Arnold Memorial Elementary School community,” said State Rep. Mark Hall. “We appreciate her service, dedication, and professionalism, and we wish her the very best during the awards selection process.”

Teacher of the Year candidates must have been teaching full-time for at least three years. Additionally, they are evaluated based on having a track record of exceptional gains in student learning and being effective school and community leaders.

“Earning the title Tennessee Teacher of the Year meant I could use my voice for teachers and students across our state, and that meant a great deal to me,” said Kami Lunsford, 2021 Tennessee Teacher of the Year and Music Teacher, Karns Middle School. “In every community, especially Tennessee, teachers are powerful agents of support, resources, and change. This school year, the teaching profession met challenges unlike any in history, and as usual, teachers modeled for everyone how to lead, serve, and shine!”

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

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 2021-22 school year.

Finalists will also have the opportunity to serve on Commissioner Schwinn’s Teacher Advisory Council for the duration of the 2021-22 school year. The council is composed of expert teachers who provide feedback and inform the work of the department throughout the academic year. 

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

For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, contact