Mercer education alumna named 2022 Georgia Teacher of the Year

Two women pose for a picture while holding a trophy
Mercer University alumna Cherie Bonder Dennis poses for a picture with her 2022 Georgia Teacher of the Year Award and Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Ann Levett. Photo courtesy Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools

A Mercer University alumna has been named the 2022 Georgia Teacher of the Year.

Cherie Bonder Dennis, who earned a Specialist in Education degree from the Tift College of Education in 2019, was awarded the honor on Aug. 7 during a virtual ceremony.

Dennis, who teaches English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) at Hesse K-8 School in Savannah, was at home watching the presentation with her family when her name was announced.

Cherie Bonder Dennis
Cherie Bonder Dennis

“I was stunned, quite frankly,” Dennis said, recalling the moment. “I was in such amazing company with the other nine finalists, so I was truly humbled to have been chosen from among this remarkably talented, knowledgeable, dedicated and compassionate group of colleagues.”

Officials from the Georgia Department of Education and the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPS) surprised Dennis at her home with balloons, flowers and a trophy as soon as the win was announced.

“I could not be prouder to have someone as deserving as Cherie Dennis represent the talented and dedicated teachers we have throughout Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools,” SCCPS Superintendent Dr. Ann Levett said in a news release. “Cherie Dennis is the finest example of the extraordinary teachers found throughout our district.

“I am excited to witness the year ahead for Ms. Dennis as she represents not just our district but the state of Georgia as a nominee for National Teacher of the Year.”

Dennis taught third grade at Hesse before moving into her current role teaching ESOL. She’s part of a team that works with about 200 ESOL students at the school.

She primarily works with students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Most of the students she works with speak Spanish as their first language. She helps with their English skills, including speaking, listening, reading and writing.

Dennis started to become involved in the leadership team at Hesse, and she went to Mercer for her Specialist in Education degree to hone her skills as a teacher-leader, she said.

“It gave me some more tools for how to assist teachers with or coach them through what they are trying to accomplish in their classrooms, how to observe them, how to provide feedback, and also on how to shepherd various projects through our school, beginning with the leadership team and beyond to the rest of our faculty,” she previously told The Den.

Dennis said she is honored to represent and serve Georgia teachers.

“I look forward to being their voice, letting everyone far and wide know about the incredible things that they have been doing and continue to do in their classrooms and in their communities on behalf of students and families, and advocating for what they need personally and professionally,” she said.


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