The anticipation was building at 26 Wake County schools this week as staff and students waited to see whether they would have one of the district’s 13 finalists for Teacher of the Year.
News of who were named finalists were made through classroom visits by the school system’s “Surprise Patrol” on Thursday and Friday. By the time the 12th finalist was announced Friday morning on the district’s Twitter account, Jesse Gore’s peers at Dillard Drive Middle School in Raleigh were wondering if the seventh-grade social studies teacher would be the last name revealed.
The speculation ended when Superintendent Jim Merrill walked into Dillard Drive’s cafeteria during lunch to congratulate Gore. The cafeteria erupted with roars as the seventh-grade class cheered the news.
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“It was definitely cool to have all the students to be a part of this,” said Gore, 26, who has been teaching at Dillard since graduating from N.C. State University in 2011. “It was very exciting.”
Now the 13 finalists will wait until a May 11 celebration at the Raleigh Convention Center to learn if they’ll be the Wake County school system’s 2016-17 Teacher of the Year.
The other 12 finalists are:
▪ Kelly Fink of East Wake Middle School near Knightdale.
▪ Anthony Fitzpatrick of Enloe High School in Raleigh.
▪ Lauren Genesky of Millbrook High School in Raleigh.
▪ Melissa Jankowski of Highcroft Elementary School in Cary.
▪ Mark Mash of Leesville Road High School in Raleigh.
▪ Leigh Ann Massengill of Fuquay-Varina Elementary School.
▪ Miles Macleod of Heritage High School in Wake Forest.
▪ Brittany Packer of Smith Elementary School in Garner.
▪ Elizabeth Shaver of Holly Springs High School.
▪ Tanya Swanson of Richland Creek Elementary School in Wake Forest.
▪ Jennifer Tymkin of Hunter Elementary School in Raleigh.
▪ Kim Zeugner of Kingswood Elementary School in Cary.
The process began with all 171 Wake schools nominating their individual Teacher of the Year. Selection committees narrowed the field to 26 semifinalists who were announced in February. The committees then chose 13 finalists, who will appear before an interview committee that will select the winner.
Doug Thilman, Wake’s assistant superintendent for human resources, said the district decided to do something different this year by having the surprise visits. Administrators traveled across the county over the past two days, going from Wake Forest to near Knightdale to Fuquay-Varina and to western Cary.
In two cases where the track 4 year-round schools are closed for students, Thilman said they came up with excuses to get the finalists to come to campus. Thilman said they wanted to make sure all 13 finalists could join in the celebration.
“We have 11,000 teachers, and we’re now down to 13,” Thilman said. “It’s something we really want everybody to be excited about.”
Gore admits he was monitoring Twitter to see the list of finalists being announced.
“I’m just happy to be with a great group of teachers,” Gore said. “Being in the 26 semifinalists was an honor as well, so I would have been happy either way. I’m very fortunate to be able to move on to the next step.”