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Barnes visits Washington D.C. as National Teacher of the Year finalist

Dr. Gay Barnes has returned to her first-graders at Horizon Elementary School after tours and meetings in Washington D.C. as one of four finalists for National Teacher of the Year.

Dr. Gay Barnes, center row at left, poses with President Barack Obama and other delegates at the National Teacher of the Year ceremony

“I am so humbled to have been named the Teacher of the Year for Alabama and as a national finalist after learning about these teachers and their work,” Barnes said. Californian Rebecca Mieliwocki won the national title.

At the White House awards ceremony, President Barack Obama introduced the national finalists and then announced the winner. The capital hosts a week of recognition for both the national nominees and state winners. Teachers attended from 49 states, America Samoa, Mariana Islands and U.S. Virgin Islands.

Teachers met individually with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “We participated in educational workshops sponsored by Smithsonian Institute. Dr. Jill Biden, herself an educator, hosted our group at the vice president’s residence and (asked) how our schools support military families,” Barnes said.

The educators attended round-table discussions at the Department of Education and were guests at a black-tie event at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Target hosted an opening reception at The Newseum and capital tours and presented cameras to state winners. Each teacher received a Kindle Fire from University of Phoenix. Other sponsors were Chief Council of State School Officers, ING and People to People.

Barnes most memorable scenario was meeting educators across Alabama and the nation. “These teachers have a true passion … for helping their students be successful in all ways,” she said. “The commitment and intelligence my fellow educators bring to their work is inspiring.”

Barnes is a National Board Certified Teacher and holds a doctorate degree in reading/literacy education. “For teachers whose hearts are in the classroom, it’s the biggest, best and most important place,” Barnes said.

Working in administration doesn’t interest her but providing leadership responsibilities for classroom teachers does. She hopes this “national and state conversation … will come to fruition.”

Barnes grew up in St. Clair County and has lived in the Huntsville area since 1985.

Her husband Jim Barnes retired from teaching but currently works part time at Highlands Elementary School. Their children are Luke, soon-to-be graduate of Auburn University; daughter Mason, an Auburn junior; Zachary, Bob Jones High School senior; Micaela, a Bob Jones sophomore; and Jackson, an eighth-grader at Discovery Middle School.

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