Best Teacher in Every State
All 50 states have one.
Best Teacher in Every State
We can't celebrate teachers and their accomplishments enough. These are the people who are helping set the foundations for the next generation of leaders. There aren't many jobs more important than that.
Since 1952, the National Teacher of the Year program has helped recognize the best educators in the United States. It's the oldest and most prestigious awards program for teachers, with a sharp focus on excellence in all of its forms as an educator.
Here's a look at the best teacher in all 50 states, using the most current Teacher of the Year Award winner in each state.
Alabama: Kimberly Johnson
School: Auburn Junior High School (Auburn, Alabama)
What they teach: Intervention coordinator
Bottom line: As an intervention coordinator, Auburn Junior High's Kimberly Johnson sometimes has to deal with students and parents in the most critical times in their education experience — something she has handled with aplomb.
Alfa Insurance and the Alabama Farmers Education came up big to celebrate Johnson, gifting her with a 2021 Chevy Traverse to use for one year. Alfa has gifted the Alabama Teacher of the Year with a new car to use for the last 25 years.
Note: All Teacher of the Year Award winners as of March 21, 2022.
Alaska: Kelly Shrein
School: Chinook Elementary School (Anchorage, Alaska)
What they teach: First grade/second grade
Bottom line: When the pandemic hit us in March 2020, elementary school teacher Kelly Shrein went headfirst into making sure her students didn't forget about her, and that she hadn't forgotten about them. Shrein drove by their homes with signs to tell them she missed them and organized class and Zoom activities in a time of great uncertainty.
Those efforts paid off in a big way when students returned in the fall of 2020, and Shrein's classes resumed on Zoom in big numbers — something school officials realized wasn't happening across the board.
Shrein has been teaching in Anchorage since 2013.
Arizona: Nancy Parra-Quinlan
School: Kino Junior High School (Mesa, Arizona)
What they teach: Robotics, engineering and aerospace
Bottom line: Nancy Parra-Quinlan has been a teacher for 27 years and at Kino Junior High School for the last 15 years. In that time, she's pushed the envelope in the sciences and encouraged students to thrive in STEM programs.
Parra-Quinlan earning Arizona Teacher of the Year honors was another step in an esteemed career. She was a runner-up for Air Force Association National Teacher of the Year and the 2017 nominee for Aerospace Education Teacher of the Year.
Parra-Quinlan, a Northern Arizona University grad, also is certified as an ESL teacher and teaches a medical detectives class as well.
Translation: She can pretty much do it all.
Arkansas: Jessica Saum
School: Stagecoach Elementary School (Cabot, Arkansas)
What they teach: Special needs
Bottom line: Jessica Saum has spent the past 15 years as an advocate for children with special needs and being a sounding board and advocate for military families who enter her school district in Cabot, Arkansas.
Saum's empathy for military families comes from her own life experience. Her husband, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Shane Saum, was stationed in Portugal's Azores Islands when she was announced as the Arkansas Teacher of the Year.
The Walton Family Foundation gifted Saum with $2,000 for being one of 12 regional finalists and state semifinalists for Arkansas Teacher of the Year and another $14,000 for being named the winner.
As part of Saum's win, she'll be granted a year of leave from Stagecoach Elementary to promote educational opportunities around the state.
California: Alondra Diaz
School: Ralph A. Gates Elementary School (Lake Forest, California)
What they teach: Third grade
Bottom line: California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond picked all five of California's Teacher of the Year winners, tabbing Alondra Diaz to be the state's representative for National Teacher of the Year honors.
Diaz was already a member of the Saddleback Valley Educators Association when she was named California Teacher of the Year. The Santa Ana, California, native has been at Gates Elementary School since 2017 and an educator for 14 years.
Colorado: Autumn Rivera
School: Glenwood Springs Middle School (Glenwood Springs, Colorado)
What they teach: Sixth grade
Bottom line: Colorado College grad Autumn Rivera realized she wanted to be a teacher when she was growing up in western Colorado and organizing neighborhood games of kick the can and capture the flag.
