Launching the Inaugural Commissioner’s Teacher Advisory Council

Eva Boster, Teacher Ambassador, Tennessee Department of Education

While teachers are constantly surrounded by the chatter of students and the buzz of the hallways, teaching can sometimes be an isolating profession. It is easy to feel a disconnect between the work happening in your classroom and the policy decisions made outside of your classroom.

As the Tennessee Department of Education’s first teacher ambassador, my goal is not to be a mouthpiece for the thousands of talented educators across the state, but to instead listen. This is precisely the motivation behind forming the commissioner’s first ever Teacher Advisory Council. My hope is that this council serves as an expert group of educators, representing teachers in each region of the state, giving more teachers a voice at the table.

The Teacher Advisory Council consists of the nine finalists for the 2014-15 Tennessee Teacher of the Year Award and the three Grand Division winners from 2013-14. Members of this new group will offer insight, feedback and advice on issues that impact teachers across the state. Members will also help communicate information with teachers in their regions.

All finalists will serve a one-year term on the council. Additionally, to provide continuity and leadership, the three Grand Division winners will serve for a second year. Thus, the council will have twelve total members each year. The 2013-14 Grand Division winners, Melissa Collins (West), Judy Schinbeckler (Middle) and Wanda Lacy (East), join this year’s finalists to form the 2014-15 Teacher Advisory Council.

The council will convene in Nashville twice this coming school year – once in early October and once in early winter. Council members will also participate in phone conferences and webinars throughout the year.

I am thrilled about this opportunity to learn from our Teacher of the Year finalists and ensure they have the opportunity to collaborate with each other and with teachers in their regions. As I’ve traveled around the state the past year listening to teachers, one thing I’ve heard loud and clear is that teachers want to collaborate with their colleagues. Stay tuned to Classroom Chronicles for updates on the council’s work!

Read more about the council’s mission and how it got started in this Chalkbeat story.

The nine finalists for 2014-15 Teacher of the Year are:

West Tennessee:

  • Karent Vogelsang, Keystone Elementary, Shelby County, Memphis/Shelby CORE Region
  • Rebecca McBride, Brighton High, Tipton County, Southwest CORE Region
  • Kerri Newsom, Margaret Newton Elementary, Lake County, Northwest CORE Region

Middle Tennessee

  • Tracy Harmon, Franklin High, Williamson County, Mid Cumberland CORE Region
  • Chris Simpson, Ingram Sowell Elementary, Lawrence County, South Central CORE Region
  • Shannon Streett, Woodbury Grammar, Cannon County, Upper Cumberland CORE Region

East Tennessee

  • Cecily Williams, Cleveland Middle, Cleveland City, Southeast CORE Region
  • Heather Burkhart, Pigeon Forge Middle, Sevier County, East Tennessee CORE Region
  • Ashley Carter, John Adams Elementary, Kingsport City, First Tennessee

Read more about the Teacher of the Year selection process on our website. Also check out this blog post from finalist Shannon Street.