The nominations poured in for a new award program that highlights top-performing educators.
On Monday, the best of Hamilton County's public school teachers, administrators, support staff and alumni will be honored at the 2011-12 Excellence in Public Education awards. More than 500 were nominated for the awards, which are presented by the Hamilton County Department of Education, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Nominations came from parents, colleagues and current and former students.
This is the inaugural event for what is planned as an annual celebration of the county's best in the education field.
The finalists are all people who go above and beyond and are making a difference in schools and in kids' lives. They include:
• A middle school teacher who uses food, music and lessons on culture to teach about geography and the world.
• A local judge who is still loyal to, and involved with, the high school he graduated from 59 years ago.
• A custodian who takes care not just of the school's building, but of the kids inside it.
• A principal who strives for rigorous academic atmosphere and sets high expectations - of parents as well as students.
• A high school teacher whose goal is not just to get students to graduate but to prepare them for life beyond high school, whether it's a lesson in cooking or a program to help teen parents balance home responsibilities with working toward a diploma.
The fact that so many people took the time to nominate someone shows that people want to say "thank you" to good educators and recognize their excellent work.
Often, it's budget struggles, test scores, school board and County Commission squabbling that make headlines. With this awards program, those setting the right example at schools are getting the attention.
A committee had the difficult job of selecting three finalists and one winner in seven categories: elementary school teacher, middle school teacher, high school teacher, administrator, support staff, alumnus and community supporter.
The seven winners will be announced Monday at a banquet in their honor.
The Times Free Press on Tuesday will publish a special section highlighting the 21 finalists. Readers can also go here to see videos of the finalists.
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Also Monday, the Times Free Press and WRCB Channel 3 are holding a debate in Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District Republican primary.
The debate will be held at UTC's Roland Hayes Concert Hall in the Fine Arts Center (at the corner of Vine and Palmetto Streets). Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the debate begins at 6:30 p.m.
Alison Gerber is the managing editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Reach her at email@example.com. Send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.