Most every year since 1960, Tennessee has singled out one public school teacher for excellence in the classroom as a way to promote respect and appreciation for the profession.

Nine more educators are this year’s finalists to become the 56th person on that elite list. The state’s 2018-19 Teacher of the Year will be named this fall and will represent Tennessee in a national competition.

The award helps spotlight the education profession in Tennessee as about half of the state’s 65,000 public school teachers are expected to retire or leave their jobs in the next decade. Another challenge has been hiring new teachers who are ready for the classroom. In recent years, the state has worked to improve its teacher preparation programs and the quality of candidates wanting to become teachers.

Unveiling the list of finalists on Thursday, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said this year’s top teachers “are proving what is possible in our classrooms.”

“Teaching is some of the hardest, most rewarding work there is, and because of our educators and their commitment to an excellent education for all, more Tennessee students are prepared for their next steps in school and in life,” said McQueen, who taught in schools in Nashville and Austin, Texas, and served as dean of Lipscomb University’s College of Education.

The finalists are:

West Tennessee

  • Michael Robinson, Houston High, Germantown Municipal School District
  • Carlin McGlown, Munford Middle, Tipton County Schools
  • Valerie Godina, Henry Elementary, Henry County Schools

Middle Tennessee

  • Melissa Miller, Franklin Elementary, Franklin Special School District
  • Michael Franklin, Franklin County High, Franklin County Schools
  • Susan Reeder, Union Heights Elementary, Smith County Schools

East Tennessee

  • Lori Farley, North City Elementary, Athens City Schools
  • Bryan Schultz, L&N Stem Academy, Knox County Schools
  • Amy Whaley, Morristown-Hamblen High School West, Hamblen County Schools

In addition to being ambassadors for education, all Teacher of the Year finalists will serve on McQueen’s Teacher Advisory Council, a group that provides feedback to inform the work of the state Department of Education.

The finalists represent each of nine regions across West, Middle, and East Tennessee and were chosen based on scoring from a panel of educators. The 2018-19 winner, along with regional winners, will be named following interviews with the panel.

Cicely Woodard, an eighth-grade math teacher at Nashville’s West End Middle School, received the honor last fall.

You can learn more about Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year program here.