A Baltimore teacher selected as the state's Teacher of the Year last fall is one of four finalists for National Teacher of the Year.
Athanasia Kyriakakos, an art teacher at Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School, joins educators from California, Massachusetts and Wisconsin as a nominee for the nation's top teaching honor. She was named the 2016-2017 Maryland Teacher of the Year last October.
The Council of Chief State School Officers, a national organization of school system administrators, will present the award to the winner in May at a White House ceremony honoring Teachers of the Year in all 50 states.
Maryland state schools Superintendent Karen Salmon praised Kyriakakos for finding innovative ways to inspire students.
"One of her former students wrote that Sia opened her eyes and gave her hope in the future," Salmon said in a statement. "There is no better description of great teaching."
Kyriakakos has taught students ranging from prekindergarten to high school since joining the city school system in 2011. She has taught at Mervo since 2014, following a career that has included studying and teaching at the Art Institute of Chicago, and positions in Greece and Sweden.
Through art education, she says she seeks to teach students focus, perseverance and resilience. She could not immediately be reached for comment.
The council said it chose her as "a world-renowned artist, who brings her creativity to the classroom as a teacher and mentor for the Baltimore Teachers Union."
The other nominees are a San Diego special education teacher who has co-authored books about inclusion in the classroom; an instrumental music teacher in Wisconsin who was a semifinalist for the 2017 Grammy Music Educator Award; and a Boston teacher who worked with a local theater company to explore issues of injustice with students.
The nominating committee said in a statement the finalists "embody the character, knowledge, skills and passion of exemplary teaching."
Kyriakakos is the fifth Maryland teacher named a finalist for the national honor since 2006. Three of the four Maryland teachers who preceded her won the honor.
A panel of judges will interview the finalists in March before selecting the winner.