SUWANEE -- A list of finalists has been narrowed to six teachers for Gwinnett County Public Schools' highest honor for educators.
The finalists for the most recent round of GCPS 2013 teacher of the year picks are Erica Leach, Walnut Grove Elementary; Deborah Johnson, Berkmar Middle; Celisa Edwards, Dacula Middle; Heidi Mikulecky, Richards Middle; Jay Nebel, Norcross High; and Dean Landers, Peachtree Ridge High.
A selection committee of 11 district educators narrowed the field from the 26 semifinalists who had been selected from a list of 131 local school teachers of the year.
The committee of former teachers of the year, local school administrators and central office support staff now has the task of selecting the 2013 teacher of the year -- an announcement which will be made at a banquet Nov. 1 at the Gwinnett Center.
During the event, all 131 teachers of the year will be recognized.
As the final element of the judging process, the selection committee will complete classroom observations and conduct interviews with each of the six teachers. They will look for original teaching methods, study the teaching philosophy of each candidate, review special class projects and consider the influence the teacher has had on the practices of colleagues. Out of the six finalists, three will be designated as the elementary, middle and high school teachers of the year.
Nikki Mouton, executive director of staff development with GCPS, said the process of selection for the 131 educators begins with teachers being nominated by peers. "Then they move to the district-level (round), and that's our opportunity to have a cross-section of district personnel to look through their applications," Mouton said.
She said those who have made it this far in the process "are often the go-to teachers among their colleagues. It's that person you want on your team."
The following is a look at the finalists:
-- Leach supports Walnut Grove Elementary students and classroom teachers as the school's mathematics specialist, a position she has held since 2007 when she joined GCPS. She holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Auburn University. She also completed the Teach Gwinnett Alternative Certification Program.
-- Johnson has taught math to eighth-graders since joining GCPS in 2008. She received her bachelor's degree in mathematics and her master's degree in teaching and curriculum both from Michigan State University.
-- Edwards brought several years of experience from California when she joined Gwinnett County Public Schools in 2004. After three years teaching science to sixth graders at McConnell Middle, she moved to Dacula Middle in 2007, where she teaches all subjects to seventh-grade students. She earned her undergraduate degree in natural science from the Master's College, a master's in integrating technology in the classroom from Walden University and is pursuing a specialist's degree in curriculum and instruction from Lincoln Memorial University
-- Mikulecky entered the profession in 2008 as a teacher at Richards Middle, where she teaches language arts to sixth-grade students. She earned a bachelor's degree in education from Georgia Southern University and also holds a master's degree in education from Georgia State University.
-- Nebel has taught world history at Norcross High since 2007. He dedicated the first 11 years of his teaching profession to Creekland Middle students, where he taught language arts and social studies. He earned a bachelor's degree in middle childhood education from Georgia State University and a master's degree in teaching and curriculum from Trident International University.
-- Landers joined Peachtree Ridge High five years ago. He teaches physics to juniors and seniors. Landers earned his mechanical engineering degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a master's degree in science education from Georgia State University.