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6 educators vie to become Gwinnett Teacher of the Year | People

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6 educators vie to become Gwinnett Teacher of the Year
People, Schools
6 educators vie to become Gwinnett Teacher of the Year

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. -- Two teachers from each school level make up this year's group of finalists for the Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year (TOTY).

A local selection committee narrowed the field from 25 semifinalists chosen from a list of 129 very talented teachers at county schools.

The winner will be announced on Thursday, Nov. 3 during a banquet for all Gwinnett TOTY winners at the Gwinnett Center.

In order to determine who takes home the title, the judging committee will observe each finalist in the classroom, looking for original teaching methods, reviewing class projects and considering the finalists' influence on students and colleagues.

Of the six finalists, one from each school level will be designated the elementary, middle and high school TOTY. One of these three will be named Gwinnett TOTY and take home an annual $1,000 prize, while the other two will each receive $750 for every year they work for Gwinnett County Public Schools.

Gwinnett's 2011-2012 TOTY finalists are:

Brittany Palazzo
3rd grade teacher at Mulberry Elementary, Auburn/Dacula
Palazzo received her K-12 education in Gwinnett schools and decided to return and give back to the community that gave her so much. She's wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember and has worked in Gwinnett elementary schools for all six years of her career. Palazzo holds a bachelor's degree in education from Georgia State University and a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from Piedmont College.

Jennifer Dunn
5th grade teacher at Pharr Elementary, Snellville
Dunn originally wanted to be an actress, but then decided to take center stage in a very different setting: the classroom. She started making plans to become a teacher during her senior year at Snellville's Brookwood High School and began teaching in Gwinnett County after earning a bachelor's degree in early childhood education from Georgia State University and a master's degree in integrating technology in the classroom from Walden University. Dunn is currently working on a specialist's degree in curriculum and instruction at Lincoln Memorial University.

Keri Beth Tidmore Jones
6th & 8th grade teacher at Dacula Middle
Tidmore Jones teaches advanced computer science to 6th and 8th graders and runs the 8th grade yearbook. Her 4th grade teacher, a former Teacher of the Year, inspired her to take on the classroom when she was still in elementary school. Tidwell Jones received a bachelor's degree in business education from the University of Georgia and received a master's degree in integrating technology in the classroom from Walden University.

Sarah Black
Orchestra teacher at North Gwinnett Middle, Sugar Hill
Black began playing the violin as a child and grew up loving music. During her freshman year of high school, a music teacher inspired her to pursue a career in education, and now she teaches orchestra to 6th, 7th and 8th grade students. Black holds a bachelor's degree in music education from Appalachian State University. She moved to North Gwinnett Middle when it opened in 2009 after spending 12 years at Lanier Middle.

Aundrea Muth
12th grade political systems/AP Government at Mill Creek High, Hoschton
Muth was homeschooled as a child and, after transferring to a public school, decided to pursue a teaching career. By observing her own teachers, she decided the best educators were multi-dimensional, lifelong learners who knew how to adapt to all kinds of situations and bring out the best in their students. Muth has taught at Mill Creek since 2006. She earned a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Georgia.

Lindsey Cafarella
10th grade world history teacher at Peachtree Ridge High, Suwanee
Cafarella debated several career paths as a child -- journalist, photographer, astronaut, but not teacher. But after earning bachelor's degree in history and advertising from the University of Georgia, it began to click: she wanted to teach. Cafarella returned to school and received a master's degree in social science education from UGA and now teaches history to high school sophomores. She is pursuing a doctorate in social studies education from Georgia State University.

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