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Award-winning teacher with Germantown Municipal School District finalist for Tennessee Teacher of Year

8th grade American History instructor John Frizzell named one of 9 finalists for the award.
Credit: GMSD

GERMANTOWN, Tennessee — They say teaching is its own reward, but for one teacher with the Germantown Municipal School District (GMSD), a more tangible honor could be coming his way.

John Frizzell, the 5th-8th Grade GMSD 2021 Teacher of the Year, has been named one of nine finalists for the Tennessee Teacher of the Year for 2021-2022. Frizzell teaches 8th grade American History at Riverdale.

“I am thrilled to congratulate John Frizzell as a finalist for Tennessee Teacher of the Year,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey. “He is a shining example of the  dedicated teachers who inspire Tennessee students every day.”

This is what GMSD wrote about him after being named that school district’s teacher of the year for 2021:

One parent wrote about John Frizzell, “He has a bright shining star at Riverdale.” It’s an accurate assessment, as he has only been with GMSD for four years and has quickly been recruited into several leadership positions around the school and district. His positions range from PLC Lead, Cross Country Sponsor, Poetry/Book Club Sponsor, TEAM Teacher Evaluator, Social Studies Content Lead, to a GMSD Diversity and Inclusion Coach. Frizzell is a talented teacher with a zeal for helping his students discover a love for history. 

“Studying history may not help you balance your checkbook or understand chemical reactions, but it does something far more important. It requires us to step into the shoes of people who have gone before us and learn from their lives. History requires us to practice perspective-taking and empathy,” he shared.  

Aside from his passion for the subject matter in the classroom, it’s evident that Mr. Frizzell deeply cares for each of his students. He has instituted an annual “Student Appreciation Day” in which he writes handwritten, personalized notes to each student. We were lucky to read through nearly a dozen letters from current and former students and their families on how great an impact some of the personalized notes had on students.  

A firm believer in student voice, Mr. Frizzell also takes cues from his students by using student exit interviews to continue sharpening his teaching skills. “I listen to my students’ feedback because the best teachers never stop being students themselves,” said Mr. Frizzell.

The following is from the Tennessee Department of Education:

Today (June 3, 2021) the Tennessee Department of Education announced the nine statewide finalists for the 2021-22 Tennessee Teacher of the Year award.

The nine finalists represent each of the eight Center of Regional Excellence (CORE) areas in the state as well as the Shelby County-Municipals area, with three finalists in each Grand Division: West, Middle, and East.

“Through perseverance, determination, and a commitment to providing all our students with a high-quality education, our Tennessee educators have gone above and beyond the call of the duty this past school year,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “I am thrilled to honor these nine teachers for their incredible work leading up to this moment and especially throughout the past several months. Our state is home to dedicated teachers who embody the Volunteer spirit and give their all for our students each and every day.” 

The finalists for 2021-22 Tennessee Teacher of the Year are:

Credit: TDOE

Teacher of the Year candidates must have been teaching full-time for at least three years. Additionally, they are evaluated based on having a track record of exceptional gains in student learning and being effective school and community leaders.

“Earning the title Tennessee Teacher of the Year meant I could use my voice for teachers and students across our state, and that meant a great deal to me,” said Kami Lunsford, 2021 Tennessee Teacher of the Year and Music Teacher, Karns Middle School. “In every community, especially Tennessee, teachers are powerful agents of support, resources, and change. This school year, the teaching profession met challenges unlike any in history, and as usual, teachers modeled for everyone how to lead, serve, and shine!”

Grand Division winners and, ultimately, the Tennessee Teacher of the Year will be selected from this group of finalists and announced during an honorary celebration this fall following a panel interview with each finalist.

The final winner will represent Tennessee in the National Teacher of the Year competition and serve as an ambassador for education in the state throughout the 2021-22 school year.

Finalists will also have the opportunity to serve on Commissioner Schwinn’s Teacher Advisory Council for the duration of the 2021-22 school year. The council is composed of expert teachers who provide feedback and inform the work of the department throughout the academic year.