State Teacher of the Year finalists: Local teachers get nods

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A Gwinnett County science teacher and a Barrow County special education teacher are among the 10 finalists for 2011 Georgia Teacher of the Year.

Deborah Stringfellow, who teaches at Alton C. Crews Middle School in Lawrenceville, and Lori Bone, a teacher at County Line Elementary School in Winder, were chosen from 148 applicants selected as teachers of the year in their respective school districts by a panel of judges that included other teachers, previous Georgia Teacher of the Year winners, finalists, administrators, community leaders and others.

Stringfellow began teaching even before she entered a formal classroom -- she taught her younger brothers to read and tutored her mother in preparation for obtaining a GED.

"I knew by this time I wanted to teach because becoming a teacher would allow me to remain in an environment I found to be rewarding," she said. "School is a place where one can see firsthand the effects that love, nurturing and teaching can have on young lives."

Stringfellow joined Gwinnett County Public Schools and the seventh-grade faculty at Crews Middle in 2003. Her teaching career spans more than two decades.

Bone is in her fourth year of teaching, a career she initially began as a paraprofessional working with a child with special needs. She counts as her greatest contribution to the profession thus far as her ability to show her colleagues and her students' parents there are ways to work with students with challenging behaviors.

"My peers have seen firsthand that I will not quit on these kids," Bone wrote in a bio posted on Barrow County Schools' Web site. "I communicate openly with parents and have tried to help mitigate the difficulties inherent in raising a child with special needs."

Both Stringfellow and Bone, as well as the other eight finalists, will be observed in their classrooms and interviewed by a panel of judges over the next several weeks. The winner will be announced at the Georgia Teacher of the Year Banquet on May 14 at the Georgia Aquarium.

The 2011 Georgia Teacher of the Year will spend the following school year traveling around the state and the nation, serving as an ambassador for the teaching profession, and will be entered in the National Teacher of the Year competition.

All 10 Georgia Teacher of the Year finalists will serve on Cox's Teacher Advisory Council next school year.