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Two area teachers among 10 finalists for state honor
Jackson County Teacher of the Year Sandy Akin watches as ninth-graders Kayla Ledford, Miranda Kitchens and Trent Dowdy measure the interior angles of trianges they drew in class. Akin is among 10 finalists for Georgia Teacher of the Year. - photo by Claire Miller

Georgia Teacher of the Year finalists
Sandy Akin, East Jackson Comprehensive High School, Jackson County, Mathematics
Suzy Besson-Martilotta, Chattahoochee Elementary School, Forsyth County, First grade
Tiffany Todd, Southeast Bulloch High School, Bulloch County, U.S. History and Drama
Mark Lang, Camden Middle School, Camden County, Life Science
Gwen Desselle, Colquitt County High School, Colquitt County, Social Studies
Michele Rigsby, BelAir Elementary School, Columbia County, Fourth grade
Merrill Boynton-Cheyne, Harris County, Carver Middle School, Harris County, Drama, Reading, Journalism
Krista Pearson, Lowndes High School, Lowndes County, Mathematics
Kathie Wood, Marietta Middle School, Marietta City, Language Arts
Jennifer Beckum Irvin, Toombs County High School, Toombs County, 10th Grade Literature and Drama

Source: Georgia Department of Education Web site

Teachers from Jackson and Forsyth counties are among 10 finalists for Georgia Teacher of the Year.

East Jackson Comprehensive High School math teacher Sandy Akin filled out the necessary paperwork, went through an interview at the county level and waited to see if she would be named Jackson County’s Teacher of the Year.

To her surprise, she was awarded the county honor in December and now has been named one of 10 finalists for the state’s 2010 Teacher of the Year Award.

"I’m very excited," Akin said. "I’m very proud to represent this school system."

Jackson County has had three top 10 finalists in the last four years, Jackson County Board of Education Chairwoman Kathy Wilbanks pointed out at the board’s meeting last week.

"I really think that says something for our system," Wilbanks said. "I think that’s just wonderful and that speaks volumes for our teachers."

A Forsyth County first-grade teacher joins Akin among the finalists.

Suzy Besson-Martilotta, who teaches at Chattahoochee Elementary School, said she was surprised to be on the list of 10 finalists the state released Monday.

"There are so many great teachers in the state of Georgia and there are so many great teachers in Forsyth County that I was absolutely shocked," she said.

Besson-Martilotta, who was named the Forsyth County Schools Teacher of the Year for 2008, said the nomination is an honor, but her students still are her primary concern.

"I worry more about them than anything about myself," she said. "I worry about the kids and what the kids are learning. It’s a big honor, but it’s just me representing a great system. That’s really what it is."

Akin and Besson-Martilotta were among 147 applicants throughout Georgia who were named the Teacher of the Year for their individual school systems.

"I am confident that any of these 10 outstanding educators would make a terrific 2010 Georgia Teacher of the Year," Cox said. "Congratulations to the finalists and to all those who applied for consideration. I know it was very difficult to choose just 10 finalists from this strong group of applications."

A set of administrators, former teacher of the year winners and finalists, community leaders and other officials served as judges and based their top-10 decision on "the strength of their (the applicants’) essay responses," according to a state department of education news release.

These officials will spend the next few weeks conducting interviews at the finalists’ schools and will have a chance to listen to each teacher give a speech at a luncheon sponsored by Georgia Power on March 23 before making a final decision.

The winner will be announced at the Georgia Teacher of the Year Banquet, which will take place on May 15 at the Georgia Aquarium.

The winner will spend the next school year traveling around the state and the nation as an ambassador for teaching. The 2010 award recipient also will be entered in the National Teacher of the Year competition.

The Forsyth County News staff contributed to this story.