Tracey Pendley, a fourth-grade teacher at Burgess Peterson Academy in Atlanta Public Schools, is the 2020 Georgia Teacher of the Year, State School Superintendent Richard Woods announced tonight. As Georgia Teacher of the Year, Pendley will serve as an advocate for public education in Georgia.
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,” Superintendent 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.”
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 PhD 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
*Other than the Teacher of the Year and Runner-Up, finalists are listed in alphabetical order by last name.