Six finalists named for top teacher

SUWANEE - Six educators have been named finalists for Gwinnett County Public Schools' 2008 Teacher of the Year, district officials said Wednesday.

Mandy Collins of McKendree Elementary, Mitzi Ethridge of Margaret Winn Holt Elementary, Martha Brick of Five Forks Middle, Doug Callahan of Glenn C. Jones Middle, Joey Nunn of Frank N. Osborne Middle and Greg Field of Grayson High were selected this week from a group of 20 semifinalists.

A committee will visit each of the finalists next week in their classrooms to observe their teaching methods, said Nikki Mouton, the executive director of the office of staff development. Committee members will also conduct interviews with the teachers.

The site visit and interview will help the committee determine the district's Teacher of the Year, Mouton said. The top teacher will be announced Nov. 1 at a banquet, where all of this year's school winners will be honored.

"They're the cream of the crop," Mouton said. "They've been through a significant process, and we're down to the top six. ... (These educators are) teaching their hearts out and making a difference with students."

As the only finalist at the high school level, Field will be named the district's High School Teacher of the Year. He began working at Grayson in 2004, after starting his teaching career in a small village in Kenya.

Field, who has a bachelor's degree in mathematics and a master's degree in curriculum and instruction, meets daily with his co-instructors to share best practices to ensure all students are academically successful, a press release states.

Mouton said there will be some competition at the middle school level, as there are three finalists.

Brick, a science and math teacher at Five Forks Middle, started her teaching career in 1987 at Annistown Elementary. She taught at Tilson Elementary before joining Five Forks in 1993.

Brick, who has a bachelor's degree in education and a master's in secondary science, has taught science to her colleagues as part of a science staff development activity, a press release states. She said she believes in being actively involved in the community and is a Tae Kwon Do black-belt instructor in martial arts and self defense.

Callahan, who has dedicated his education career to teaching mathematics, has worked in Gwinnett since 1998, where he has worked at Lanier and Jones middle schools. He has a bachelor's and master's degree in middle grades education and specialist's degree in mathematics education.

A leader in staff development, Callahan played a key role in aligning Gwinnett's Academic Knowledge and Skills curriculum with the Georgia Performance Standards curriculum in middle grades mathematics, a press release states. To support the updated AKS, he wrote lesson plans for sixth-grade mathematics, and led a team of writers to create the seventh-grade plans.

Nunn came to Gwinnett in 2004, teaching earth and physical sciences at Frank N. Osborne Middle. A teacher who also loves learning, Nunn has a bachelor's degree in speech and four master's degrees. In 2008, he will begin studies toward a specialist's degree.

Having earned more than 730 staff development hours, Nunn said the most meaningful has been his participation in the JASON Academy/PISA program, which allowed him to further expand his knowledge while incorporating lessons and activities he can use in his class, a press release states.

Two gifted education teachers have been named finalists at the elementary school level.

Collins, an educator for more than two decades, came to McKendree Elementary in 1998. She has been a gifted program teacher since 2001. She began her teaching career in England and has a bachelor's degree in early childhood education and a master's in curriculum and instruction.

Collins serves on the Gifted Curriculum Revision Committee, where she works with other educators to align gifted standards with the AKS curriculum, a press release states. She is passionate about environmental education, donating her time to the Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful Education Steering Committee.

Ethridge started working in Gwinnett in 1986, joining Winn Holt Elementary in 2004. She has bachelor's, master's and specialist's degrees in middle grades education.

Ethridge helped develop a program to improve English proficiency with higher order thinking students who are English language learners. The "Brain Buddies" program develops critical thinking and an empathetic heart.

Gwinnett's Teacher of the Year will receive a yearly award of $1,000 and the other level winners will each receive $750 yearly, as long as they are employed with GCPS. The other three finalists will receive a one-time award of $500, and each local school winner will receive a one-time award of $200.

SideBar: The Finalists

Gwinnett County Public Schools has named six educators as finalists for 2008 Teacher of the Year. The teachers are:

' Mandy Collins, a kindergarten through fifth-grade gifted program teacher at McKendree Elementary

' Mitzi Ethridge, a kindergarten through fifth-grade gifted program teacher at Margaret Winn Holt Elementary

' Martha Brick, an eighth-grade science and mathematics teacher at Five Forks Middle

' Doug Callahan, a seventh-grade mathematics teacher at Glenn C. Jones Middle

' Joey Nunn, an eighth-grade physical science teacher at Frank N. Osborne Middle

' Greg Field, an advanced placement calculus teacher at Grayson High