Rita Simmons, gifted and talented teacher for students in kindergarten through fifth grade at Cleveland Avenue Elementary School, was named the Atlanta Public Schools 2013-2014 Teacher of the Year during an awards ceremony Oct. 17 at Benjamin E. Mays High School.

Simmons will go on to compete for the Georgia 2015 Teacher of the Year next spring. Atlanta Public Schools is home to 2012 Georgia Teacher of the Year, Dr. Jadun McCarthy; 2013 Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalist, Elisha Gray; and 2014 Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalist Tamika N. Ball.

Simmons received her Bachelor of Arts in Education from Florida A&M State University. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in instructional technology from Georgia Southern University. Simmons’ career in education began in Chicago at Westside Preparatory School. After relocating to Atlanta, Simmons decided to continue her love for teaching by starting a consulting business specializing in school-reform-model professional development for teachers.

She has taught in Cobb County as a fifth-grade teacher and transitioned in 2005 as a language arts and social studies teacher at World Changers Academy. An advocate for children, Simmons is also the founder and CEO of a mentoring organization for girls. She is a passionate educator and visionary, and is committed to making a difference beyond the walls of her classroom. Simmons believes that teachers embody the very essence of what it means to educate children.

Finalists for this year’s award included Nathaniel Snyder, Middle School Teacher of the Year from KIPP Ways Academy and Danielle Gilley Costarides, High School Teacher of the Year from North Atlanta High School. Candidates for APS Teacher of the Year are nominated by their respective schools. APS then selects an elementary, middle school and high school teacher of the year from a list of semi-finalists to compete for the districtwide honor.

To see the photo gallery from this year’s ceremony, visit http://www.apsk12.org/media/index.html

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