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2010 Georgia Teacher of the Year Named (Updated 5/18)

MEDIA CONTACT:  - GaDOE Communications office, (404) 463-1487,     - Follow us on  Twitter @GaDOEnews       May 15, 2009  -- Gwen Desselle, a 32-year veteran educator from Colquitt County, has been named the 2010 Georgia Teacher of the Year.     Mrs. Desselle was named the winner of the award at the annual Georgia Teacher of the Year banquet at the Georgia Aquarium. She will spend the 2009-2010 school year serving as an advocate for public education and the teaching profession in Georgia. ( See the announcement )    "I know that Gwen is going to be a great spokesperson for teachers in Georgia," said State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox. "She has been a teacher for a long time, but embraces 21st-century education techniques and innovations. She deeply cares for her students and her colleagues and is passionate about making sure they are all successful."     Mrs. Desselle, a high school social studies teacher, got her undergraduate and master’s degrees from Valdosta State University. She began her teaching career at Valdosta High School in 1977 and moved to Colquitt County High School in 1981. She has been there ever since.     In her application, she described her philosophy of teaching as being focused on the future. She stressed the importance of constantly changing the way she teaches to adapt to changes in the world.     "We know that as society changes, children change and, therefore, the lessons must revise, too," Ms. Desselle wrote. "Therefore, we consistently design, implement and revise lessons that best fit the needs of our students, because we realize that our purpose as educators is to prepare students for tomorrow -- not yesterday."     Mrs. Desselle is an avid traveler and often brings stories back to Colquitt County to share with her students. A high school senior at her school wrote that Mrs. Desselle "has a unique teaching style and knows just how to capture and hold each student's attention by telling some story or recounting a trip that she had taken to the actual place we were studying ... It isn't like she teaches history but it is like she lives it."     As Georgia Teacher of the Year, Mrs. Desselle will spend next school year traveling around the state speaking to the public about the teaching profession and conducting workshops and programs for educators. She will also compete for 2010 National Teacher of the Year and will serve as an advisor to Superintendent Cox and the Georgia Department of Education.    ABOUT THE GEORGIA TEACHER OF THE YEAR PROGRAM      There were 147 district teachers of the year that submitted applications to become the 2010 Georgia Teacher of the Year. The applications were read by a panel of judges that included teachers, past GTOY winners and finalists, administrators, community leaders and others. Ten finalists were chosen based on the strength of their essay responses. ( Watch the "Why I Teach" video starring the 10 finalists )    A panel of judges that included Leanne Maule, the 2009 Georgia Teacher of the Year, and others observed each finalist in their classroom and interviewed them at their schools. The ten finalists then gave speeches at the annual Teacher of the Year luncheon, sponsored by Georgia Power.     No state funds were used for the Teacher of the Year banquet. It was paid for through private donations and ticket sales.     Several sponsors donated money and prizes for the Georgia Teacher of the Year. Platinum sponsors included Verizon, AirTran Airways, and SMARTer Kids Foundation.Other sponsors included Blue Bell Creameries, The Coca Cola Company, Georgia Power, Professional Association of Georgia Educators, Keith Plaques, Shaw Industries, The School Box, Inc., Publix Super Markets, Inc., Herff Jones, Inc., Cousins Properties, Inc., and Security National Life Insurance.    2010 Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalists   (Teacher, School, System, Subject)  - Tiffany Todd, Southeast Bulloch High School, Bulloch County, U.S. History  - Dr. Mark Lang, Camden Middle School, Camden County, Life Science  - Michele Rigsby, BelAir Elementary School, Columbia County, 4th grade  - Suzy Besson-Martilotta, Chattahoochee Elementary School, Forsyth County, 1st grade  - Merrill Boynton-Cheyne, Harris County Carver Middle School, Harris County, Drama and Journalism  - Sandy Akin, East Jackson Comprehensive High School, Jackson County, Mathematics  - Krista Pearson, Lowndes High School, Lowndes County, Mathematics  - Kathie Wood, Marietta Middle School, Marietta City, Language Arts  - Jennifer Beckum Irvin, Toombs County High School, Toombs County, 10th Grade Literature    Gwen Desselle speaks after being named the 2010 Georgia Teacher of the Year. In the background are finalists Jennifer Beckum Irvin, left, and Kathie Wood.