NASHVILLE– The Tennessee Department of Education is proud to announce the finalists for the 2011-2012 Tennessee Teacher of the Year Award. The nine finalists are comprised of elementary, middle and high school educators from each grand division of the state. Grand Division winners and Teacher of the Year will be chosen from this group this fall. “Tennessee is fortunate to have thousands of exceptional educators, and excellent teaching is the lynchpin of student success,” said Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. “These nine finalists represent the highest standard of excellence in their profession, and show all of us what is possible in education. We are extremely proud to recognize them for their much deserved achievements.” The nine finalists for 2011-2012 Teacher of the Year are: The Teacher of the Year program is sponsored in partnership with the Niswonger Foundation. The foundation provides a monetary award to encourage professional development, graduate study, higher student outcomes and mentoring. As a show of appreciation and encouragement for teacher excellence, the foundation sponsors a banquet each fall for finalists. The final winner will represent Tennessee in the National Teacher of the Year competition and is an ambassador for education throughout the year. To qualify, candidates must have been teaching full-time for at least five years, have a proven record of using creative, research-based teaching strategies resulting in measurable achievement and be effective school and community leaders. A panel of professional educators from across the state scored applications to identify these finalists. .