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​2017 Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalists Announced

MEDIA CONTACTS: Matt Cardoza,, (404) 651-7358 or Keisha Ford-Jenrette, (404) 657-2949 

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April 26, 2016
– State School Superintendent Richard Woods today announced the finalists for Georgia's 2017 Teacher of the Year.

The 10 finalists were chosen from a pool of 155 applicants, all of whom were the Teacher of the Year in their school district. The applications were read by a panel of judges that included teachers, past Georgia Teacher of the Year winners and finalists, administrators, community leaders and others. The finalists were chosen based on the strength of their essay responses.

"Having excellent teachers in the classroom is absolutely essential -- our students cannot succeed at high levels without them," Superintendent Woods said. "Every one of these ten finalists is a shining example of the difference a great teacher makes in the life of a child. I congratulate each of them on their accomplishments and look forward to working with them to ensure our policies are child-focused and classroom-centered."

Over the next several weeks, a panel of judges will conduct video observations and interviews and hear speeches given by the finalists. The winner will be announced in mid-May.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the Teacher of the Year program in Georgia. This year’s anniversary will be celebrated with a gala in Savannah with First Lady Sandra Deal as chair.

The 2017 Georgia Teacher of the Year will travel around the state and the nation, serving as an ambassador for the teaching profession. The winner will also be entered in the National Teacher of the Year competition.

The 2016 Georgia Teacher of the Year is Mr. Ernie Lee, an IB History, Civics and U.S. Government teacher, from Windsor Forest High School in Savannah.

To learn more about the Teacher of the Year program, click here:  

2017 Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalists (in alphabetical order by district)

Martha Villanueva Milam, AP Chemistry, Chemistry

Coweta County, East Coweta High


Casey M. Bethel, AP Physics, AP Biology, Honors Physics, Biology, Physical Science

Douglas County, New Manchester High


Heather Cocke, English Language Arts

Effingham County, Ebenezer Middle


Marlo Miranda, Automotive Technologies

Forsyth County, Forsyth Central High


Heather McConnell, Special Education

Gainesville City, Gainesville Middle


Jennifer Taylor, Science

Harris County, Harris County Carver Middle


Sara Jones Wilder, Fourth Grade

Lowndes County, James L. Dewar Elementary


Dr. Debra Russell, AP Biology, Magnet Biology, Anatomy and Physiology

Rockdale County, Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology


Michelle Courtwright Ashmore, AP U.S. Government, Comparative Religion and Economics

Troup County, Troup County Comprehensive High


Joseph Cody Moncrief, Mathematics

Valdosta City, Valdosta Middle​