A third-grade teacher from Chester County is Tennessee’s 2015-16 Teacher of the Year, the State Department of Education announced Thursday evening.

One of nine finalists for the award, Cathy Whitehead teaches at West Chester Elementary School in Henderson in West Tennessee. She received the state’s top teaching honor during the annual Teacher of the Year banquet in Nashville.

Cathy Whitehead
Cathy Whitehead

“Every student can learn, and every student can grow; the potential is there,” Whitehead said. “It’s up to us to help them see it.”

Since 1960, the state has named a Teacher of the Year to promote recognition, respect and appreciation for teachers, as well as to stimulate interest in teaching as a career.

“The Teacher of the Year awards is an opportunity to recognize instructional leaders across the state as well as an opportunity to highlight effective and innovative instructional practices,“ Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said in a news release.

Whitehead serves in numerous leadership roles in her district, and often leads professional development sessions for her peers. She is among 18 teachers serving on Gov. Bill Haslam’s inaugural Teacher Cabinet, which meets quarterly with the governor and commissioner to discuss education policy.

“She teaches all of us to look for the best, work hard, smile often, and do our best for students every day,” West Chester Elementary Principal Amy Wooley said.

The department also recognized two other teachers as outstanding educators in their regions. Kyle Prince, an Algebra II teacher at Central Magnet School in Rutherford County, was named Teacher of the Year from Middle Tennessee. Adam Moss, a fifth-grade math teacher at Arnold Memorial Elementary in Cleveland City Schools, was recognized for East Tennessee.

The nine Teacher of the Year finalists also serve on the State Department of Education’s Teacher Advisory Council during the 2015-16 school year. The three Grand Division winners will continue their term during the 2016-17 school year.

Last year’s Teacher of the Year was Karen Vogelsang, a fourth-grade educator with Shelby County Schools in Memphis.