Rivera seems like a prime candidate for National Teacher of the Year honors. She led a group of students who formed a grassroots effort to save a mountain lake for development.
The result was Gov. Jared Polis taking notice and announcing plans to make Sweetwater Lake and the area around it Colorado's newest state park. Which is pretty amazing.
Connecticut: Kim King
School: Southeast Elementary School/Annie E. Vinton School (Mansfield, Connecticut)
What they teach: Art
Bottom line: Imagine Kim King's surprise when Gov. Ned Lamont showed up to tell her in person she was the Connecticut Teacher of the Year during a surprise assembly at Southeast Elementary School. Legitimately the kind of moment tissues were made for.
King, who has a master's degree in art education from New York University, has been the art teacher for all K-4 students in Mansfield for the last six years.
Delaware: Jahsha Tabron
School: Brandywine High School (Wilmington, Delaware)
What they teach: Special education/english
Bottom line: Few teachers in the country can claim to take on the challenges Brandywine High's Jahsha Tabron takes on. That's why she's a star.
Tabron's focus on special education has a keen focus on ninth graders transitioning into high school and communicating with families about expectations and breaking down barriers that lead to more inclusion for special education students.
Tabron has made a career not only advocating for students but teaching them to advocate for themselves. That's what we call a teaching standout and why she's the Delaware Teacher of the Year.
Florida: Sarah Painter
School: Eisenhower Elementary School (Clearwater, Florida)
What they teach: Fifth grade
Bottom line: Eisenhower Elementary's Sarah Painter is a superstar teacher — picked out of 185,000 public school educators in Florida to be the 2022 Florida Teacher of the Year.
Painter is a University of South Florida grad who also received a Master's in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Florida and has been a teacher in Pinellas County since 2003, where she's currently a fifth grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary in Clearwater.
What set Painter apart from the pack was her involvement in expanding her teaching universe and sharing her development goals with other teachers — she organized common planning for other fifth-grade teachers in Pinellas County, which included an open-door policy for other teachers to come observe her classroom.
That initiative alone is Teacher of the Year worthy ... but not the end of Painter's good deeds by a long shot. She also volunteers at after-school Bible club and coaches a Girls on the Run team.
Did we mention she and her husband, Leo, also have six kids? Some teachers really can do it all.
Georgia: Cherie Bonder Goldman
School: Hesse K-8 School (Savannah, Georgia)
What they teach: English as a second language
Bottom line: When the elite teachers on this list come to students about the importance of education and talk about their backgrounds, few are going to come off as impressive as Georgia Teacher of the Year Cherie Bonder Goldman.
Goldman received a bachelor's degree in Japanese from Georgetown with a minor in teaching, a master's degree in East Asian Studies from Stanford and went back to school to get her master's in early childhood education from Armstrong Atlantic State after a successful career in advertising.
That type of experience has translated brilliantly to Goldman's students. When we talk about someone who can tell them what the world is actually like and show them the path to becoming successful adults, teachers like Goldman are the prototype.
Hawaii: Whitney Aragaki
School: Waiakea High School (Hilo, Hawaii)
What they teach: Science
Bottom line: Whitney Aragaki is the type of superstar Teacher of the Year awards were made for. She's pushed the envelope for students in her biology and AP Science classes at Waiakea High over the last decade.
Aragaki, who is in her 10th year at Waiakea High, was selected from a pool of over 13,000 educators in Hawaii and has been recognized for her achievements in the past. She was a state finalist in 2019 and 2021 for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching.
Something else Aragaki did for her community was creating the Warrior Professional Learning Community. As a Waiakea High mentor concerned with the turnover of teachers, this was done to help mentor and retain teachers at the school and create a greater sense of school culture among her peers. She's the definition of a superstar teacher.
