Meet the Finalists for 2015-16 Teacher of the Year

These educators have spent countless hours encouraging our students to grow and learn and on Sept. 24, one of them will be named Tennessee Teacher of the Year.  Read more about each of the talented regional winners below.

9-2-15 Tonya Hawkins Arlington Elementary School

Tonya Hawkins works one on one with students on math problems at Arlington Elementary School

West Tennessee Regional Winners


Tonya Hawkins
Arlington Community Schools

Meet, Tonya Hawkins. Tonya teaches fourth grade math and science at Arlington Elementary in Arlington Community Schools. In her application essay, she describes the important role teachers play for students.

“I believe that being called a teacher is a gift that should be appreciated and valued.  Those we teach should feel empowered by the knowledge they gain and become productive members of society.”


Cathy Whitehead Chester County Schools

Cathy Whitehead
Chester County Schools

Meet, Cathy Whitehead. Cathy teaches third grade at West Chester Elementary in Chester County. Cathy describes one of the strongest forces that determines her students’ success.

“Students’ mindsets determine their achievement.  Once they see that they CAN accomplish goals and learn, their growth can be astounding.  Every student can learn, and every student can grow; the potential is there.  It’s up to us to help them see it.”


Pam Copeland Weakley County

Pam Copeland
Weakley County Schools

Meet, Pamela Copeland.  Pamela teaches eighth-grade U.S. History at Dresden Middle in Weakley County and describes her goals as a teacher.

“Certainly my job is to teach standards, but my ultimate goal is to instill in my students a sense of pride, ownership, and commitment to the future of their country.”


9-9-15 Gay Burger East Side School

Gay Burger of East Side Elementary School make learning fun and engaging for students

Middle Tennessee Regional Winners

Kyle Prince Rutherford County Schools

Kyle Prince
Rutherford County Schools

Meet, Kyle Prince. Kyle is a math teacher at Central Magnet School in Rutherford County.  He explains how all of his students can be successful in his class.

“I believe that every one of my students can be successful in math, regardless of their background.  In my classroom, there is no such thing as a ‘math person’ or a ‘non-math person’… everyone has the capability in them.”


Regina Peery Maury County Schools

Regina Peery
Maury County Schools

Meet, Regina Peery. Regina teaches kindergarten at McDowell Elementary in Maury County.  She describes how working together leads to student achievement.

“Building relationships with families, colleagues, and community stakeholders is a key component to helping my students achieve success.  I believe that together we make differences in the lives of students.”


Gay Burger Cannon County Schools

Gay Burger
Cannon County Schools

Meet, Gay Burger. Gay teaches middle school language arts and social studies at East Side Elementary in Cannon County.  She explains how making students feel valued is the key to her success.

“All students need adults whose goal is to form caring relationships with them and nurture their growth.  Feeling valued encourages us adults to give our all each day in the classroom.  Therefore, we should strive to make our students feel the same.”


Adam Moss of Arnold Memorial Elementary School uses visual tools to help his students learn

Adam Moss of Arnold Memorial Elementary School uses visual tools to help his students learn

East Tennessee Regional Winners

Adam Moss Cleveland City Schools

Adam Moss
Cleveland City Schools

Meet, Adam Moss.  Adam teaches math at Arnold Memorial Elementary in Cleveland City Schools.

“We are having an impact on lives that we may never fully realize until years down the road.  It is in our everyday interactions that we develop these young people into future leaders.  Through our love, our care, our hope- every child, every day will succeed.”



Karen Kelley Sevier County

Karen Kelley
Sevier County Schools

Meet, Karen Kelley. Karen teaches social studies and psychology at Pigeon Forge High School in Sevier County.  She explains the importance of educating all students at a level they need.

“Education is a journey, a never-ending journey.  While people may begin their journeys from different starting points, we are all on this journey together.  Regardless of their knowledge base when they enter, [students] can all learn and make gains.”


Rebekah Haren Kingsport City Schools

Rebekah Haren
Kingsport City Schools

Meet, Rebekah Haren. Rebekah teaches English and journalism at Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport City Schools.  She describes how she and her students learn and grow together.

“Our students’ willingness and ability to grow and learn directly reflects their teacher’s ability and willingness to grow and learn.  In this technologically-advanced age, we can best teach students not by telling them the “right answers”, but instead giving them the tools and confidence needed to learn independently of us.”