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-- The Alabama Department of Education announced this afternoon its "Sweet16" pool of candidates for the next Alabama Teacher of the Year.

The 16finalists were selected from more than 150 elementary- and secondary-school candidates statewide.

The contest isone of the oldest and "most prestigious" award programs in the state forteachers, according to the department.

Educationofficials will narrow the field a "Final Four" pool of candidates prior to aMay 14 ceremony during which the 2014-15 Alabama Teacher of the Year will beannounced.

As teacherof the year, the winner will spend the bulk of the next school year on theroad, advocating for education and teachers across the state.

He or shewill also present workshops to other educators and participate in the nationalTeacher of the Year contest.

"Alabamacontinues to be represented with some of the more outstanding educators in thenation," said State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice.

"Theirdedication to education, commitment to learning and compassion are reflected inthe accomplishments of their students. We are proud to have teachers of thiscaliber working in our schools."

The currentAlabama Teacher of the Year is Alison Grizzle, a math teacher from theBirmingham City Schools system.

"These 16distinguished teachers represent the hard-working, talented and passionateteachers around the state who dedicate themselves on a daily basis to thestudents of Alabama," she said in a statement.

The "Sweet16" finalists, by district, are as follows in the elementary category:

Katie Nettles, District 1, Gulf Shores Elementary School, Baldwin County Schools,Kelly Jo Hollingsworth, District 2, Cary Woods Elementary School, Auburn City Schools, Ellen Anson, District 3, Rocky Ridge Elementary School, Hoover City Schools, Lisa M. Burgess, District 4, Westwood Elementary School, Tuscaloosa County Schools, Denise Nelson, District 5, Wilson Elementary School, Montgomery County Schools, Deborah Hill, District 6, Locust Fork Elementary School, Blount County Schools,Ann Marie Corgill, District 7, Cherokee Bend Elementary School, Mountain Brook City Schools, andShane Leopard, District 8, Brookhill Elementary School, Athens City Schools.

The "Sweet 16" finalists, by district, are as follows in the secondary category:

Susanne Mahone, District 1, Daphne High School, Baldwin County Schools, Christopher D. Payne, District 2, Dothan High School, Dothan City Schools, Craig Thompson, District 3, Spain Park High School, Hoover City Schools, Chasidy White, District 4, Brookwood Middle School, Tuscaloosa County Schools, Rachel D. Dudley, District 5, Booker T. Washington Magnet High School, Montgomery County Schools, Jackie Kelley, District 6, Wellborn High School, Calhoun County Schools, Carrie B. Jones, District 7, Hewitt Trussville High School, Trussville City Schools, andDonny Matthew Dean, District 8, Buckhorn High School, Madison County Schools.

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