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TDOE Announces 2021-22 Tennessee Teacher of the Year

Tuesday, August 31, 2021 | 05:46pm


Johnson City Educator Takes Top State Teaching Honor


NASHVILLE, TN — Today, the Tennessee Department of Education announced Morgan Rankin, a second grade teacher at South Side School in Johnson City Schools, was named the 2021-22 Tennessee Teacher of the Year at the Department of Education's annual Excellence in Education celebration Tuesday evening. 

Of nine finalists representing Tennessee’s eight CORE regions, as well as the Shelby County-Municipals area, Rankin was selected as the 2021-22 Tennessee Teacher of the Year. Rankin has been teaching in the state for seven years and is a founding member of the Blue Ridge Literacy Project, an initiative dedicated to delivering professional development in research-based literacy practices to Tennessee teachers. 

“Congratulations to Morgan Rankin on being selected as the 2021-22 Teacher of the Year, as well as the other finalists and grand division winners for this much-deserved recognition and honor. Our state is home to incredibly talented and motivated educators who have gone above and beyond the call of duty these past 18 months, and will continue to give their very best each and every day for Tennessee’s students,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. "Morgan is an exemplar of this dedication and commitment, and as we continue on our journey this new school year, I want to share my gratitude and thanks to our education heroes and leaders ensuring our students continue learning and growing. We are committed to making this the best state to be a teacher.”

During the event, the department also recognized finalists who were named Teacher of the Year for the three grand divisions of the state. Brianne Matheney, a high school English teacher at Chester County High School in Chester County Schools, was recognized as the grand division winner for West Tennessee. Erin Blalock, a high school health science teacher at Warren County High School in Warren County Schools, was recognized as the grand division winner for Middle Tennessee. Sheron Smith, a second-grade teacher at Arnold Memorial Elementary School in Cleveland City Schools, was recognized as the grand division winner for East Tennessee. 

Rankin follows the 2020-21 Tennessee Teacher of the Year Kami Lunsford, a middle school music teacher at Karns Middle in Knox County, who was thanked for her service during the celebration on Tuesday evening. 

“Teachers, principals, and superintendents are professionals who impact potential,” said Kami Lunsford, 2020-21 Tennessee Teacher of the Year. “Because they play a big role in the everyday lives of students, they are making the future a better place through the classroom. Being recognized as Tennessee Teacher of the Year for excellence in this very important work was a moving experience.”

The Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, TOSS, was the program sponsor for the event and is a seasoned supporter of the Teacher of the Year program.  

“It is an honor for TOSS to partner with the Department of Education to recognize our superior teachers from across the state. Teachers are the true difference makers when it comes to instilling a love of learning in our students,” said Dr. Dale Lynch, Executive Director of TOSS, Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents.

Districts were able to nominate three educators representing each of the three grade bands. From over 237 applications, 27 regional semifinalists were identified by CORE region selection committees, and the nine finalists were selected from this group by a state-level selection committee. Following a panel interview, Rankin was selected as this year's Teacher of the Year. 

To qualify for Teacher of the Year, candidates must have been teaching full-time for at least three years, have a track record of exceptional gains in student learning, and be effective school and community leaders. 

Rankin will represent Tennessee in the National Teacher of the Year competition and serve as an ambassador for education in the state throughout the 2021-22 school year. 

All nine finalists will also serve on Commissioner Schwinn’s Teacher Advisory Council for the duration of the 2021-22 school year. This council acts as a working group of expert teachers to provide feedback and inform the work of the department throughout the school year. 

The 2020-21 Excellence in Education event was postponed due to COVID-19. As a result, the 2021-22 Excellence in Education event also honored the 2020-21 Tennessee Teacher of the Year finalists and the 2020 and 2021 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching state finalists.

For information regarding the nine 2021-22 finalists, click here. To learn more about the Tennessee Teacher Advisory Council, click here. For more information on the Tennessee Teacher of the Year award, click here.

For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, contact