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GCPS Teacher of the Year finalists narrowed to six

Special Photos Top row (from left): Sarah Black, North Gwinnett Middle; Brittany Palazzo, Mulberry Elementary; Aundrea Muth, Mill Creek High School. Bottom row (from left): Keri Beth Tidmore Jones, Dacula Middle; Jennifer Dunn, Pharr Elementary; Lindsey Cafarella, Peachtree Ridge High School.

Special Photos Top row (from left): Sarah Black, North Gwinnett Middle; Brittany Palazzo, Mulberry Elementary; Aundrea Muth, Mill Creek High School. Bottom row (from left): Keri Beth Tidmore Jones, Dacula Middle; Jennifer Dunn, Pharr Elementary; Lindsey Cafarella, Peachtree Ridge High School.

For Gwinnett County Public Schools’ 2012 Teacher of the Year competition, it’s down to the best of the best.

During the past few weeks, a selection committee has narrowed the field from 129 local teacher of the year selections. Last week, the committee announced 25 semifinalists from the 129. This week it’s down to six.

Finalists for the 2012 honor are Brittany Palazzo, Mulberry Elementary; Jennifer Dunn, Pharr Elementary, Keri Beth Tidmore Jones, Dacula Middle; Sarah Black, North Gwinnett Middle; Aundrea Muth, Mill Creek High; and Lindsey Cafarella, Peachtree Ridge High.

To make it this far, educators must exude excellence, said District Director of Staff Development Nikki Mouton.

“These teachers have been selected by their peers and by committees of teachers and administrators and have developed positive relationships with parents and students,” Mouton said.

“In addition, they exhibit a true commitment to this profession on a daily basis.”

The committee now must select three finalists to be designated as the elementary, middle and high school teachers of the year. From there, the 2012 teacher of the year will be announced during a Nov. 3 banquet.

Mulberry Elementary teacher Palazzo joined the school’s staff in 2007 after working at Dacula and Centerville elementary schools. She holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Georgia State University and a master’s degree from Piedmont College in curriculum and instruction.

Dunn started at McKendree Elementary in 2004. After some time away from Gwinnett, she returned in 2007 as a fifth grade teacher at Pharr Elementary. She is working on her specialist’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Lincoln Memorial University. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Georgia State University and a master’s degree in integrating technology in the classroom from Walden University.

Tidmore Jones joined Gwinnett County Public Schools after getting a bachelor’s degree in business education. Since 2005, she has made Dacula Middle her home, teaching computer science and eighth grade yearbook. She also holds a master’s degree in integrating technology in the classroom from Walden University.

Black joined the system as the orchestra teacher at Lanier Middle in 1997 and later helped open North Gwinnett Middle in 2009. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from Appalachian State University.

Muth has taught at Mill Creek High since 2006. She teaches political systems and AP government to seniors. Muth earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Georgia.

Cafarella joined the school district in 2006 at Peachtree Ridge High, where she teaches world history to sophomores. In addition to two undergraduate degrees, she earned a master’s degree in social science education from UGA and is working on her doctorate degree in teaching and learning: social studies education from Georgia State University.

The district’s teacher of the year will receive an annual award of $1,000 and the other level winners will each receive $750 each year for as long as they are employed with the system.

The other three finalists will get a one-time award of $500, and each local school winner gets a one-time award of $200.