Teacher of the Year

The Teacher of the Year program recognizes and honors outstanding teachers in Tennessee. We applaud teachers who care about children, who devote their professional lives to enriching the lives of Tennessee children and who demonstrate exceptional gains in student achievement. Goals of the program are:

  • Promote effective teaching practices by recognizing and rewarding outstanding teachers.
  • Engage regional teachers of the year in education policy making through the Teacher Advisory Council.
  • Encourage participation by every school in the state so that all Tennessee teachers may be recognized and rewarded.
  • Build a network of local and state corporate sponsors.
  • Provide a network for teachers to share effective practices.
  • Encourage a sense of professionalism in teaching.
  • Encourage greater participation in building a strong community-school partnership.

2015-16 Teacher of the Year Application Form

Program Overview

The Tennessee Teacher of the Year program is designed to promote recognition, respect and appreciation for teachers, to stimulate interest in teaching as a career, and to encourage public involvement in education.

The regional teacher of the year finalists are part of the Commissioner’s Teacher Advisory Council. The council members share feedback and advice on issues that impact teachers, and help communicate information with teachers in their region. The nine finalists serve a one-year term on the council and the three grand division winners serve a two-year term; thus, the council has twelve total members each year.

The Tennessee Teacher of the Year represents Tennessee in the National Teacher of the Year competition, which is sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers, Inc.

Terry Weeks, 1988 Tennessee Teacher of the Year, was named 1988 National Teacher of the Year. 1994 Teacher of the Year Frank Bluestein was named by Disney/McDonald's as the 1996 Performing Arts National Teacher of the Year. The Tennessee Teacher of the Year 2014-15 is Karen Vogelsang of Shelby County Schools.

Teachers of the Year are selected competitively through five cycles: Building, System, CORE Office Level, Grand Division and State from three categories (levels of teaching); Grades Pre K-4, 5-8, 9-12. Please note that these levels refer to the grade(s) taught by the teacher and not to the grade structure or designation of the school.

Teachers selected at each cycle receive local recognition and awards underwritten by local sources. State recognition/awards include a banquet honoring the nine Tennessee Teacher of the Year finalists and certificates of appreciation from the governor.

Eligibility & Selection Criteria

A Teacher of the Year candidate must:

  • Be a full-time, certified, in good standing, Pre K-12 teacher in a state-accredited public school at each stage of the recognition process (local, regional, grand division, state and national levels).
  • Spend the majority of the school day in direct instruction to students.
  • Be in at least the fifth year of teaching in Tennessee public schools.
  • Have a track record of exceptional gains in student learning.

Teachers of the Year at all levels must:

  • Have a broad understanding of research-based models for effective teaching and of current trends and issues in education.
  • Be facilitators of learning, skilled in implementing creative teaching strategies.
  • Be able to show evidence of positive teacher effect over time related to student achievement through formal and informal documentation.
  • Be able to explain, discuss and defend a personal philosophy of teaching.
  • Be poised, articulate, enthusiastic, and energetic.
  • Be exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable and skilled teachers.
  • Have a superior ability to teach and to inspire in students a love of learning.
  • Be recognized as leaders in the community as well as in the school.
  • Show active involvement and leadership in professional development and extra-curricular activities.
  • Inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn.
  • Have the respect and admiration of students, parents and colleagues.

Projected 2015-16 Timeline

Dates Process
by February 6, 2015

Building-Level and System-Level Teacher of the Year 2015-16 selection process must be completed. The finalists are notified. System finalists must complete Sections I. II, III, IV and V in preparation for Center of Regional Excellence (CORE) Level Competition.

by 4:00 p.m. CST February 20, 2015

School System Directors or their designee submit System Level Teacher of the Year applications (one system finalist for each: Pre K-4; 5-8; 9-12). Each application must include Sections I-V. Mail the original application and 3 copies of each to the appropriate CORE office.

All districts within Shelby County (Jackson), Southwest (Jackson), Northwest (Martin), Mid Cumberland (Nashville), South Central (Shelbyville), Upper Cumberland (Cookeville), Southeast (Cleveland), East TN (Knoxville), First TN (Johnson City)

February 21 - March 6, 2015

Regional Judges will select the 2015-16 CORE Teachers of the Year. Winners will be notified no later than March 20, 2015.

Postmark deadline:

April 10, 2015

CORE Teachers of the Year must add Sections VI, VII, and VIII of the application to articipate in the Grand Division and State Competition. Please submit the original application and 9 copies of all sections to:

Office of Educator Talent
ATTN: Dr. Johnny Crow
710 James Robertson Parkway,12th Floor, AJT
Nashville, TN 37243-0376

May-June 2015

Judges will select 9 finalists, one per CORE office plus one from the districts within Shelby County. Each of the 9 finalists will participate in interviews for Tennessee Teacher of the Year.

August 2015

The 9 finalists will be interviewed. Three Grand Division Teachers of the Year will be selected. One of the three will be named Tennessee Teacher of the Year.

September/October 2015

Banquet/Announcement of the three Grand Division Winners and Tennessee Teacher of the Year.

Teacher Advisory Council convenes in Nashville.

