Meet the the inaugural Tennessee Teacher Ambassadors

In October, Commissioner McQueen announced nine educators who have been selected to be a part of the inaugural Tennessee Teacher Ambassador Network during the 2018-19 school year. As part of the TTAN, each teacher ambassador is partnered with specific division leaders within the department so that they can learn deeply about state-level work and advise the work of the Department of Education – without leaving the classroom. The goal of the network is to improve educational outcomes for students by ensuring that the department continues to improve from teacher-informed work while giving more educators the opportunity to grow as teacher leaders.

We’re excited to introduce you to our nine Tennessee Teacher Ambassadors!

Misty Ayres-Miranda

Misty Ayres-Miranda is the department chair for the Literary Arts Conservatory and has been an Advanced Placement literature teacher for the past ten years at the Nashville School of the Arts. She received her undergraduate education degree at Austin Peay and her master’s degree in English with a writing emphasis at Belmont University. A Milken educator, Misty is excited about continuing her advocacy with the TTAN. She is excited to be working on Advanced Placement initiatives which will continue to give Tennessee learners an advantage in the academic and professional worlds. She plans to make rigor and high standards a goal for all students and to make college more attainable through proper preparation. When not teaching or advocating, she enjoys reading and going on walks with her son, Victor, and newborn daughter, Chloe. She also enjoys traveling with her children and husband, Enderson, to be with family in Brazil.

Rachel Bearden

Rachel Bearden has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Tennessee at Martin and a master’s degree in administration and supervision from Bethel University. She has spent 10 years in the classroom serving Weakley County Schools. Rachel is currently working as the pre-K-4 math instructional coach for Gibson County Special School District. With the TTAN, Rachel will be working in the early literacy division. She is most excited about developing relationships between passionate educators and the state department so that meaningful practices and policies are in place. Rachel’s family is the most important part of her life. She is the proud mother of two, Bane (3) and Bo (2), and she is married to fellow Gibson County alum, Travis. Rachel loves to travel and has had the opportunity to see Australia, Jamaica, and New Zealand among many other unique places.

Michelle Biggs

Michelle Biggs is a kindergarten teacher at Keystone Elementary for Shelby County Schools. She has taught kindergarten for over 27 years. Michelle received her bachelor’s degree from Union University and her Master of Science from the University of Memphis. A National Board Certified Teacher, Michelle is excited about the TTAN because it will allow her to be a teacher in the classroom, a leader in her school district, and an ambassador for the Tennessee Department of Education as she works with early learning and portfolios. As Michelle says, “I will have a voice in developing policy and an outlet to share Tennessee’s initiatives with my peers across the state.” When not teaching or advocating, she enjoys traveling with her children and husband, Jeremy.

Candace Hines

Candace Hines is an elementary educator with the Achievement School District in Memphis. She has taught for eight years, and she is passionate about educational advocacy. Candace presents professional development regionally and has trained teachers across various districts in Tennessee. She graduated as a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society from The University of Memphis, with a Bachelor of Science in education. Currently, Candace is an EdReports content reviewer, as well as a Collaborative for Student Success Teacher Champion Fellow and a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow. As a part of the TTAN, Candace will be working with the school improvement division. She is most excited to be an ambassador because this opportunity will allow her to continue being a servant leader while expanding her reach to have more of an impact in education for all students.

Jessica Hubbuch

Jessica Hubbuch is the science department chair at The Howard School in Chattanooga. She is in her sixth year as an educator and currently teaches chemistry and physical world concepts. Jessica holds an Ed.S. from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga and is certified in chemistry and biology. Prior to teaching, Jessica worked as an aquatic biologist sampling and analyzing the freshwater sources of the southeast. Through the TTAN, Jessica will be working with the data and research division. Jessica is excited to increase communication between teachers and state leaders and support continued progress towards Tennessee’s state educational goals.

Diane Barber Miller

Diane Barber Miller is a special education teacher at Freedom Middle School with the Franklin Special School District. A 29-year educator, Diane earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in special education from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, her Ed.S. in administration and supervision from Middle Tennessee State University, and she is currently pursuing her Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction with a focus in special education at Tennessee State University. As an ambassador, Diane will be sharing her expertise with the special populations division at the department. Diane is passionate about using data-informed decisions for her students and helping each student succeed through practices such as individual data conferences. She is excited that being a part of the TTAN will give her the opportunity to support teachers and students across the state.

Haley Ottinger

Haley Ottinger is a fifth year biology and Advanced Placement environmental science teacher at Jefferson County High School in Dandridge. She graduated from the College of Charleston with a B.S. in Marine Biology. Haley felt called to teach, and the Teach Tennessee program provided her with a transitional license. After three years in the classroom, she received her M.Ed. from Carson Newman in curriculum and instruction.  As a teacher ambassador, she will be partnering with the educator effectiveness division. Through this work, she hopes to help students by being a bridge between the department and the daily life of a teacher. She thinks teachers should be informed and know how to use data to improve, and she wants to help share clear and accurate communication about educator evaluations and TVAAS.  In her spare time, she loves to travel with her fiancée. They have visited 34 of the 50 states already and are looking forward to their upcoming nuptials.

Deanna Pickel

Deanna Pickel is a mathematics teacher at Oak Ridge High School in Oak Ridge. She obtained a B.S. in chemistry and a B.A. in mathematics at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana and a Ph.D. in polymer science from The University of Akron in Akron, Ohio. After participating in the 2013 Teach Tennessee cohort, Deanna transitioned from a career as a research chemist and is now entering her sixth year of teaching. As a teacher ambassador, she will be focusing on dual enrollment opportunities and is excited to expand opportunities for high school students to earn postsecondary credit. Deanna is an avid reader, reading up to 100 books a year.

Mark Wittman

Mark Wittman graduated from Emporia State University in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in education, and from the University of Memphis in 2010 with a master’s degree in leadership and policy studies. Mark lives in Shelby County and teaches kindergarten at Barret’s Chapel Elementary School. He is currently a Hope Street Tennessee Teacher Fellow and will be utilizing what he has learned about teacher voice as he partners with the RTI2 division at the department. He is most excited about using his 23 years of teaching experience to collaborate with and learn from other educators across the state. In his spare time, Mark enjoyed running. He has challenged himself to run a half marathon in every state and has currently completed 40 of them!

You can read our full press release about TTAN here. For more information, contact Cathy Pressnell at