VERO BEACH — Osceola Magnet School teacher Cheryl Conley zoomed to the top of the class Wednesday as she was named one of four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year.
The announcement was made at Osceola in front of supporting colleagues, students and district administrators.
"Now, I have a chance to not only be an advocate for you, but also an advocate for all children in the nation," Conley told her audience of her former students, now fifth-graders.
A loud scream of excitement came from the students when the announcement was made.
The National Teacher of the Year Program is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers in partnership with the University of Phoenix and People to People Ambassador Programs. It is sponsored by the ING Foundation and Target. National finalists are chosen by a panel of educators, representing major national education organizations. The panel then selects the winner.
"I am proud to know Mrs. Conley," said School Board member Karen Disney-Brombach, who attended the announcement. "It shines a light on the quality of all the teachers we have here."
Conley said she was so surprised when she was chosen as a finalist. She was contacted last week by Florida Department of Education Commissioner Eric Smith, but sworn to secrecy. District officials were told late Tuesday.
The National Teacher of the Year will be announced at a White House ceremony in May. Conley will travel to Washington, D.C., in March for a series of interviews in various settings to see how she performs. She told students she was excited that she will get to meet President Obama no matter what.
Conley, a fourth-grade teacher at Osceola, was named Florida Teacher of the Year in July. She was the second Indian River County teacher to be named to the state honor. She is the first district teacher to be named a finalist for the national award.
Florida has not had a national teacher of the year since 1993.
If named National Teacher of the Year, Conley will spend the year traveling nationally and internationally representing American teachers.
Conley taught at Osceola for three years before being named the Florida Teacher of the Year. She is the school's science coordinator, school advisory committee member and science club adviser. Prior to coming to Indian River County, Conley taught middle school science for seven years in Texas.
As the state's teacher of the year, Conley serves as the ambassador for the state for the next school year. She has been speaking to teachers and schools across the state. She implemented a blog and Twitter account and does a weekly local education show highlighting activities in the classroom.
"It truly is a year of growth," she said. She said she is not the same as she was a year ago because of the experiences she has had.
Watch the video player to the left, courtesy of TC Palm
Latest Local News Stories