Mrs. Candace Sanders has been selected as the Southwest TN Teacher of the Year and is one of 9 finalists for the overall TN Teacher of the Year award.  As a finalist, Mrs. Sanders will be invited to serve on the Commissioner of Education's Teacher Advisory Council for this coming school year.  We want to congratulate Mrs. Sanders on her award and we are very proud that she will be representing our school district. See the full press release below.  --Lauderdale County Schools

TDOE Announces 2020-21 Tennessee Teacher of the Year Finalists

Nine Statewide Finalists Selected, Serve on Commissioner’s Teacher Advisory Council


NASHVILLE, TN—Today, the Tennessee Department of Education announced the nine finalists from across the state for the 2020-21 Tennessee Teacher of the Year award.  

The finalists represent each of the eight Center of Regional Excellence (CORE) areas in the state, as well as the Shelby County-Municipals area, with three finalists in each Grand Division- West, Middle, and East.  

“The 2019-20 school year has reminded all of us how deeply communities appreciate our educators and value their work. Even in the face of uncertainty, educators across the state have continued to demonstrate their passion and commitment to our students in a new and unprecedented learning environment,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “We are thankful and proud to have exceptional leaders like these finalists in our state serving our students.” 

The nine finalists for 2020-21 Tennessee Teacher of the Year are:  

      West Tennessee




CORE Region 

Daniel Warner  

East High School 

Shelby County Schools 


Candace Sanders 

Halls Elementary 

Lauderdale County Schools 


Katherine Madden-Bruketta 

Peabody High School 

Trenton Special School District 



                      Middle Tennessee 




CORE Region 

 Lauryn England 

Fall-Hamilton Elementary 

Metro Nashville Public Schools 

Mid Cumberland 

Samantha Stevens 

Tullahoma High School 

Tullahoma City Schools 

South Central 

Teresa Buckner 

White County Middle School 

White County Schools 

Upper Cumberland 


         East Tennessee 




CORE Region 

Tonya Lee  

Englewood Elementary 

McMinn County Schools 


Kami Lunsford 

Karns Middle School 

Knox County Schools 

East Tennessee 

Hannah Hopper 

Fairview-Marguerite Elementary 

Hamblen County Schools 

First Tennessee 


Districts were able to nominate three educators representing each of the three grade bands. Out of over 200 applications, 27 regional semifinalists were identified, and the nine finalists were selected from a CORE region selection committee and state-level selection committee. 

“Serving the state’s superintendents has afforded me the opportunity to see firsthand the incredible work happening by our district leaders and educators, especially in light of COVID-19,” said Barry Olhausen, Assistant Executive Director of TOSS, Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents. “I am honored to support the department’s recognition efforts of our exceptional teachers by serving on the state selection committee as we all navigate a new frontier of education.”  

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. 

Following a panel interview with each finalist, Grand Division winners and the Tennessee Teacher of the Year will be selected from this group of finalists and announced during an honorary banquet this fall. 

The final winner will represent Tennessee in the National Teacher of the Year competition and serve as an ambassador for education in the state throughout the 2020-21 school year. 

These finalists will also have the opportunity to serve on Commissioner Schwinn’s Teacher Advisory Council for the duration of the 2020-21 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. Additionally, to provide continuity and leadership, the three Grand Division winners will continue their terms on the Council during the 2021-22 school year. 

To learn more about the Tennessee Teacher of the Year award, click here.