Idaho: Todd Knight
School: Crossroads Middle School (Meridian, Idaho)
What they teach: Science, engineering and coding
Bottom line: Students who need a hand up have turned to Todd Knight, who teaches science, engineering and coding at Crossroads Middle School, where students who have struggled at other schools are allowed to use it as a "school of choice" if they've run into obstacles at larger traditional schools.
Knight, a Boise State grad, received a check for $1,000 from the state of Idaho when he was informed he was the Idaho Teacher of the Year.
Illinois: Justin Johnson
School: Niles West High School (Skokie, Illinois)
What they teach: Band
Bottom line: Illinois Teacher of the Year Justin Johnson is the only truly band teacher to make the list, using the lessons from his own education learning about music to give back to his students at Niles West High.
Johnson has distinguished himself by telling the hard truths about bringing music to his students. The problem is access and funding that doesn't exist for students trying to find ways to expand horizons outside of core subjects.
So what did he do about it? Johnson developed his own plan for students, giving them an opportunity to use alternative "split scheduling" that allows them to take courses in arts outside of those core subjects. That's what we call a trailblazer.
Indiana: Sharita Ware
School: East Tipp Middle School (Lafayette, Indiana)
What they teach: Engineering and technology
Bottom line: Sharita Ware teaches engineering and tech at East Tipp Middle School but actually had a decade-long career as an engineer before she turned to teaching.
After Ware received the Indiana Teacher of the Year Award, like several others on this list, she took a moment to single out the thousands of other teachers in her state who put in the work just like she does.
Is it any surprise that teachers like Ware are as selfless as they are? You'd have to be in order to lead a new generation of minds into the future. So, yeah, she's pretty incredible.
Iowa: Sara Russell
School: Pleasant Valley High School (Riverdale, Iowa)
What they teach: Social studies
Bottom line: In her 19th year as a teacher, Sara Russell was named Iowa Teacher of the Year by Gov. Kim Reynolds in a watershed moment between the first female governor in state history and one of the nation's best educators.
"Outstanding educators like Sara ensure our students are well prepared for careers and education beyond high school," Gov. Reynolds said. "Every day, she brings a positive and engaging approach to her students while helping them develop critical-thinking and teambuilding skills, which they'll take with them far beyond the classroom throughout their lives."
Kansas: Suzanne Stevenson
School: Beeson Elementary School (Dodge City, Kansas)
What they teach: Fourth grade
Bottom line: Susanne Stevenson is what we like to call a teaching phenom. She's been named Kansas Teacher of Year in just her sixth year as an educator.
Teaching on the high plains of Western Kansas at Beeson Elementary School in Dodge City, Stevenson has already been on the receiving end of grants that bring new educational opportunities to students in a diverse community that features many bilingual students.
As part of her award, Stevenson received a $4,000 cash prize from Security Benefit Corp. and a unique feature for Kansas Teacher of the Year Award winners — free tuition at participating Kansas universities to continue her education as long as she continues to teach in Kansas.
Kentucky: Willie Edward Taylor Carver Jr.
School: Montgomery County High School (Frankfort, Kentucky)
What they teach: English and French
Bottom line: Montgomery County High's Willie Edward Taylor Carver Jr. was incredibly humble upon hearing he was being named Kentucky Teacher of the Year.
"The best thing about teaching is you get lost in the process. It’s all about what the students do," Carver said. "Thank you to all of my students who helped me get here."
Carver, who was also named the Kentucky High School Teacher of the Year, said he grew up with uncertainty at home as to whether he would have the proper supplies for school — worries that were continually assuaged by teachers who provided what he needed.
Did someone just start cutting up some onions?
Louisiana: Annelise Cassar Tedesco
School: Chalmette High School (Chalmette, Louisiana)
What they teach: Music theater and vocal arts
Bottom line: Annelise Cassar Tedesco is a great example of an alum coming back to help a school move into the future. She was the Class of 2002 valedictorian at Chalmette High and has been teaching music theater and vocal arts there since 2008.
