Rita Simmons, 2013-14 Atlanta Public Schools (APS) Districtwide Teacher of the Year and gifted and talented teacher of students in kindergarten through fifth grade at Cleveland Avenue Elementary School, was named one of 10 finalists for the 2015 Georgia Teacher of the Year by State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge last week.
Simmons is the third APS teacher to be named a finalist for Georgia Teacher of the Year in the last three years along with special education teacher Elisha Gray (2013) and math teacher Tamika N. Ball (2014). APS is also home to the 2012 Georgia Teacher of the Year, Dr. Jadun McCarthy, who came to APS from Bibb County Schools.
The 10 finalists were chosen from a pool of 156 applicants who were selected as 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.
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.
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 a banquet on May 16 at the Georgia International Convention Center.
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.