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Gainesville teacher among 10 finalists for Georgia Teacher of the Year award
Gainesville Middle School's Heather McConnell, the Gainesville City Schools' Teacher of the Year, is one of 10 finalists for Georgia Teacher of the Year.

Heather McConnell, special education teacher at Gainesville Middle School, is one of the 10 finalists for the 2017 Georgia Teacher of the Year award.

The 10 were chosen from among 155 people, all named Teacher of the Year in their school district.

She was named Gainesville Teacher of the Year in November.

She is in her fourth year of teaching. She teaches autistic students at GMS.

McConnell said earlier she got into teaching after being a substitute and then getting her teaching certificate in 2012.

Both of her parents — Denise and Dave McConnell — also are teachers in the city schools, and her mother was the city Teacher of the Year in 2014.

Denise teaches fourth grade at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy, and Dave teaches social studies and coaches football at Gainesville High School.

Heather is a 2006 graduate of Gainesville High School.

The Teacher of the Year program is sponsored by the Georgia Department of Education.

The applications were read by a panel of judges that included teachers, past Georgia Teacher of the Year winners and finalists, administrators, community leaders and others. The finalists were chosen based on the strength of their essay responses, according to a Department of Education press release.

Other Teacher of the Year finalists are from Coweta, Douglas, Effingham, Forsyth, Harris, Lowndes, Rockdale and Troup counties and Valdosta city schools. The list includes five high school teachers, four middle school teachers and one elementary school teachers.

This year is the 45th anniversary of the Teacher of the Year program in Georgia.