Tedesco, who was an honors graduate from Loyola University in New Orleans, has been the coach for several finalists in the Donald Wood Sr. Vocal Competition and has organized trips for her students to compete, perform and audition all over the country.
Maine: Kelsey Stoyanova
School: Reeds Brook Middle School (Hampden, Maine)
What they teach: Language arts
Bottom line: Kelsey Stoyanova earned both her bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Maine and kept her talents in the state with a teaching position at Reeds Brook Middle School.
When it comes to promoting reading to her students, few teachers are on par with Stoyanova anywhere in the United States. She received a grant from the Book Love Foundation in 2020. She also has served on the Equity in Education Committee where she designed and put into action the Reads Three Reading Challenge for students and members of her community, putting a spotlight on BIPOC authors along with female authors and stories that feature unique and diverse characters.
Teacher boss-level unlocked.
Maryland: Brianna Ross
School: Deer Park Middle Magnet School (Randallstown, Maryland)
What they teach: Social studies
Bottom line: We can cosign on Maryland Teacher of the Year Award winner Brianna Ross' view on her profession when she called being an educator "a revolutionary act of love."
We felt that one in our bones.
Ross and the other teachers on this list deserve all the accolades heaped on them. In Ross' case, that meant the University of Pittsburgh grad who is working on her doctorate in urban educational leadership also serves as the equity liaison and social studies chairperson at Deer Park Middle Magnet School.
Massachusetts: Marta Garcia
School: Witchcraft Heights Elementary School (Salem, Massachusetts)
What they teach: Multilingual studies
Bottom line: Quick sidebar on Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Award winner Marta Garcia's school — Witchcraft Heights Elementary in Salem, Massachusetts, is one heck of a name.
Garcia's mastery of teaching may seem like witchcraft, but it's not. She holds a bachelor's degree from Spain's University of Valladolid and a master's from Salem State.
It's not her first honor for her excellence in teaching. She was the winner of the Read Trust Excellence in Science Teaching Award and has been nominated for the Massachusetts Association of Teachers of Speakers of Other Languages Teacher of the Year Award as well.
Michigan: Leah Porter
School: Wilcox Elementary School (Holt, Michigan)
What they teach: Kindergarten
Bottom line: The only kindergarten teacher to make the list, Leah Porter was named MIchigan Teacher of the Year. She's a Michigan State alum with dual bachelor's and master's degrees from the school.
Porter isn't just a kindergarten teacher. She's much more than that. The reigning Michigan Teacher of the Year also serves as a Reading Recovery teacher, teacher leader and interventionist for students at risk.
Minnesota: Natalia Benjamin
School: Century High School (Rochester, Minnesota)
What they teach: English
Bottom line: Century High's Natalia Benjamin is the latest winner of the Minnesota Teacher of the Year Award, with a rich history dating back almost 60 years.
Benjamin is also a trailblazer when it comes to Minnesota Teacher of the Year winners as the first Latin winner of the award — male or female. It shouldn't come as a surprise when you learn about her background, with a bachelor's degree in molecular biology and a master's degree in language acquisition from BYU.
She's taught English at Century High since 2015 but didn't even learn the language until she was in middle school after growing up attending a French-speaking school in Guatemala. Benjamin has been a leader on state and national education issues while also working with Education Minnesota and the National Education Association.
Mississippi: Leslie Tally
School: Lawhon Elementary School (Tupelo, Mississippi)
What they teach: English language arts
Bottom line: Leslie Tally grew up in Mississippi, earned multiple degrees from Mississippi State University and is now the Mississippi Teacher of the Year. That makes her a state treasure in our eyes.
Tally's win meant she received a well-deserved $5,000 stipend from the state and became Mississippi's nominee for National Teacher of the Year. She's continued to expand her knowledge since becoming a full-time teacher in 2013, with work in the multisensory education training program along with being National Board Certified in language and literacy.
What's next for Tally? She's currently becoming certified as a specialist in dyslexia, which effects 20 percent of the entire population and 80-90 percent of people with learning disabilities.
