Columbus, Ga- It was a sold out crowd at this year’s teacher of the year gala at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center. The annual event by the Muscogee County Educational Excellence Foundation was held on May 3 to honor 57 nominees for the top honor of Teacher of the Year. 

North Columbus Elementary teacher Melanie Gouine was selected as the 2018 Muscogee County School District Teacher of the Year. She was one of three finalists selected after several rounds of interviews by a committee of former teachers and business professionals. 

The celebrated educators tell News 3 about the significance of being nominated and taking home the top prize. 

“Walking away with teacher of the year for the Muscogee County School District would just mean I could give a voice to my students… that all things I’ve learned over my years of teaching, I could put into practice, and hopefully make some changes that could benefit them,” says Gouine. 

“Really, it’s not what it means to me but what it means to my students,” says Dawnell Jacobs, an honoree and Early College Academy of Columbus teacher. “My students see this as a representation of themselves that’s winning this event for them.” 

“Being nominated tonight already is such an honor, and I’m blessed to be here,” says Kristan McPhail, an honoree and Rainey-McCullers School of the Arts teacher. “I’ve had amazing colleagues and students throughout my career and being here tonight is just a representative of the amazing influence I’ve had.”

Gouine’s image will be seen on an outdoor digital billboard,a  full-page ad in the Ledger-Enquirer and will take home a $5,000 honorarium as teacher of the year.