Special Photo. Aimee Burgamy delivers her acceptance speech after she is named the Great American Teacher of the Year.
LILBURN -- Trickum Middle School art teacher Aimee Burgamy has been named the first Great American Teacher of the Year.
Presented by the Ron Clark Academy and Great American Financial Resources, the national award celebrates excellence in education.
"It was really amazing," said Burgamy, who was the 2009 Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year. "There were four other highly qualified contestants ... and to see the caliber of (the finalists) was kind of humbling."
As the winner, Burgamy won a $10,000 cash prize, $5,000 to spend on art supplies for the school and technology including a Promethean Active classroom, which she said is "the most cutting-edge system ... beyond what you've seen before."
Burgamy, who serves as the district's lead middle school art teacher, was one of about 6,000 nominees for the award.
After hearing about the program, Burgamy encouraged other Gwinnett County teachers to apply or make nominations, particularly of teachers in the arts. Recognizing teachers of the arts can promote the arts, she said.
Soon after, Burgamy was notified that she had been nominated.
"I don't really know who nominated me," she said.
Burgamy was asked to complete an application that included essays and documentation and photos of her classroom. She noted that her essays were judged by professionals including Ruby Payne, a career educator who wrote books including "A Framework for Understanding Poverty" and "Bridges Out of Poverty," and Harry Wong, an educator who wrote "The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher."
Burgamy said the experience of having her essays judged by such esteemed professionals "was like the ultimate going in and turning in your paper to the teacher."
At a gala Friday in Atlanta where the award was announced, Burgamy said she had the "biggest entourage" because several teachers from her school bought a table at the event. Some of her students and some central office personnel also attended the event.
"It was really nice to have that (support)," she said.
Sponsors of the event included Great American Financial Resources, The Coca-Cola Co., Comcast Communications, Verizon Wireless, Delta Air Lines, Promethean, Dell, Audio Enhancement, Presentation Services, Associated Builders and Contractors of Georgia, Image Master Productions, and Ruth's Chris Steak House.