Bravo, Leslie. You're making Mississippi proud.
Missouri: James Young
School: Johnson-Wabash 6th Grade Center (Ferguson, Missouri)
What they teach: Musical theater
Bottom line: James Young grew up in Ferguson, Missouri, and learned the importance of education from his grandmother, who was a music teacher in the same school district he now teaches music theater and the same district from which he's been named Missouri Teacher of the Year.
"I grew up here, went to school here, graduated from McCluer North, and came back to teach here," Young said in his acceptance speech. "This honor is for every FFSD student and the entire community. This recognition represents that we have great teachers doing great things in public education. We get it done."
Montana: Bill Stockton
School: Arlee High School (Arlee, Montana)
What they teach: Science
Bottom line: Arlee High's Bill Stockton was the unanimous pick as Montana Teacher of the Year and will represent his state on the national level.
Stockton is an Idaho native who earned his bachelor's degree from Montana and his master's degree from Montana State. He's in his 14th year as a teacher and 12th year at Arlee High, where saying he teaches "science" doesn't seem totally fair. He teaches a lineup that includes AP biology, physics, anatomy, wildlife biology, chemistry and health science.
Stockton has been recognized for his accomplishments as an educator before. He was named the winner of the Teresa Veltkamp Advocacy Award for Excellence in Indian Education for All in 2020.
Nebraska: Lee Perez
School: Alice Buffett Magnet Middle School (Omaha, Nebraska)
What they teach: English as a second language
Bottom line: Nebraska Teacher of the Year Lee Perez has been teaching in Omaha since 2008, when he started at Marrs Magnet Middle School before moving to Alice Buffett Magnet Middle School in 2019.
Perez is one of the keys to helping students who don't speak English as their primary language transition to high school. He's the ESL teacher for students in grades 5-8 and takes pains to establish a bigger role in the community outside the classroom as well.
Nevada: Deanne Moyle-Hicks
School: Natchez Elementary School (Wadsworth, Nevada)
What they teach: Fourth grade
Bottom line: After 28 years as an elite educator, Deanne Moyle-Hicks is now the Nevada Teacher of the Year.
"Throughout her 28-year teaching career, Deanne Moyle-Hicks’ passion and care have positively impacted the lives of countless students in Nevada," Gov. Steve Sisolak said at a surprise assembly for Moyle-Hicks. "She is a lifelong Nevadan and a lifelong learner who models hard work and perseverance to her students daily."
Moyle-Hicks was born and raised in Nevada, graduated from UNLV and went overseas to do her student teaching New Zealand. Outside of the classroom, she's a Teach Plus Nevada Policy fellowship recipient and a member of the Nevada National Board Professional Learning Network.
New Hampshire: Sara Casassa
School: Barnard School (South Hampton, New Hampshire)
What they teach: Language arts and social studies
Bottom line: Sara Casassa earned New Hampshire Teacher of the Year honors by being a beacon of light for her students and colleagues during the pandemic. She gave a poignant speech upon receiving her award.
"We are living in a time where building those bridges is essential," Casassa said. "A time where we need to slow down and listen to each other with respect and civility. Perhaps, this idea of bridge building can be an authentic way for us to gain understanding and empathy, to create trust."
New Jersey: Theresa Maughan
School: East Orange STEM Academy (East Orange, New Jersey)
What they teach: Social studies
Bottom line: East Orange STEM Academy's Theresa Maughan has a truly wonderful American story. She emigrated from Belize to the U.S. when she was in elementary school and eventually became one of the nation's best teachers.
Maughan being named New Jersey Teacher of the Year comes as no surprise to those who have followed her career. She's previously been named Teacher of the Year at East Orange High School and East Orange Campus High School along with being the Essex County Teacher of the Year in 2021.
Maughan earned her bachelor's degree from Rutgers, has a master's degree from New Jersey City University and is in the process of earning another master's from Pace University.
