History of the Program:
The first Georgia Teacher of the Year was selected in 1971. Georgia’s Teacher of the Year Program (GTOTY) annually spotlights the teaching profession and recognizes outstanding public school teachers at the local and state levels. The program is sponsored by the Georgia Department of Education. It is a prestigious awards program to focus attention on excellence in teaching.
History of the Conference:
The small initial Fall Mini-Conference of the Georgia Teachers of the Year Association included the Association’s members along with 13 GTOTY finalists. This conference was sponsored by BellSouth, whose President, Carl Swearingen, challenged the group to the task of planning its first major Spring Conference for May, 1993. The first Spring Conference was held in Macon in May, 1993, with more than 125 participants. The first theme was “Sharing the Vision: a Celebration of Teaching.” Subsequent conferences have chosen derivatives of the basic theme, “Leadership from the Classroom.” Six National Teachers of the Year, three Governors, beginning with Gov. Zell Miller, and continuing this year for the second time, with Gov. Nathan Deal, and four Georgia Superintendents, have spoken at the Spring conferences along with many other outstanding presenters.
In 1998 the Georgia Department of Education chose the GTOY Conference as the host for its Teacher of the Year Gala Banquet, at which time the state winner is named. The Georgia Teachers of the Year Association was honored to be an integral part of this merged activity. Soon, the GTOTY Association sought funding to add grants to their work with these honored current classroom teachers. The Gale Samuels Award was first explained to the district TOTYs at the 1999 Conference. It is given in honor of GTOY’s first GDOE Liaison, who died of leukemia in 1998. A second award, the Judy Floyd Space Camp Award, was added later to honor another GDOE Liaison who died. Both of these ladies and the current Liaison, Keisha Ford-Jenrette, have been instrumental in working closely with the Georgia Teachers of the Year Association in honoring District Teachers of the Year annually.