Early November 2015

National Teacher of the Year Application due.

January/February 2016 Teacher Advisory Council convenes in Nashville.

School and District Selection Guidelines

For Building-level Teacher of the Year

  1. Each division, department, or grade within a school may nominate a candidate and present its choice to the general faculty. Schools are encouraged to consider nominations from parents, students and other community members.
  2. Each school faculty may choose a teacher(s) in each category to participate in system competition. Categories consist of grades Pre K-4, 5-8, and 9-12. Please note that these categories refer to the grade taught by the teacher and do not refer to the grade structure or designation of the school.
  3. The number of teachers chosen in each category is not to exceed 1 per 20 faculty members (or portion of 20) in that category.
  4. Each Building Teacher of the Year completes Sections I, II, and III of the application and then submits them on 8-1/2" x 11" paper, stapled in the upper left-hand corner to the Director of Schools.
  5. Each building principal submits the Building-Level Teacher of the Year Report Form to the Director of Schools.

Building Report Form

For System-level (School District) Teacher of the Year

  1. System Selection Committees should be composed of a Curriculum Supervisor, a Principal, and previous Teachers of the Year (System, Regional, Grand Division finalist, or State Teacher of the Year) to review applications of each Building Teacher of the Year.
  2. Each committee should represent the category (Pre K-4, 5-8, 9-12) for which the candidate is applying.
  3. Committees select one teacher from each category (Pre K-4, 5-8, 9-12) to represent the system in region-level competition. Please note that these categories refer to the grade taught by the teacher and do not refer to the grade structure or designation of the school.
  4. Each System Teacher of the Year from each category (Pre K-4, 5-8, 9-12) completes Sections I, II, III, IV and V, of the application. These documents are added to the System Teacher of the Year application packet. Use the System Report Form and submit the original and 3 (three) copies to the appropriate CORE office no later than 4:00 p.m. CST on February 21, 2015. Mailing addresses for each CORE office are available from the links below:

System Report Form

Application Guidelines

General Requirements: CORE/Regional Level

Please provide all information requested and enclose the application on 8 1/2" x 11" white paper, stapled in the upper left-hand corner. The application should not be enclosed in a folder of any kind. Use a 12-point font size with Times New Roman print style and one-inch margins.  Please include the original application and 3 complete copies.

Please limit your answer to the number of pages requested in each section. In order to provide all applicants with an equal opportunity, only the number of pages requested will be accepted. Additional pages and/or materials cannot be presented to the Selection Committees.

Each application must include one photograph (color or b&w) suitable for publicity purposes. (a 3x5 head shot is preferred).

Building- and System-Level Competition

Once the teacher(s) has been selected to represent the Teacher of the Year at the building level, winners must complete Sections I, II, and III for Building-Level and System-Level competition.

Application Details


(One-page form provided)


(Maximum length: 2 double-spaced pages)

  1. List school, district or other professional leadership positions related to education (i.e. leading a professional development session for your school or district, being a grade level or department chair, being an officer in a professional association, etc.)
  2. List any activities or projects you completed to support student achievement in your school (i.e. co-writing common assessments, writing a grant for school technology, etc.)
  3. List awards and other types of recognition related to your teaching experience.
  4. Describe your strategies and teaching practices to ensure that all students in your class grow and learn. Provide evidence to show that the strategy or practice was successful.

(Maximum length: 2 double-spaced pages)

  1. List any leadership positions you have held within your community and any community related activities (i.e. Boy Scout leader, volunteer work, civic activities, etc.)
  2. Describe your commitment to fostering parent involvement in your class and school. List any activities you have led or participated in to increase parent involvement (i.e. partnering with the Parent Teacher Organization, hosting an evening to showcase student work and achievements, hosting a parent's night to share information and answer questions about what is going on at school, etc.)
  3. Describe any non-academic leadership positions you have held in your school (i.e. basketball coach, yearbook sponsor, etc.)

(Maximum length: 2 double-spaced pages)

  1. Describe your personal feelings and beliefs about teaching, including your own ideas of what makes you an outstanding teacher, Describe the rewards you find in teaching.
  2. How are your beliefs about teaching demonstrated in your personal teaching style?
  3. If you are selected as a regional or state teacher of the year, what message would you like to share with your fellow educators?

(Maximum length: 1 page, single-spaced, for each letter)

Include three letters of support indicating the teacher's impact on student achievement. One letter of support must be from your principal*, and the remaining two letters may be from any of the following: superintendent, administrator, colleague, current student, parent or a civic leader.

Additional materials or changes in applications will not be permitted once applications are submitted for Region-Level competition. Incomplete applications may be disqualified.

*Principal to cite any relevant data on student achievement and gains.

Instructions for Grand Division Teacher of the Year

After selection as a CORE Office Level Teacher of the Year, winners will be notified that they are eligible to compete at the Grand Division level. CORE/Regional Teachers of the Year in any of the three categories (Pre K-4, grades 5-8, and 9-12), must complete Sections I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII and VIII of the Teacher of the Year application to compete at the Grand Division level. Completed applications for Grand Division must be postmarked no later than April 10, 2015. Applications (original and six (6) copies) are to be mailed to:

Office of Instructional Leadership

ATTN: Dr. Johnny Crow

710 James Robertson Parkway, 12th Floor

Nashville, TN 37243-0376


(Maximum length: 2 double-spaced pages)

  1. What do you consider to be the major public education issues today?
  2. Address one of these issues, outlining possible causes, effects, and resolutions.