New Mexico: Loryn Guerrero
School: New America School (Las Cruces, New Mexico)
What they teach: English
Bottom line: The New Mexico Teacher of the Year Award dates back to 1963 and added another star to its list of standout educators when it named New America School's Loryn Guerrero as its latest winner.
Guerrero, a New Mexico State grad who is working toward her master's degree from Eastern New Mexico University, has made a huge impact at her charter school, where she's also teaching teen parents in a GRADS program, meaning she sees traditional and nontraditional students alike.
It's not the first time Guerrero has received an award for her impact as an educator. She was named the Champions of Children Award winner in 2021 through Jardin de Los Ninos and has been a nominee for the Teacher of the Year Award dating back to 2008.
New York: Carly Santangelo
School: Cuba-Rushford Middle/High School (Cuba, New York)
What they teach: Agriculture
Bottom line: Carly Santangelo owns a master's degree in agriculture and biology from Cornell University and has a deep background in studying agriculture. She was in 4-H and Future Farmers of America in high school and took that with her into her career as an educator.
Santangelo has been the tip of the spear when it comes to making new opportunites for her students by chasing down guest speakers, organizing field trips and securing grants for projects. She is even still a volunteer teacher with Allegany County 4-H.
North Carolina: Maureen Stover
School: Cumberland International Early College High School (Fayetteville, North Carolina)
What they teach: Biology, earth and environmental science
Bottom line: North Carolina Teacher of the Year Award winner Maureen Stover is also the AVID teacher at Cumberland International Early College High School and has pretty much done it all as an educator.
Among her accomplishments, Stover is also a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and has multiple master's degrees. One of the things that makes Stover so amazing is her experience. Before becoming a teacher she was an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force, where she had roles as a flight commander, watch officer and executive officer. Stover also flew combat strike missions over Iraq (25 of them), along with over 1,000 flights over Iraq.
That means she's cooler, smarter and tougher than pretty much anyone you'll ever meet.
North Dakota: Bret Dockter
School: B.M. Hanson Elementary School (Harvey, North Dakota)
What they teach: Social studies, science and math
Bottom line: We have to give it up for the state of North Dakota this year. They kicked in big time when it came to honoring North Dakota Teacher of the Year Bret Dockter, gifting him with a $15,000 grant to promote teaching and the education profession across the state.
Dockter's grant was the first of its kind in state history, and we can only hope it continues on for future Teacher of the Year Award winners.
Dockter is also a football coach at a local high school.
Ohio: Kurt Rusell
School: Oberlin High School (Oberlin, Ohio)
What they teach: Social studies
Bottom line: You've got your movie star Kurt Russell, and you've got your superstar teacher Kurt Russell, the Ohio Teacher of the Year Award winner out of Oberlin High.
We'll take the teacher version every day of the week. He's a 25-year teaching veteran who graduated from The College of Wooster and has been Oberlin's basketball coach since 1996.
This isn't the first time Russell has been honored for his work at Oberlin in the classroom and on the court. He was named Oberlin Heritage Center Teacher of the Year in 2009 and the Oberlin NAACP chapter's Teacher of the Year in 2019.
He's also been named Lorain County Basketball Association Coach of the Year and Northeast Ohio Coach of the Year.
Oklahoma: Rebecka Peterson
School: Union High School (Tulsa, Oklahoma)
What they teach: Math
Bottom line: Tulsa Union High math teacher Rebecka Peterson's Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Award came with some great perks. She was given a $10,000 award plus the use of a car for one year to travel the state as an ambassador/educator.
Peterson, in her 13th year as a teacher, has been recognized for her talents in the classroom outside of the Teacher of the Year Award, and on a national level.
She is also one of six finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Yeah, that's the highest award a math or science teacher can receive in the entire country.
