The 10 were originally "tapped" back in November, but at Monday's banquet they were officially honored and each presented with a plaque and a $250 check.

"What a principal may view as a great teacher -- someone with several degrees or someone that is easy to work with -- may not be considered the best by their students," TCFEE Executive Director Mike Brumby said. "These awards come mainly from the student's eyes, and that's what makes it so special."

The TCFEE seeks out the area's top education professionals every year and recognizes those who have made the most impact both on their students and throughout the community.

Brumby said that the awards process begins with letters written by students, faculty and community members recommending school personnel for the award. The TCFEE board then sifts through the letters, compiling and filing them before casting a secret ballot on who should be chosen.

Then, according to a press release issued by the TCFEE, the chosen few are "tapped" on the first day of American Education Week in November. Board members, officers and the media then surprise the award winners in their classrooms.

"These people are extremely dedicated individuals," Brumby said. "They are motivated and live to help make their students the absolute finest they can be."

The award is not limited to classroom teachers; any official school staff members are eligible for the award.

This year's winners are:

Jimmy Ballenger, fifth grade teacher from Matt Wilson Elementary

Heather Denham, kindergarten teacher from Len Lastinger Primary

Laura Frizzell, a media specialist from Matt Wilson Elementary

Beth Hammond, an Independent Learning Program Teacher at Annie Belle Clark Primary

Lesley Heller, second grade teacher from Omega Elementary

Margaret Kelley, a counselor at Charles Spencer

Louise Ray, a fourth grade teacher at Charles Spencer

Greg Tucker, an eighth grade science teacher at Eighth Street Middle School

Toi Walker, an English teacher at Northeast Campus of Tift County High School

Jane Willis, a second grade teacher at Northside Primary.

The banquet honoring the Teachers of Excellence is hosted annually by the Tifton Rotary Club and the TCFEE.

To contact JD Sumner, call 382-4321, ext. 214.

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