State School Superintendent Richard Woods announced today the 10 finalists for the 2018 Georgia Teacher of the Year. The finalists were chosen from 150 applicants, all of whom had been previously selected as their school district’s Teacher of the Year (TOTY). The 150 represent the best from Georgia’s 114,800 teachers, in 181 school districts and 2,200 schools, educating approximately 1.6 million students every day. The award is a high honor for the teacher but also serves to spotlight the teaching profession. It is sponsored by the state Department of Education and has been given since 1971.

The TOTY will likely take a one-year sabbatical working with the Department of Education and speaking to groups around the state. The TOTY will also work with other teachers in their subject area, developing curriculum and other activities, serving on state committees and participating in conferences.

“It’s hard to name anything quite so important to a student’s success as the influence of a truly excellent teacher,” Superintendent Woods said in a statement. “While we will narrow the list down to a single Georgia Teacher of the Year, every person on this list deserves our respect, admiration, and gratitude. Each of them is a testament to the powerful difference a great teacher can make in the life of a child. I want to offer each of them my sincere congratulations – I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come to ensure our policies at the state level are focused in the right place – on the child.”

This year’s TOTY is Casey Bethel, an AP Science teacher from New Manchester High School in Douglasville. In an interview last year with Georgia Tech’s Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, Bethel emphasized the breakthrough that came with his own continuing education through their Georgia Intern Fellowships for Teachers (GIFT) Program. Through the program, Bethel spends his summers working in a lab in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “After a few years of teaching, I hit a wall. I was unsatisfied with my students’ progress. A mentor of mine advertised the GIFT program as a means of broadening my background. I tried it, and I saw immediate results. Dr. Lieberman welcomed me and made me a contributing member of her team. Every year since 2011, my wealth of knowledge has grown and my teaching practices have improved.”

A panel of judges made of up of teachers, past TOTY winners and finalists, administrators, community leaders and others narrowed it down to the final 10 for this year largely based on the applicants essay responses. The panel will interview and observe speeches given by the finalists in the next few weeks and announce a winner on June 12.

2018 Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalists:
  • Gerald Kosoff, AP Calculus, AP Statistics, KIPP Atlanta Collegiate, Atlanta Public Schools
  • Dominique Vidal Nichols, World Literature, AP English Literature and Composition, Westside High, Bibb County Schools
  • Paulette M. Allard, Honors Biology and Forensic Science, Harrison High, Cobb County Schools
  • Suzette Weinhardt, Mathematics, Accelerated Geometry, Algebra 2, Pre-Calculus, Sandy Creek High, Fayette County Schools
  • Jamie Lynn McFarland, Grades 3-5 Severe/Profound Intellectual Disabilities, Rock Springs Elementary, Gwinnett County Schools
  • Susan Donlin, Adapted Curriculum, Marietta Middle, Marietta City Schools
  • Dr. K. Paige Cole, AP United States Government and U.S. History, North Oconee High, Oconee County Schools
  • Jonathan Deen, American Government, Dual Enrollment U.S. and World History, Putnam County High, Putnam County Schools
  • Laura Gerlach, 5th Grade, Troup County, Furlow Charter School of Sumter County
  • John R. Tibbetts, Economics, Worth County High, Worth County Schools
To learn more about Casey Bethel in his interview with the Petit Institute, see here:


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