Teacher of the Year selection process continues, naming five finalists

Staff to choose 2021 winner on Feb. 5 after hearing presentations in special Zoom meeting

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Megan Thompson

Science teacher Shannon Campbell is surprised by Principal Karen Calcaterra during her 2nd Hour class on Jan. 11 when she was named a Teacher of the Year Finalist.

Samantha Haney, Co Web Editor

Five teachers have been named as finalists for the 2020-2021 Lafayette Teacher of the Year. The finalists include music teacher Brad Balog, science teacher Shannon Campbell, music teacher Joseph Gutowski, music teacher Jason Long and industrial tech teacher Mark McAllister.

TOY Committee Chair Nancy Smith said the process began in November when any student or staff member could submit a nomination. From the initial list of names, the committee worked to narrow the group to a set of finalists based on several factors. All nominees have to meet specific criteria set by the Rockwood School District. Each high school winner moves on to compete for the District Teacher of the Year and that winner goes on to the Missouri Teacher of the Year competition.

Special School District teachers, student teachers, non-tenured teachers, teachers who are retiring or teachers who have previously received the TOY award are not eligible. 

In the process of moving from initial nominations to selecting finalists, the committee, which is made up of former Lafayette TOYs, looks at the written nominations submitted by students or staff members, the nominees’ resumes and eventually a more narrowed down group is asked to submit essays highlighting their educational philosophy and professional biography.  From there, the finalists are selected.

“It is always a highlight of the year to recognize our finalists and then select our Teacher of the Year. We have such an outstanding group of educators at Lafayette and it is so much fun to be able to recognize our colleagues in this way every year,” Smith said.

On Feb. 5, the staff will meet for a special Zoom meeting where they will hear speeches presented by the students or staff members who nominated each of the finalists, then they will vote to select the winner.

“Obviously our process is a little different this year. Usually, we are in the Theater listening to the presentations live, but this is our next best option,” Smith said. “Still, it always is such a great day when we get to hear from students and some of our colleagues as they speak about these teachers who have inspired them so much.”

Art Department Chair and TOY committee member Lauren Sakowski said more students should nominate teachers for the honor.

“Though the Lafayette staff votes on it, I think it’s special when a student nominates,” Sakowski said. “Sometimes it can be hard to get students to even turn in their homework. So the fact that they would go through a nomination, knowing that they might have to get up and do a speech in front of the facility, to me that speaks volumes.”

 The 2021 TOY winner will be announced shortly after the staff vote on Feb 5.