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TCSS names teacher of the year finalists

The Troup County School System has named its finalists for teacher of the year.

On Monday, Superintendent Brian Shumate visited three teachers in their classrooms with principals, family, co-workers and friends.

The three finalists are Jill Kemp, kindergarten teacher at Hollis Hand Elementary; Courtney Agurs, science teacher at Callaway Middle School; and Hannah Frady, ninth and tenth-grade social studies teacher at Troup High School.

TCSS Director of Public Relations Yolanda Stephen said the teachers don’t know the superintendent or the nomination is coming when people show up to their classroom. The students don’t know what’s happening either.

“We want to show the students in the building that their teachers are special,” Stephen said. “It doesn’t come lightly, so everybody should be involved in celebrating these teachers being nominated.”

Frady said being named a nominee is an honor. 

“It means so much that I have been named a Teacher of the Year finalist,” she said. “I did not expect this and feel deeply honored just to be in the top three. It feels very fulfilling to know that I am doing great things in my classroom. I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

Kemp, Agurs and Frady rose to the top of each level of education out of a field of 24 finalists. 

All the nominees had to complete applications describing their professional preparation and experience, as well as answer questions about their philosophy of teaching and practical applications. Stephen said some of these essays ranged from 150 words to 300 words.

Those essays were judged by professionals in and outside the school system. It’s a blind evaluation, meaning the judges didn’t know whose essay they were grading.

From those evaluations, the finalists were named.

Now, the three teachers will be observed by three judges outside of the school system. Stephen said the judges know nothing about the teachers they are observing other than what can be found on the internet.

After the classroom observation, there is another round of essays and an in-person interview by the judges.

From there, a TCSS teacher of the year will be named in March. The winner will then go on to compete at the state level.

Stephen said the process at TCSS is similar to the process to win the state teacher of the year process. She said the state names a top 10, and then a statewide teacher of the year. In the past five years, TCSS has had two state finalists, Stephen said.

“You have to be excellent and at the top of your profession,” she said. “The teacher of the year really is the face of the district.”

The current teacher of the year, Traviera Sewell, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Long Cane Middle School, will have her face printed on brochures for the 2020 U.S. Census for Troup County. Also, Stephen said when the school is recruiting for talent, the teacher of the year is a big part of that process.