MEDIA CONTACT: Meghan Frick, GaDOE Communications Office, firstname.lastname@example.org
August 7, 2021 – Cherie Bonder Dennis, an English as a Second Language (ESOL) teacher at Hesse K-8 School in Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools, is the 2022 Georgia Teacher of the Year. Dennis was recognized in a surprise virtual announcement this evening. As Georgia Teacher of the Year, she will serve as an advocate for public education in Georgia.
Teaching is a second career for Dennis. She initially worked in advertising, but her heart was in the classroom – and she's now been teaching in Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools for ten years.
“Cherie Bonder Dennis answered the call to become an educator, and we in Georgia are fortunate she did," State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “As a teacher, she facilitates creative, hands-on, child-focused education that encourages her students to love learning. I know she will be an outstanding representative of Georgia's public schools."
After graduating from Georgetown University in 1993 with a bachelor's degree in Japanese and a minor in teaching, then from Stanford University in 1995 with a master's in East Asian Studies, Dennis intended to become a Japanese language teacher. Unfortunately, jobs proved scarce, so she landed in advertising – first at Saatchi & Saatchi working on Toyota's national campaign, then at DDB strategizing for Clorox. However, Dennis knew where her heart had always been.
In 2004, Dennis moved to Savannah to raise her son near family. Once he entered kindergarten, she began pursuing a master's in early childhood education at Armstrong Atlantic State University. She is now in her tenth year with Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools, where she serves as an ESOL teacher; prior to that, she taught third grade for seven years.
As an educator, Dennis strives to connect students with their community and ensure instruction is relevant to students' lives.
“I always strive to make content personally relevant so students never ask, 'What's the point?'" she wrote in her application for Georgia Teacher of the Year. “In math, we design dream homes, calculating area for carpet and perimeter for fencing. In writing, we pen letters to the principal supporting or disagreeing with school uniforms so students understand the exponential power of well-articulated opinions. … When students connect content to their world, education transcends the classroom."
As Georgia Teacher of the Year, Dennis will represent Georgia teachers by speaking to the public about the teaching profession and serving as an ex-officio member of the State Board of Education. She will also participate in the competitive selection process for the 2022 National Teacher of the Year.
2022 Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalists
Finalists are listed in alphabetical order by last name, with the exception of the Teacher of the Year and Runner-Up.
Cherie Bonder Dennis, 2022 Georgia Teacher of the Year – ESOL Teacher, Hesse K-8 School, Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools
Michelle Mickens, 2022 Runner-Up – English Teacher, Washington-Wilkes Comprehensive High School, Wilkes County Schools
Natasha Nicole Berry, Third Grade Teacher, Sallas Mahone Elementary School, Valdosta City Schools
Tewanna L. Brown, Business and Computer Science Teacher, Mount Zion Middle School, Carroll County Schools
Rebecca Elizabeth Carlisle, AP World History and STEM Humanities Teacher, North Gwinnett High School, Gwinnett County Public Schools
Shanika Nichole Freeman, Fifth Grade Social Studies Teacher, Moreland Road Elementary School, Griffin-Spalding County Schools
Catherine Nichole Hampton, Elementary STEAM Teacher, W.L. Swain Elementary School, Gordon County Schools
Maggie Johnson Pruitt, Self-Contained Special Education Teacher, Buford High School, Buford City Schools
Jennifer Hawthorne Smith, Kindergarten Teacher, Jeffersonville Elementary School, Twiggs County Schools
Matthew Ellis Taylor, Fifth Grade Math and Science Teacher, Southwest Laurens Elementary School, Laurens County Schools