State School Superintendent Richard Woods announced the finalists for 2022 Georgia Teacher of the Year Thursday, including one Gordon County teacher.

W.L. Swain Elementary School’s Catherine Nichole Hampton, an elementary STEAM teacher, was chosen as one of 10 finalists.

According to the Georgia Department of Education, 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 in a release. “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.”

Due to COVID-19 pandemic, last year’s program was paused, this year’s finalists were selected from the original 2021 cohort — those initially slated to be recognized in May 2020.

Finalists are set to meet with a panel of judges for a formal interview and give speeches virtually, with the winner to be announced August 7.

After selection, the 2022 Georgia Teacher of the Year will travel the state and other parts of the country, serving as Georgia’s ambassador for the teaching profession. He or she will also be entered in the National Teacher of the Year competition.

Other Georgia Teacher of the Year finalists include:

♦ Natasha Nicole Berry, Third Grade Teacher, Sallas Mahone Elementary School, Valdosta City Schools

♦ Tewanna L. Brown, Business and Computer Science Teacher, Mount Zion Middle School, Carroll County Schools

♦ Rebecca Elizabeth Carlisle, AP World History and STEM Humanities Teacher, North Gwinnett High School, Gwinnett County Public Schools

♦ Cherie Bonder Dennis, ESOL Teacher, Hesse K-8 School, Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools

♦ Shanika Nichole Freeman, Fifth Grade Social Studies Teacher, Moreland Road Elementary School, Griffin-Spalding County Schools

♦ Michelle Mickens, English Teacher, Washington-Wilkes Comprehensive High School, Wilkes County Schools

♦ Maggie Johnson Pruitt, Self-Contained Special Education Teacher, Buford High School, Buford City Schools

♦ Jennifer Hawthorne Smith, Kindergarten Teacher, Jeffersonville Elementary School, Twiggs County Schools,

♦ Matthew Ellis Taylor, Fifth Grade Math and Science Teacher, Southwest Laurens Elementary School, Laurens County Schools

To learn more about the Georgia Teacher of the Year program, visit

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