A new Teacher of the Year for Columbia County will be recognized during a Thursday banquet at West Lake Country Club.
The five finalists will be recognized at the annual banquet along with 26 other Teachers of the Year from each of the county's public schools except Baker Place Elementary, which is not eligible for the contest in its first year.
Euchee Creek Elementary's Trina Galvin also will be recognized as the school system's Media Specialist of the Year.
Speakers at the banquet will include Superintendent Charles Nagle, Deputy Superintendent Sandra Carraway, school board Chairwoman Regina Buccafusco, and 2010-11 county Teacher of the Year Vicki Tarleton of Grovetown High School.
Teachers of the year for each school are selected by their coworkers.
Finalists for the countywide honor are determined by a panel of educators from outside the school system. The county Teacher of the Year is selected by a similar evaluation process, which includes an essay and in-class observations.
The winner of the county contest will become a contestant for Georgia Teacher of the Year. Ten finalists for that contest typically are announced in February, with the winner being announced during a banquet in Atlanta in May.
Here are this year's Teacher of the Year finalists, with recommendations from their principals:
Shannon Brown -- sixth-grade language arts
Greenbrier Middle School
Years experience: Nine
Shannon Brown's commitment to this profession is remarkable, and her ability to address individual student needs is unrivaled.
No challenge alters her pursuit of encouraging and molding critical thinkers. Her classes are interactive and her assessment practices routinely identify those who have mastered the standards and those in need of further remediation.
Brown's enthusiasm for language arts is mirrored by her students, and her partnership with parents and peers promotes consistent growth. Her internal drive is contagious, and she will do whatever it takes to ... be successful each day.
Gloria Cruse -- second grade
Bel Air Elementary
Years experience: 28
At Bel Air, teachers and staff have a motto: "Whatever It Takes."
No one at Bel Air exemplifies this more than Gloria Cruse. In a very loving and compassionate manner, Cruse sets the bar high in her classroom. Her expectations are very high, but she works diligently to ensure that her students meet those expectations.
Cruse can regularly be found working after school or in the Saturday program to not only assist her students but other Bel Air students.
Lara Reeves -- fourth grade
River Ridge Elementary
Years experience: 18
Teaching a fourth-grade class is always challenging, but Lara Reeves has taken it from a task to an art form. With true grace and amazing creativity, Reeves challenges her pupils to learn and extends learning to real-world application. She is dedicated to providing a world-class education for not only the students in her class but for all who enter the doors of River Ridge.
Combining a strong ability to discern how each student learns with great compassion for each child, Reeves is truly a model for teachers.
Christy Van Meter -- language arts and social studies
Riverside Middle School
Years experience: 16
When you think of ways to describe a teacher, you use words like educator, amazing, giving, loyal, energetic and sensational. Every one of those words, plus many more, describe Christy Van Meter. She will never pass up on a teaching opportunity, whether it should take place in the classroom, the hallway or anywhere else.
All you have to do is enter her classroom to see how much her students adore her. This is because she gives back tenfold what she receives from them. When an opportunity presents itself to have a student teacher observe a classroom, Riverside Middle immediately thinks of Van Meter, because we know that student has seen the best of the best in action.
Ginger Sutton -- language arts and social studies
Stallings Island Middle
Years experience: 18
From the moment students walk through the door, they can see Ginger Sutton's passion for teaching.
Sutton's daily classroom routine fosters a sense of security, which can be heard and felt by all who are present. She has created a learning environment that welcomes everyone independent of his or her ability.
Sutton is admired for her deep-rooted concern for students and her unwavering willingness to tutor students who are experiencing academic problems. Finally, she has been the driving force behind a multiyear program to increase the eighth-grade writing test scores. Her guidance and insight have helped bring about a significant increase in student test scores.