The finalists were chosen from a pool of applicants all previously selected as their school district’s Teacher of the Year. The applications were read by a panel of judges that included teachers, past Georgia Teacher of the Year winners, administrators, community leaders and others. The finalists were chosen based on the strength of their essay responses.
“I am incredibly proud to announce the finalists for 2022 Georgia Teacher of the Year,” Superintendent Woods said. “This is a group of creative, hardworking, talented teachers who pushed through great challenges this year to ensure students were still able to learn, connect, and grow. I am proud to call each of them my colleagues.”
Because the Georgia Teacher of the Year program was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s finalists were selected from the original 2021 cohort (those initially slated to be recognized in May 2020). This ensured that cohort would not miss the opportunity to be recognized by the statewide program.
Finalists will meet with a panel of judges for a formal interview and give speeches virtually. The winner will be announced August 7, 2021.
The 2022 Georgia Teacher of the Year will travel around the state and nation, as COVID-19 protocols allow, serving as an ambassador for the teaching profession in Georgia. He or she will also be entered in the National Teacher of the Year competition.
Mrs. Natasha Berry began her teaching career in 2003 after graduating from Valdosta State University with a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. After stints in Colquitt and Lowndes County, she is currently a third-grade teacher at Sallas Mahone Elementary in Valdosta, Georgia. Berry also holds a gifted and talented education endorsement.
As an active member of her school’s professional learning community, she serves in many capacities: mentor teacher, grade-level chair, leadership team member, and a member of the school improvement team. Her classroom currently serves as a model classroom for peer observations. As a leader, she believes it is crucial to create a school culture that encourages all educators to value the need for improvement because it is through this desire to become better our limits to achieve are boundless.
Also, an avid creator of classroom engagement, she is passionate about creating a classroom environment that is both rigorous and student-centered. Berry believes that inside every child is a rainbow waiting to shine. Her goal is to unveil this rainbow by seeing in students what they don’t yet see in themselves, seeing them for what they can be, not for where they are, and then teaching them accordingly. This unwavering love and dedication are what enables her students to uncover the most beautiful wonders within themselves.
Berry lives by the educational motto that “she wasn’t born just to teach but to inspire others, to change people, and never to give up; even when faced with challenges that seem impossible.”