In naming Atlanta’s Tracey Pendley Georgia’s Teacher of the Year, Superintendent Richard Woods said. “The passion and joy she brings to her classroom are inspiring, and her focus is right where it belongs: on the relationships with students that serve as the foundation of all meaningful learning, development, and growth. I am honored to name her the 2020 Georgia Teacher of the Year.”
Photo: Jason Clay, Georgia Department of Education
Photo: Jason Clay, Georgia Department of Education

Atlanta’s Tracey Pendley named 2020 Georgia Teacher of the Year

First time an APS teacher has won the honor in nearly four decades

Tracey Nance Pendley, a fourth-grade teacher at Burgess Peterson Academy in Atlanta Public Schools, earned the 2020 Georgia Teacher of the Year award tonight.

“Tracey’s Georgia Teacher of the Year recognition speaks to her love and passion for our students and for teaching and to the tremendous impact she is having on our students’ lives and on their future,” said APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen. “This is an incredible honor for Tracey and for APS as it’s the first time in nearly four decades that one of our teachers has won this award. We are so proud of Tracey for being a shining example of what teaching excellence is and should be, and we are grateful to her for being a part of our APS family.” 

Pendley is the current holder of APS’ Excellence in Teaching Award,  which highlights the district’s best, brightest and most accomplished classroom educators. She is also the recipient of the 2018 Atlanta Families Award for Excellence in Education. 

According to the state Department of Education:

Pendley graduated from Furman University in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and religion and completed a master’s in teaching in 2009 through the University of Chicago’s Urban Teacher Education Program. She has been a classroom teacher in Atlanta Public Schools since 2012; prior to that, she taught in the Chicago Public Schools.

 “Tracey Pendley was a child who benefited deeply and irreversibly from her own education, and she chose to pay that forward to her own students,” said Georgia Superintendent  Richard Woods. “The passion and joy she brings to her classroom are inspiring, and her focus is right where it belongs: on the relationships with students that serve as the foundation of all meaningful learning, development, and growth. I am honored to name her the 2020 Georgia Teacher of the Year.”

As a child, Pendley found hope in her education, and describes her own life as “the story of the impact that great Georgia educators have on students.”

 “As I attended nine different schools and managed the uncertainties of life with a single parent who was an addict, my teachers provided the stability and encouragement that my twin brother and I needed,” she said. “I had several superhero teachers who showed me what a huge impact an engaging, loving, and trust-filled education has on a child’s life. Our teachers were our cheerleaders, our role models, and sometimes, even our caretakers.”

While a student at Furman University, Pendley took over management of the Clubhouse Gang, an afterschool program for students in underserved neighborhoods. Along with volunteers, she met with students twice a week to mentor them and help with homework. After college, she initially began work on a doctorate in sociology, but realized that she belonged in the field, with students.

“When students leave my classroom, I want them to know that they are loved, uniquely talented, and that learning from their mistakes is the key to becoming successful,” Pendley said. “I never want students to be held back by the numbers they receive on papers, but rather, I want students to know that their growth is what matters – growth as a confident individual with integrity, growth in their relationships, and growth in their academic abilities.”

As Georgia Teacher of the Year, Pendley will represent Georgia teachers by speaking to the public about the teaching profession and potentially conducting workshops and programs for educators. She will also participate in the competitive selection process for the 2020 National Teacher of the Year.

 2020 Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalists

Tracey Pendley, 2020 Georgia Teacher of the Year, Burgess Peterson Academy, Atlanta Public Schools 

Stephanie Peterson, 2020 Runner-Up, Westside Elementary School, Lowndes County Schools 

Kristen Applebee, Georgia Academy for the Blind, State Schools 

Amy Arnold, Colham Ferry Elementary School, Oconee County Schools 

Dr. David Bishop Collins, Fernbank Science Center, DeKalb County Schools 

Carlos Hernandez, General Ray Davis Middle School, Rockdale County Schools 

Lewis Kelly, Newton High School, Newton County Schools 

Kiana Pinckney, Palmetto Elementary School, Fulton County Schools 

Teresa Thompson, South Tattnall Middle School, Tattnall County Schools 

Francisco “Frank” Zamora, Johnson High School, Hall County Schools

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.
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