Gahanna Lincoln High School's Tom Gregory is being recognized as one of the best teachers in the state.

Gahanna Lincoln High School's Tom Gregory is being recognized as one of the best teachers in the state.

He is a finalist for the 2013 Ohio Teacher of the Year.

Ohio Department of Education officials presented the Ohio Teacher of the Year award on Oct. 3 to Carole Morbitzer, a math and volleyball coach at Hamilton Township High School.

The other finalists for the honor were Paul LaRue, Washington Court House City Schools; Holly Lavender, Liberty Union-Thurston Local; and Jim Mamer, Clark-Shawnee Local.

Gregory and the other four teachers were interviewed by a review panel after nominations were submitted from schools throughout Ohio.

Lincoln High School principal Dwight Carter nominated Gregory, a veteran speech and television-production teacher.

"Tom has done an excellent job at being a positive representative of the teaching staff at GLHS," Carter said. "His work on the veterans memorial, the Honor Flight program and now his effort to move the one-room schoolhouse is exceptional."

Carter said Gregory believes in Lincoln High School and appreciates the rich history of the school, as exemplified by his efforts to archive experiences in a professional manner.

"He provides many relevant learning opportunities for students and has been recognized time and time again for his work with students throughout the years," Carter said. "The students absolutely love him."

Gregory said he's honored to be nominated.

"I graduated from Gahanna High School myself 30 years ago," he said. "I had some of the best teachers who made huge differences in my life. I can't even name just one because so many of my teachers in Gahanna had such an important influence."

When Gregory began teaching in Gahanna 26 years ago, he said, the best thank-you he could give his influential teachers was to make a difference in his own students' lives.

"When you get an award like this, it truly is thanks to the efforts of so many others in the district as well," he said. "A truly successful teacher does not teach isolated in his/her own classroom. A teacher must collaborate with other teachers throughout their building and the district. Gahanna has some of the best teachers in the state, and many of the projects I've been a part of were done with the help and collaboration of many others."

Gregory said it's important as a teacher to find ways for students to take what they're learning and connect with that material in many meaningful ways.

"That could mean by collaborating with other students throughout the building and across the district," he said. "It also means to try and find ways that students can use their knowledge to connect with the community or the world to make it better. When students are involved in meaningful projects, activities and assignments, it is extremely motivating and impactful. What they are learning becomes a part of them."

Gregory said Gahanna educators are fortunate to have a supportive administration that encourages collaboration and creativity.

The Ohio Teacher of the Year program was initiated by the ODE in 1969 to honor and promote excellence in teaching and the teaching profession and to build a network of exemplary teachers who are leaders in school-improvement initiatives.

Nominations were reviewed by a statewide panel of representatives from a range of professional organizations and school constituencies, including teachers who have been recognized for their excellent performance in the classroom.