(Maximum length: 2 double-spaced pages)

  1. What can you do to strengthen and improve the teaching profession?
  2. What is and/or should be the basis for accountability in the teaching profession?

(Maximum length: 2 double-spaced pages)

Explain what evidence you can provide to document that your teaching has resulted in high levels of student achievement for all students in your classes. (Evidence may include any relevant data from teacher evaluation, effectiveness rating, teacher effect data, authentic assessment data; for example, models, demonstrations, letters of evidence, test scores, portfolios.)

Past Recipients

Year Teacher School School System Subject Area
1960 Fayna Kennedy Moore   Franklin County   
1964 James Muskelly   Memphis City   
1965 John Pechonik   Jackson   
1966 Elizabeth Reed   Giles County   
1967 Dr. Flora Joy   Johnson City   
1968 Maxie Wilson Cocke County High School Cocke County English, Latin I and II
1970 Vallie Hunter Putnam Co. Senior High Putnam County English
1971 Edna Ruth White Jennie Bell Elementary Dyersburg City Special Education
1972 Ruby Street Cooley Dyersburg High School Dyersburg City Mathematics
1973 May McGlothin Coalfield Elementary Morgan County Kindergarten
1974 Evelyn Crunk McBroom Stratford High Metro/Nashville Language & Mathematics
1975 Woodrow Wilson      
1976 Donald Wayne Hood Ross M. Robinson Jr. HS Kingsport City American History
1977 Cora R. Cox Andrew Johnson Elem Kingsport City Teacher for autistic children
1978 Delores LeCornu Archie Milan High School Milan City Mathematics
1979 Joan Newby Edgington Watertown High Wilson County English
1980 Irene L. Fox Woodland Elementary Oak Ridge City Music
1981 Dr. Brenda Thompson (Smith) Gulledge Tusculum View Elementary Greeneville City 5th grade Language and Social Studies
1982 Martha Sue Elkins Willow Brook Elementary Oak Ridge City 6th grade
1983 Eleanore M. Zurbruegg Ridgeway Elementary Memphis City 2nd grade
1984 Sandra Hunter Crouch White Co. High White County 9th grade Consumer Homemaking
1985 Susan Ingram Gendrich Bradley Elementary Murfreesboro City English as a Second Language
1986 T. Dan Duggar Ottaway Elementary Greene County Reading and Mathematics
1987 Carol Gardnes Transou Science Hill High Johnson City AP American history
1988 Terry Weeks Central Middle Rutherford County 7th grade Social Studies
1989 Edna Loveday Sevierville Primary Sevierville County Kindergarten
1990 Geraldine Hawes Cleveland High Cleveland City English, Speech and Drama
1991 Joseph S. York Fayette-Ware High Fayette County AP/11th grade English
1992 Delores Doyle Reeves-Rogers Elem Murfreesboro City 2nd grade
1993 James H. Kirk, Jr. Alcoa Middle School Alcoa City 6th grade
1994 Frank Bluestein Germantown High Shelby County Theatre/Communication Arts
1995 Pamela Jean Burish Eakin School Metro/Nashville 3rd grade
1996 Linda L. Cheek Ingleside Elementary Athens City Multiage
1997 Cathy A. Pihl Kate Bond Elementary Shelby County 4th grade
1998 Linda Arms Gilbert Black Fox Elementary Murfreesboro City Music, Band,Chorus
1999 Alana Delise Teague McNairy Central High McNairy County 11th/12th grade English
2000 SuEllen Whitson Indian Trail Middle Johnson City 6th grade
2001 Dorene Harris Lowery Black Fox Elementary Bradley County K-5th grade
2002 Melinda K. Day Lenoir City Elementary Lenoir City 5th grade
2003 Deborah Smith Glencliff Elementary Metro Nashville Kindergarten
2004 Tracy L. Hoilman Unicoi County High Unicoi County Drama, Speech, English
2005 Karen Blooding, NBCT Homer Pittard Campus Rutherford County K-6 Music
2006 Dawn Heterick Werner Fairmount Elementary Bristol City Title I (K-6) Reading/Math
2007 Susanne Frensley Hillsboro High School Metro Nashville Art History
2008 Pamela Rector Red Bank High School Hamilton County English
2009 Luajean Bryan Walker Valley High School Bradley County Mathematics
2010 Patty Kiddy Selmer Elementary School McNairy County 1st grade
2011 Dr. Cheryl Deaton Pigeon Forge Primary Sevier County 4th grade
2012 Byron A. Booker Knox Central High School Knox County English as a Second Language
2013 Allyson Chick Richland Elementary School Memphis City 2nd grade
2014 Wanda Napier Lacy Farragut High School Knox County Advanced Placement calculus
2015 Karen Vogelsang Keystone Elementary Shelby County 4th grade


Last Update: March 18, 2015