Wayne County Public Schools has announced three finalists for the district's 2017-2018 Teacher of the Year.

The local effort is part of the national Teacher of the Year program that has been around for more than 50 years.

Earlier, 32 district schools selected their individual representatives for the upcoming school year.

All of the candidates were interviewed last week by a selection committee, narrowing the field down to three, representing elementary, middle and high schools.

Emily West, a fourth grade teacher at Meadow Lane Elementary, is the elementary level finalist.

Paul Casey, Norwayne Middle School STEM teacher, will represent the middle grades.

High school finalist is Kirsten Thomas, an English teacher at Charles B. Aycock High School.

The district Teacher of the Year will be announced at the annual banquet, to be held May 4 at Walnut Creek Country Club at 6 p.m.

Principals of the three finalists praised their respective candidates for having the characteristics and qualifications as standouts among their peers.

"Ms. West exemplifies all the attributes of a model teacher," said Wendy Hooks, principal of Meadow Lane. "Her lifelong desire has been to educate students and change their lives exponentially as an elementary teacher.

"She has proven extraordinarily effective in her teaching ability shown in students' growth, standardized test scores and her own professional development and evaluations."

Ms. West has 15 years in the profession, all at Meadow Lane. She earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education and is National Board Certified.

Casey has been at Norwayne for eight years and in education for 15 years. He holds a bachelor's degree in technology education. He is also adviser of the TSA, or Technology Student Association, which was recently named "Chapter of the Year" for the state.

"Students are excited when they are enrolled in Mr. Casey's class," says his principal, Lisa Tart. "He creates a welcoming and nurturing classroom environment conducive to learning.

"He employs a myriad of research-based strategies, including but not limited to hands-on learning, project-based learning, collaboration, problem solving, utilizing technology and skills development."

Mrs. Thomas has spent all of her eight years as a teacher at CBA. Her bachelor's degree is in English education 9-12 and she also has a bachelor's degree in Latin and a master's degree in instructional technology.

"Academically, Mrs. Thomas challenges each and every student to do their very best," said CBA principal Dr. Earl Moore. "She expects each student's performance to be of the highest quality, regardless of their academic level, and teaches each individual child as if they were her own.

"Mrs. Thomas is simply an awesome teacher."

The district Teacher of the Year will be given a $5,000 travel/study stipend, a $1,500 check and the opportunity to move on to the regional level of the competition. The other two finalists will each receive a $4,000 travel/study stipend.

Individual Teachers of the Year include the following:

Brogden Middle: Lanelle Sutton, English language arts/social studies

Brogden Primary: Robert Smith III, third grade

Carver Elementary: Kristin Whiting, first grade

Carver Heights: Vonder Ashford, third grade

Dillard Middle: Tomekia Waters, health/physical education

Eastern Wayne Elementary: Joi Hood, third grade

Eastern Wayne High: Kelly Rose, exceptional children

Eastern Wayne Middle: Stephanie Davis, English language arts

Edgewood Community Developmental School: Scott Littleton, exceptional children

Fremont STARS Elementary: Lauren Wolfe, exceptional children

Goldsboro High: Wendy Dinges, social studies

Grantham Elementary: Ashley Capri, second grade

Grantham Middle: Jeffery Bradley, physical education

Greenwood Middle: Robin Bryant, math

Mount Olive Middle: Tondalayo Clark, communication skills

North Drive Elementary: Shauna Skinner, second grade

Northeast Elementary: Shari Davis, first grade

Northwest Elementary: Janis Hart, exceptional children

Rosewood Elementary: Diane Seymour, exceptional children

Rosewood High: Teresa Eason, science

Rosewood Middle: Josie David, exceptional children

Southern Wayne High: Andrew Norris, science

Spring Creek Elementary: Rhea Tan, third grade

Spring Creek High: Tammy Kennedy, English

Spring Creek Middle: Verlie Pittman, math and science

Tommy's Road Elementary: Michael Holland, physical education/health

Wayne Early/Middle College High: Angela Mozingo, science

Wayne Middle/High Academy: Anita Phillips, exceptional children resource teacher

Wayne School of Engineering: Laura Taylor, English.