It’s high time we bragged on Cindi Rigsbee, a long-time Teacher Leaders Network member who is one of four finalists for National Teacher of the Year. As state TOY for 2008-09, Cindi has spent this school year traveling the interstates, blue highways, and back trails of North Carolina, literally from the mountains to the sea, speaking wherever two or more K12 educators are gathered together. An inveterate blogger, Cindi has kept a digital journal of her travels at NC TOY Treks, where she’s pictured on the homepage in formal attire, with other regional teachers of the year.

Cindi, by the way, is a reading and literacy teacher at Gravelly Hill Middle School in Durham (Orange County) and writes frequently for our TLN page at Teacher Magazine. [Photo of four finalists: l-r, Anthony Mullen, CT; Susan Elliott, CO; Cindi Rigsbee, NC; Alex Kajitani, CA.]

The interview sessions for this year’s National TOY finalists took place earlier this month in Washington at the offices of the Council of Chief State School Officers, the long-time organizer of the annual process to honor American public school teachers.  Cindi describes both the festivities and the more nerve-wracking portions of her Capitol visit in a series of blog posts that culminate here.

She reports that the last festive event for the NTOY finalists was dinner on the evening of March 9 with representatives from 15 national education associations. At the dinner, Cindi and other finalists also chatted with members of the NTOY selection committee. “We left feeling that we had just met colleagues in education, not ‘judges’,” she says in her NCTOY blog.

“But despite the nice social evening, I still found it impossible to sleep before my morning interview,” she confesses. The next morning, after appearing before the selection panel, Cindi joined her TOY colleagues at a national press conference. “It was a little unsettling to walk into a room full of reporters with their notepads,” Cindi says.

“As each of us answered the two questions we were previously given, I listened to my esteemed colleagues from California, Colorado, and Connecticut and thought about how they are each eloquent, knowledgeable speakers — and if I had to choose one, I couldn’t! They are amazing in their own ways, and I feel blessed to be among them.”

After returning home, Cindi quickly found herself back on the road, making the case for teacher leadership and teaching quality across the Tarheel State. Cindi and the other finalists will return in late April and join all the state TOYs from across the nation as they hear the President’s announcement of the new National Teacher of the Year.

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