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Columbus State alumni lead this year’s class of Muscogee County teachers of the year - Columbus State University Skip to Main Content

Columbus State alumni lead this year’s class of Muscogee County teachers of the year

February 2, 2024

Group of teacher of the year nominees standing on risers in Legacy Hall

More than two-thirds of this year’s class of Muscogee County School District Teacher of the Year honorees have a Columbus State University degree hanging on their walls. In fact, a quarter of them have two, and sometimes three, CSU degrees.

The Muscogee Educational Excellence Foundation (MEEF), which coordinates the annual Teacher of the Year selection and recognition process on the school system’s behalf, announced this year’s honorees on Jan. 24 in the university’s Legacy Hall. Of the 55 educators named teachers of the year by their respective schools, 38 are graduates of Columbus State.

Each year, the staff of every MCSD school selects the teacher of the year for their school. Those school honorees then apply to be the district’s teacher of the year. MEEF’s selection committee, comprising Columbus business and education leaders, evaluates the applications to narrow the field to 10 semifinalists. The committee then interviews those semifinalists to determine its three finalists, which the committee then observes in the classroom to determine its top teacher for that year.

MEEF will host its annual MCSD Teacher of the Year Gala, where it will announce its system-wide teacher of the year winner, on Thursday, May 9 at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center. Tickets will be available to the public for purchase from the RiverCenter Box Office beginning March 15.

Headshot of Vanessa EllisVanessa Ellis ’11, ’19 (pictured) was the last Columbus State graduate to claim the system’s top honors, which she did in 2022. In 2024, she was named statewide runner-up for the Georgia Teacher of the Year.

According to the Muscogee County School District, more than half of the system’s 5,500 educators, school counselors and administrators hold degrees from Columbus State. That is due in part to its “CSU Teaching Contract Guarantee” partnership launched in 2019. The guarantee ensures a system teaching contract for any Columbus State teacher education graduate who passes the student teaching component of their degree, and who meets Georgia Professional Standards Commission induction certification requirements.

Students can pursue or deepen their teaching, counseling and leadership careers in the university’s College of Education & Health Professions, which offers a wide range of in-person, fully online or hybrid programs for aspiring elementary, secondary and higher education professionals. Those programs lead to bachelor’s degrees in education (B.S.Ed.), master of arts in teaching (M.A.T.) degrees, educational specialist (Ed.S.) degrees, and doctorate in education (Ed.D.) degrees. Students can also pursue graduate-level add-on certificates and graduate endorsements.


MEEF | Muscogee Educational Excellence Foundation logoMEEF is a nonprofit organization founded in 1996 and dedicated to fostering educational excellence by recognizing and rewarding innovative and exceptionally effective teachers in the Muscogee County School District. Led by a volunteer board of directors, the foundation has awarded more than $3 million to district teachers through financial incentives in the Teacher of the Year program, the MEEF Grant program, the MEEF Endowment Fund, the STEM T3 program, the Harvard Fellows program, and the Buntin Scholars Program.

Media contacts:
Columbus State University: Michael Tullier, Executive Director, Strategic Communication + Marketing, 706.507.8729, 
Muscogee Educational Excellence Foundation: Marquette McKnight, Administrator, 706.660.9702, 
Muscogee County School District: Kimberly Wright, Director of Communication, 706.668.0741,  

Related news coverage:

In surprise classroom visits, Muscogee County Teacher of the Year finalists are announced (Ledger-Enquirer, March 14, 2024)
The 2024 Teacher of the Year in Muscogee County will be one of these 10 semifinalists (Ledger-Enquirer, Feb. 23, 2024)
Who will be Teacher of the Year for Muscogee County schools? These are the nominees (Ledger-Enquirer, Jan. 26, 2024)

Group photo of the Muscogee County School District's school-level teachers of the year standing on risers in Legacy Hall

The 2024 Muscogee County School District school-level teachers of the year, pictured in the university's Legacy Hall.

2024 Muscogee County School District Teachers of the Year who are Columbus State alumni

Feb. 23 update: the following Teachers of the Year followed by an asterisk (*) are among the district's Top 10 for 2024
March 14 update: Christie Akers '03, '07 was announced as one of the three finalists for the district's Teacher of the Year honors.

  • Christie Akers, ’03, ’07, Northside High*
  • Kyle Allen ’18, Mathews Elementary
  • Joshua Alsup ’12, ’22, Hardaway High
  • Michelle Atcheson ’12, ’16, ’18, Fort Middle*
  • Tasca Blanding ’04, ’13, Gentian Elementary
  • Kimberly Brown ’92, Key Elementary
  • Katie Buckley ’18, Blanchard Elementary*
  • Cherine Cobb ’14, ’16, Jordan High
  • Lessie Cole II ’01, Rothschild Leadership Academy
  • Kelly Coney ’03, Kendrick High
  • Stephanie Davidson ’98, ’03, Shaw High
  • Jocelyn Dial ‘02, Midland Academy
  • Timothy Downes ’08, ’15, Blackmon Road Middle
  • Tonya Euell ’00, Marshall Success Center
  • Shardae Griggs ’13, Waddell Elementary
  • Brian Hale ’00, ’09, Midland Middle
  • Meridith Hemmings ’94, Clubview Elementary
  • Christie Ivory ’15, Wesley Heights Elementary
  • Amber Jackson ’10, Dorothy Height Elementary
  • Julie Jackson ’01, ’03, Downtown Elementary Magnet Academy
  • Jazzlyne Jackson ’20, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary
  • Christina Joine ’13, ’21, South Columbus Elementary
  • Marianne Jordan ’06, ’10, Rigdon Road Elementary
  • Jonas Lonzanida ’20, Baker Middle
  • Amber Mays ’14, Double Churches Elementary
  • Lisa Mills ’91, ’98, Columbus High*
  • Donessa Moore ’06, River Road Elementary
  • Chelsea Pevitt ’17, Eagle Ridge Academy
  • Daniel Purvis ’13, Richards Middle
  • Tamela Ransom ’19, G.W. Carver High
  • Roger Redden ’89, ’91, Brewer Elementary
  • Dexter Smith ’19, Spencer High
  • Lauren Stanford, ’18, Eddy Middle
  • Brent Sutherland ’02, Dimon Magnet Academy*
  • Suzanne Tabor ’99, North Columbus Elementary*
  • Kewanna Taylor ’17, East Columbus Magnet Academy
  • TaKesha Williams-Lynn ’15, ’17, ’19, Aaron Cohn Middle
  • Jayson Wilson ’87, ’99, Veterans Memorial Middle