Teacher of the Year finalists include three from SWLA

The following is a news release from the Louisiana Department of Education:

BATON ROUGE, La - Twenty-four teachers from across Louisiana are one step closer to the title 2012 Teacher of the Year. Today, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) released the names of the regional finalists for the coveted award. The teachers will be honored during the 5th annual Cecil J. Picard Educator Excellence Symposium and Celebration on July 22 in Baton Rouge. During the event, the state's overall Teacher of the Year winner, as well as the Teacher of the Year at each level - elementary, middle and high school - will be revealed.
"Research shows the most important school-related factor affecting student performance is the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders. And Louisiana is fortunate to have thousands of extraordinary educators serving students across our state. These 24 teachers are among the best," said State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek. "Their value to our students and their state is immeasurable. But we are pleased to honor their work and dedication through this recognition."
The selection process began at the local level where teachers competed for their district's Teacher of the Year award. Subsequently, local winners advanced to regional competitions. A state selection committee will interview the 24 finalists to identify Louisiana's elementary, middle and high school winners and Louisiana's 2012 Teacher of the Year. Louisiana's overall winner will advance to the National Teacher of the Year competition.
"We are extremely pleased to be able to honor these teachers and the profession they represent," Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Penny Dastugue said. "The personal stories of each of these teachers, like the stories of so many educators across our state, are uniquely inspiring and highlight the incredible work taking place in our classrooms."
Teachers are selected based on whether they plan to continue in the teaching profession, as well as their teaching skills and dedication, respect of students, parents and colleagues, community and school leadership, affiliations with educational organizations, and ability to inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities.
As in previous years, Mercedes Benz of Baton Rouge will award the overall Teacher of the Year a one-year lease for a new car. Statewide winners and regional finalists will also receive cash awards, along with other prizes donated by Louisiana businesses.
List of Regional Finalists:
Elementary School Level -

Janine A. Murry, Lusher Charter School, New Orleans, Orleans Parish
Sandra Brock Holley, Hammond Eastside Primary, Hammond, Tangipahoa Parish
Tara Soudelier, Mulberry Elementary, Houma, Terrebonne Parish
Trasima N. Richard, Hopkins Elementary, New Iberia, Iberia Parish
Rebecca K. Liprie, Welsh Elementary, Welsh, Jefferson Davis Parish
Brandy Butler Brunson, Jena Elementary School, Jena, LaSalle Parish
Shelly Bihm, Legacy Elementary, Bossier City, Bossier Parish
Sonya Arender, Baskin School, Baskin, Franklin Parish
Middle School Level -

Leigh P. Baltazar, Harry Hurst Middle School, Destrehan, St. Charles Parish
Darla DuBois Foley, Tchefuncte Middle School, Mandeville, St. Tammany Parish
Charlotte Ann Buisson, Science & Math Acad. - The Gifted Center, Vacherie, St. James Parish
Zachary Paul Mitchell, Jr., Anderson Middle School, New Iberia, Iberia Parish
Carla Elaine Craddock, LeBlanc Middle School, Sulphur, Calcasieu Parish
April Jessup Giddens, Natchitoches Magnet School, Natchitoches, Natchitoches Parish
Sarah Jane Knick, Caddo Parish Middle Magnet, Shreveport, Caddo Parish
Ashley Dumas Ellis, Riser Middle School, West Monroe, Ouachita Parish
High School Level -

John Parauka, Benjamin Franklin High School, New Orleans, Orleans Parish
Richard Vance Lynch, IV, Covington High School, Covington, St. Tammany Parish
Kelly Burlette, H.L. Bourgeois High School, Gray, Terrebonne Parish
Elizabeth Hindman Hebert, Eunice High School, Eunice, St. Landry Parish
Christopher P. Miller, A.M. Barbe High School, Lake Charles, Calcasieu Parish
Margaret Elaine Garland, Natchitoches Central High School, Natchitoches, Natchitoches Parish
Caroline S. Croad, Minden High School, Minden, Webster Parish
Emily Nicole Howell, Ruston High School, Ruston, Lincoln Parish