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Phoenix Forward

Meet the winner of the Great American Teach-Off

Third-grade teacher Terry Dougherty of New Jersey wins $10,000 grant

Terry Dougherty’s life changed dramatically this month when she walked into an assembly hall at Roland Rogers Elementary School in Galloway Township, N.J.

The third-grade teacher thought she was attending a simple Veteran’s Day program. Instead, she walked into a packed hall and walked away with a $10,000 check after winning the Great American Teach-Off.

“I cried all day,” Dougherty says.

Almost 400 teachers from all 50 states were nominated for the Great American Teach-Off, a contest launched this summer by GOOD Education and University of Phoenix.

“When we saw the outreach and support for this program, it reinforced the notion that people do care and want to support and celebrate the educators who have made a tremendous impact on their lives,” says Jay Ku, head of corporate partnerships at GOOD.

Dougherty was nominated by the Absecon-Galloway Rotary Club, whom she had worked with in the past, and received endorsements from students, parents and military service personnel.

One of my biggest goals is that the children are recognized for being resilient and for the sacrifices
that they make.

Nominators answered essay questions about instructors’ teaching methods, community involvement and extra time spent with students. The top 10 finalists submitted videos highlighting their teaching innovations. From that point on the public voted for their favorite teacher on the GOOD website, and each week, two teachers were eliminated from the contest. GOOD received more than 300,000 votes over the course of several weeks and the process was intense. Dougherty even became friends with the second-place finisher, Chris Hoeh, of Cambridge Friends School in Massachusetts.

“We wanted to reward and promote teachers for their dedication to the teaching profession, and especially for those who are inspired to do more,” says Connie Lorthridge, regional assistant dean for the University of Phoenix College of Education at the Central Florida Campus.

Three years ago, Dougherty launched a free Military Child Tutoring program known as “They are Heroes, Too!” A military wife and a mother who moved around for years, Dougherty wanted to help kids through periods of transition and separation from their families. Some of these students face challenges academically that could be partly due to instability.

“One of my biggest goals is that the children are recognized for being resilient and for the sacrifices that they make,” she says.

She plans to use the $10,000 grant to build a mobile technology lab to help connect children with deployed parents, and to aid them with their math and reading skills. The money will be used for laptop computers, digital readers and other technologies.

Dougherty says the competition offered more exposure and recognition than she could have ever envisioned. Local and national media covered the event. She has been asked to speak at numerous functions, including her alma mater, the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, and was awarded numerous other accolades.