Oregon: Ethelyn Tumalad
School: Clackamas High School (Clackamas, Oregon)
What they teach: Language arts/AVID
Bottom line: Ethelyn Tumalad is the kind of teacher who we can all look to as an example of what it means to be an elite educator. She's a first-generation immigrant from the Philippines who came to the United States with her family at 5 years old.
Tumalad is the definition of a leader. Not only does she serve as an AVID teacher at her school along with her duties in language arts, but she's also an adviser for the Asian Pacific Islander Student Union and a leader for the BIPOC staff affinity group at Clackamas High and in the district.
Put that all together and you can pretty easily see why Tumalad is the Oregon Teacher of the Year.
Pennsylvania: Elizabeth Raff
School: Pequea Elementary School (Willow Street, Pennsylvania)
What they teach: English language arts and social studies
Bottom line: Elizabeth Raff is a great example of why we love the superstar teachers on this list. She's an educator who has a philosophy based on doing nothing less than "making the world a better place" by uplifting students.
Raff considers the classroom a dynamic space when learning occurs there. That's what we want to bring into all schools, everywhere.
Rhode Island: Lisa Garcia
School: North Kingstown High School (North Kingstown, Rhode Island)
What they teach: Math
Bottom line: We keep pointing it out, but it never stops being true. Teachers were some of the true heroes during the pandemic.
Rhode Island Teacher of the Year Lisa Garcia was one of those heroes. She was a major part of bringing the Flocked Fundraiser to North Kingstown High students during the pandemic. It was a safe way of celebrating seniors by putting pink flamingos in their front yards.
Garcia is one of the more veteran teachers on this list. She's been a star educator for 27 years.
South Carolina: Amy Carter
School: Chapin High School (Chapin, South Carolina)
What they teach: English
Bottom line: Amy Carter was named South Carolina Teacher of the Year in her 21st year as a teacher. Her accomplishments as an educator started long before she won the award.
Carter carved out a reputation as a teacher who uses literature to connect with her students. We're getting some "Dead Poets Society" and "Stand and Deliver" vibes off this particular teacher, who is truly a superstar.
Few states honor their Teacher of the Year Award winners like South Carolina does. Carter received $25,000 and the use of a new BMW for a year after receiving her award. That's baller. And well-deserved.
South Dakota: Stephanie Ballard
School: George S. Mickelson Middle School (Brookings, South Dakota)
What they teach: Special education
Bottom line: Stephanie Ballard has been working in the Brookings School District since 2014 and came to Mickelson Middle School in 2016, diving headfirst into helping her community on several different levels as an elite educator.
As the South Dakota Teacher of the Year, there is no better teacher in the state to represent South Dakota on the national level. Ballard has carved out a reputation as not just someone who is there to provide for her special education students but has gone out of her way to enter other special education teachers coming into the district.
Ballard received a much-deserved $5,000 grant from the South Dakota Department of Education after her win, along with a $1,000 honorarium from the South Dakota Board of Regents.
Tennessee: Morgan Rankin
School: South Side School (Johnson City, Tennessee)
What they teach: Second grade
Bottom line: Morgan Rankin started her career in education as a kindergarten teacher in Canada after she earned her master's degree in 2005 from Medaille College, then made the leap to Tennessee in 2014 when she moved there with her husband because of his job.
Rankin excels outside the classroom and in it. She's part of Technology Teacher Leaders in Johnson City and teaches other educators about new technology. She's also one of the founding members of the Blue Ridge Literacy Project and the founder of the South Side School Genius Hour.
Texas: Ramon Benavides
School: Del Valle High School (Del Valle, Texas)
What they teach: Biology
Bottom line: Del Valle High biology teacher Ramon Benavides comes to his students from a place of empathy. He can relate to the experiences of growing up in a dual-language household along the border and facing economic hardships.
He turned those experiences into a career as a star teacher and eventually into becoming Texas Teacher of the Year and a candidate for National Teacher of the Year.
Utah: Mark Daniels
School: Weber High School (Pleasant View, Utah)
What they teach: Theater
Bottom line: Mark Daniels turned his own experiences as a student participating in theater and the dramatic arts at Weber High into a standout career teaching those same subjects at his alma mater.
