Clayton teacher in running for top state recognition

By Trina Trice

The Clayton County school system could soon be home to Georgia's 2004 Teacher of the Year.

Tina Harper, technology teacher at Suder Elementary School, has emerged as one of the five finalists in the state's TOTY competition. She has been teaching for five years.

"After meeting the other four finalists, I feel very honored and privileged" to be among them, Harper said.

The other finalists are teachers from Oconee, Walton, Grady, and Screven counties.

Harper recently attended a luncheon in honor of the finalists in Warner Robins, where she also met representatives from the state Board of Education and the competition's judges.

The luncheon was part of the final steps required by a panel of judges that also conducted a final review and interview with teachers.

"We are fortunate that in Georgia we have such an impressive group of teachers from which to choose," said State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox. "Attempting to narrow down that list is a difficult process. These five finalists exemplify the dedication, knowledge, skill, community involvement, and parental and collegial respect that make them an inspiration to students, parents, and fellow educators all across the state."

Each of Georgia's 180 public school systems could submit one nominee for the Teacher of the Year honor. A panel of educators rates the applications, and those with the highest scores become Georgia's 12 semifinalists.

The five finalists for the 2004 Teacher of the Year are selected after a panel conducts a review process that includes a review of the candidate's video submission, an observation of their teaching, and an interview.

Despite the strenuous process, Harper says the competition hasn't affected her teaching methods, but her attitude towards her profession.

"It kind of like a renewal and a reassurance," Harper said. "The kids notice things, like me being in the news and the newspaper. It takes being a role model to another level."

Judges are announcing Georgia's 2004 Teacher of the Year April 25 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Macon.

"All true education reform begins in the classroom with an excellent teacher," Cox said. "That's a truth that I want to bring to the forefront of our efforts for education in Georgia. Giving honor to these nominees is just one example of the type of recognition that we need to give to excellent teachers across this state."

The Georgia Teacher of the Year Program began in 1971.

The last teacher from Clayton County to win state Teacher of the Year was fifth-grade teacher Barbara Ann Ford in 1997.

Each of Clayton County's 51 schools selected their respective Teachers of the Year earlier this year.