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APS Teacher a 2015 Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalist

Rita Simmons is a gifted and talented teacher of students in kindergarten through fifth grade at Cleveland Avenue Elementary School.

Rita L. Simmons. Courtesy APS
Rita L. Simmons. Courtesy APS
Patch Staff Report

State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge announced Monday that Atlanta public Schools teacher Rita Simmons is one of 10 finalists for 2015 Georgia Teacher of the Year.

Simmons is a gifted and talented teacher of students in kindergarten through fifth grade at Cleveland Avenue Elementary School.

The finalists were chosen from a pool of 156 applicants who were selected as the Teacher of the Year in their representative school districts. The applications were read by a panel of judges that included current and former classroom teachers, past Georgia Teacher of the Year winners and finalists, administrators, community leaders and others. The finalists were chosen based on the strength of their essay responses.


"I congratulate our ten Georgia Teacher of the Year finalists and those who applied,” Barge said in a release. “As usual, we had a very impressive group of teachers make the top ten. I look forward to working with all of them to help continue the student achievement gains our schools are showing.” 

Simmons received her Bachelor of Arts in Education from Florida A & M State University. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in instructional technology from Georgia Southern University.

Simmons’ career in education began in Chicago at Westside Preparatory School. After relocating to Atlanta, Simmons decided to continue her love for teaching by starting a consulting business specializing in school-reform-model professional development for teachers. She has taught in Cobb County as a fifth-grade teacher and transitioned in 2005 as a language arts and social studies teacher at World Changers Academy.

An advocate for children, Simmons is also the founder and CEO of a mentoring organization for girls. She is a passionate educator and visionary, and is committed to making a difference beyond the walls of her classroom. Simmons believes that teachers embody the very essence of what it means to educate children.

Over the next several weeks, a panel of judges will conduct video observations and interview each of the finalists. The finalists will also give a speech at a luncheon sponsored by Georgia Power in April.

The winner will be announced at the Georgia Teacher of the Year conference during the banquet on May 16, 2014, at the Georgia International Convention Center. The banquet, paid for through donations from sponsors, will honor each local district Teacher of the Year. A reception hosted by United Healthcare will be held prior to the banquet.

The 2015 Georgia Teacher of the Year will travel around the state and the nation, serving as an ambassador for the teaching profession. The winner will also be entered in the National Teacher of the Year competition.

The 2014 Georgia Teacher of the Year is Mrs. Jemelleh Coes, a Special Education English Language Arts and Reading teacher from Langston Chapel Middle School in Statesboro.

2015 Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalists (in alphabetical order by district)
Teacher, Subject, System, School

Rita L. Simmons, Gifted K-5

Atlanta Public Schools, Cleveland Avenue Elementary

Rhonda Lokey,  Sixth Grade Social Studies
Cobb County, Campbell Middle

Dr. Lyn Schenbeck, Film/Video Music, Business in Arts, Music in Medicine, String and Vocals
Coweta County, Central Educational Center

Michelle Peace, Spanish I, II, III

Early County, Early County High

Sarah Ballew Welch, English, Oral/Written Communications and British Literature
Fannin County, Fannin County High

Nick C. Crowder, Engineering Education

Forsyth County, South Forsyth High

Hyunjin Son, Physics and Foundations of Engineering & Technology
Gwinnett County, Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology

Paul D. Mixon, Journalism and Economics
Heard County, Heard County High

Amanda Miliner, Fourth Grade
Houston County, Miller Elementary


Marc Pedersen, Biology, Biotechnology and Chemistry

Paulding County, Paulding County High


The Georgia Teacher of the Year Program is sponsored by United Healthcare.





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