On August 25, the Tennessee Department of Education announced that Franklin Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Sondra Wilson-Martin was the Middle Tennessee Grand Division winner in the Teacher of the Year contest, sponsored by the Tennessee Department of Education. The announcement was made at the Fisher Center at Belmont University during a special program hosted by the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS) and the state for the nine finalists in each grand division.
“Congratulations to all the educators honored at the Teacher of the Year celebration,” said Lizzette Reynolds, Commissioner of Education. “Each awardee demonstrates excellence in education and serves as a model on how to support their students and communities.”
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. Districts were able to nominate one educator from each grade band. From over 260 applications, 27 regional semi-finalists were identified by a statewide selection committee, and nine finalists were selected from this group and represented at Friday night’s celebration. Wilson-Martin was announced at the program as the Middle Tennessee Grand Division Winner and one of three finalists for the prestigious title of Tennessee Teacher of the Year. In the end, Missy Testerman of Rogersville City Schools was named TN Teacher of the Year.
An 11-year teaching veteran, Wilson-Martin has worked at Franklin Elementary for the past three years. To ensure her fourth-grade students are successful, she begins the year by setting high expectations, fostering a safe and loving classroom environment, conferencing with students, monitoring student assessments, setting the stage to engage, and reflecting upon her classroom instruction.
Using “soft start” inquiry-based activities and the routine of morning meetings, Mrs. Wilson-Martin’s class begins each day with a feeling of openness and trust that encourages relationship-building throughout the rest of the year. It is truly a thriving classroom with an environment of encouragement that promotes the attitude that all students can succeed.
“Sondra is an extremely gifted teacher who is deeply respected by our faculty, staff, and parents in our school community,” said Franklin Elementary Principal Dr. April Carrigan. “She is an expert at making her students feel safe and valued, and her classroom exudes kindness and respect. Sondra works hard to build a classroom climate and culture optimal for student learning. She creates memorable learning experiences for her students that are both fun and challenging. She exudes positive and enthusiastic energy and engages her students by transforming her room and incorporating intriguing activities. By creating special learning experiences for her students, Sondra instills a love of learning in each of them.”
All nine finalists will serve on the department’s Teacher Advisory Council for the duration of the 2023-24 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.
“Congratulations to Sondra Wilson-Martin for being recognized as a finalist for Tennessee Teacher of the Year. Sondra represents the best of the dedicated professionals who are committed to preparing Tennessee’s future generations of citizens and leaders. Our community is blessed to have the best public schools in our nation. Franklin Special School District’s teachers and staff are steadfast leaders in working with parents and students to ensure education excellence in every classroom,” said State Representative Sam Whitson. “I am happy for Sondra for this great recognition of her outstanding devotion to her profession, Franklin Special School District, and especially the students fortunate to have her as their teacher over the years.”
“It is an honor to congratulate Sondra Wilson-Martin for being recognized as a teacher of the year finalist. Through her outstanding work she is transforming the lives of young people and empowering students to reach their full potential,” said State Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson. “Her dedication is an inspiration to all Tennessee teachers who work hard every day to serve their students.”