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Congrats Teachers of the Year
Teachers of the Year
Posted on 02/14/2022
Teacher of the Year

From eight district-wide nominees, three teachers were selected to represent Bristol Tennessee City Schools in this year’s state Teacher of the Year award. The Teacher of the Year program recognizes and honors outstanding teachers in Tennessee. It is an opportunity to applaud teachers who devote their professional lives to enriching the lives of Tennessee students.

All schools in Tennessee can nominate one teacher as a system finalist for grades PreK-4, 5-8, and 9-12. The three teachers selected from Bristol Tennessee City Schools are as follows: Kim Gassiot, grades PreK-4; Spencer Finch, grades 5-8; and Tara Hartsoe, grades 9-12.

PreK-4 District Finalist

Kim Gassiot is a kindergarten teacher at Haynesfield Elementary. She grew up in Fort Worth, Tex., and has taught preschool, kindergarten, and first grade in Texas, Florida, and Tennessee. Ms. Gassiot holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education and a Master’s of Education degree in Language and Literacy from Texas Tech University. She is “momma to the sweetest kids” Jonah (17), Sydney (16), Ian (14), and Ainsley (12).

“Teaching kindergarten is my favorite age to teach,” Ms. Gassiot said. “The students often arrive in my classroom feeling a variety of feelings but do not yet have the language to identify them. Providing my young students with the language to help identify their emotions is the first step in learning to regulate them. Once this is established, we have a foundation on which to build their academic education.”

5-8 District Finalist

Spencer Finch is one of two band directors at Tennessee Middle School. He attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where he met his wife, and they are now parents to seven children. Mr. Finch holds a Master’s degree from the American Band College. He is in his 18th year of teaching, having previously served at George Washington Community School in Indianapolis, Sullivan East High School, and Vance Middle School.

“I decided to become a teacher when I was 18,” Mr. Finch said. “My band director appointed me to the position of trombone section leader. I spent a glorious semester helping my classmates learn and grow. The experience helped me to come out of my introvert shell and made me realize that teaching others was fun. What inspires me the most about teaching is the connection that music brings to every human being. I get to help students find their voice, a way to express themselves in art. I also get to see them deepen their understanding of the human race by studying the music of other people. This brings me joy.”

9-12 District Finalist

Tara Hartsoe is an East Tennessee native who grew up in Newport. She has taught at Tennessee High for eight years in the Math Department. Ms. Hartsoe holds a Bachelor of Science degree in math from East Tennessee State University and a Master’s of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University in Portland. She is currently pursuing an endorsement for special education interventionist for 6-12 through the University of Tennessee. She and her husband Jacob have a two-year-old daughter, Valerie.

When asked why she teaches, Ms. Hartsoe replied, “I teach because math is hard! Most people say math is their least favorite subject. I want to change that. I want students to feel successful in my classroom, even when they have to struggle or try really hard. I want students to understand the importance of mathematics in the world around them. I want students to learn to think logically, critically, and with the ability to identify and solve problems.”

In addition to the three nominees selected for district Teacher of the Year Award, the following Bristol Tennessee City Schools teachers were also nominated:



Lucretia Brown

Anderson Elementary

Angie Meredith

Avoca Elementary

Jamey Cross


Ginny Swaggerty

Holston View

Alexis Arnold


All of these nominees will be recognized at an annual Rotary Club of Bristol VA-TN Outstanding Teacher Awards event in April. Each of these teachers demonstrates their commitment to excellence and has a positive impact on the lives and futures of their students.

See what happened when we surprised these outstanding teachers on Valentine's Day!

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