Daniels, a Weber State grad, was more than humble when he found out about receiving his Utah Teacher of the Year Award, mentioning how he felt a little overwhelmed considering there were thousands of teachers in Utah.
Vermont: Karen McCalla
School: Mill River Union HIgh School (Clarendon, Vermont)
What they teach: Librarian/technology integration
Bottom line: It's almost two full decades for Karen McCalla at Mill River Union High, where she helps students make huge leaps forward not only as a librarian but also as the school's specialist in integrating new technologies.
McCalla, like many teachers on this list, became what we think is a true hero during the pandemic. As an advocate for her school's STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) program, she guided those same robotics students to become part of a volunteer workforce that produced thousands of face shields for local medical professionals, including hospital workers and emergency ambulance crews.
Virginia: Daphne Tamara Fulson
School: Portlock Primary School (Chesapeake, Virginia)
What they teach: Second grade
Bottom line: Portlock Primary School's Daphne Tamara Fulson received her Virginia Teacher of the Year Award from Gov. Ralph Northam at the end of the annual VTOY ceremony.
Fulson, who is a bilingual educator, received her bachelor's degree from Old Dominion University and is working on her master's degree from there as well. Fulson is in her fourth year teaching in Chesapeake Public Schools but previous to that was honored for her work in Texas, where she received the Sue Lehmann Teaching and Learning Fellowship in 2015 and the Good to Transformational Teaching Fellowship in 2017.
Washington: Jerad Koepp
School: North Thurston County Public Schools (Lacey, Washington)
What they teach: Native American studies
Bottom line: It's tough to overstate the importance of the work Washington Teacher of the Year Jerad Koepp has been doing as a Native American specialist in North Thurston County.
Koepp's role as a teacher — what he calls a "nontraditional" role — includes being a big part of the support system for 230 Native American students from over 50 different tribes at all 22 of North Thurston County's schools. That work includes in-class help, cultural studies, working with both small and large groups of students, and helping in professional development with his colleagues.
Like we said, important work. Bravo, Mr. Koepp.
West Virginia: Brian Casto
School: Milton Middle School (Milton, West Virginia)
What they teach: West Virginia studies
Bottom line: Few states have specific roles that teach the history of their own state, and West Virginia Teacher of the Year Brian Casto makes us wonder why every state doesn't have a role like his.
Casto has stood out teaching West Virginia studies at Milton Middle School, including two-minute animated videos about West Virginia's history and citizens as well as serving as the West Virginia Quiz Bowl head coach.
West Virginia businesses, as they should, really step up to the plate to honor their star teachers. Casto's win earned him approximately $12,000 in cash prizes and grants along with Toyota Manufacturing's gift of the use of a Toyota Siena for one year.
Wisconsin: Kabby Hong
School: Verona Area High School (Verona, Wisconsin)
What they teach: English
Bottom line: This isn't the first time Verona Area High's Kabby Hong has been recognized for his talents as a teacher. He's earned teaching awards in the past from Stanford University and the University of Chicago and even put together a presentation for The New York Times on argumentative writing techniques.
Hong is a Los Angeles native who grew up struggling with his identity as a Korean-American. "I wanted to be Steve Garvey, who looked like Superman," he said.
But as a teacher, he has found ways for his students to stake out their own identities through essay writing.
Wyoming: Brittney Montgomery
School: Harrison Elementary School (Green River, Wyoming)
What they teach: First grade
Bottom line: Many teachers turned into something more during the pandemic. The way we look at it, the very best were nothing short of heroes.
Harrison Elementary's Brittney Montgomery was one of those. Montgomery, who teaches first grade, wanted to make sure she remained connected with her students and began to set up online sessions where she could read stories to the kids.
Like any great idea, it caught on quickly. "Storytime with Mrs. Montgomery" was eventually shared with thousands of students all over the country.