MSA Teacher of the Year Program

Congratulations to the Regional winners of the 2024 Teacher of the Year:

Each week from March 7 until the MSA 2024 conference, we will feature one Regional TOY in Magnet Minute and on the MSA Blog. Check back each week to learn more about each winner.

Region 1: Lucien Bouffard

Biotechnology Research & Zoological Sciences HS
Bridgeport Public Schools
Read more about Mr. Bouffard

Region 3: Willis W. Reese III

Azalea Middle School
Pinellas County Schools


Region 5: Cristina Manzanares Mariscal

Westdale Middle School
East Baton Rouge Parish School System

Region 2: Kimberly Min

Open Magnet Charter School
Los Angeles Unified School District


Region 4: Elizabeth Ann Phelps Luna

Athens Drive Center for Medical Sciences and Global Health Initiatives Magnet High School
Wake County Public School System

Region 6: Andrea Barry

Earhart Environmental Magnet
Wichita Public Schools


At Magnet Schools of America (MSA) we already know great teachers inspire not only their students but their colleagues and others in the community as well. Magnet Teacher of the Year (TOY) Award annually recognizes an outstanding, dedicated full-time teacher who exemplifies excellence in academic achievement and executes innovative programs that promote equity and diversity for students in magnet schools.

This successful teacher-candidate is acknowledged by peers, parents and students for exemplary contributions made to the profession. This teacher inspires students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn. The award honors a PreK through K-12 Magnet School Teacher who has demonstrated excellence in the teaching profession, community, and parental involvement.

*Membership inquiries, please email OR call 202.824.0672


Nominees must be full-time magnet teachers (including specialists, resource/lead teachers) who:

  • Are currently serving as a teacher at one or more PreK-12 or K-12 Magnet school(s) for a minimum of three (3) years;
  • Demonstrate and encourage creativity and innovation in curriculum;
  • Foster cooperation between the classroom and the community;
  • Maintain a continuing dialogue with students and parents as well as other staff;
  • Keep abreast of developments in the field of education;
  • Encourage team spirit;
  • Maintain their position as a magnet teacher throughout the 2023-2024 school year; and attend the national conference of the subsequent year “to pass the torch.” (at the discounted host district rate)

All previous regional recipients are not eligible for three (3) years after being awarded.
All previous monetary recipients are not eligible for five (five) years after being awarded.


  • Nomination application for Teacher of the Year must by submitted by the district Magnet Director.
  • Only MSA Members/Districts may submit candidate nominations.
  • Districts may submit only one candidate.
  • A letter of nomination explaining why the nominee is deserving of the award, signed and submitted with the online application at the time of submission.
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation: including one from a parent, one from a community partner, AND one from a co-worker or administrator. Each letter must be signed and submitted/uploaded separately with the online application at the time of submission.

2023 National TOY ◊ Emily Eberlin

Emily Eberlin

Muller Road Middle School
Richland School District Two
Columbia, South Carolina

Emily Eberlin, Muller Road Middle School, Richland School District Two, SC – Awarded the National Magnet Teacher of the Year Award, Ms. Eberlin has been the lead teacher for the Leadership Academy at Muller for the past seven years. She has esteemed herself as an expert in her magnet theme by presenting at Magnet Schools of America conferences.

2022 National TOY ◊ Clinton McCracken

Clinton McCracken

Howard Middle School
Orange County Public Schools
Orlando, Florida

Clinton McCracken’s experience with art led him into this role because studying art was his pathway out of poverty and to higher education. He became a teacher because he is passionate about art and the difference it can make in students’ lives. McCracken also loves the energy of middle school students and how ready they are to soak in new information and ideas. 

He says his greatest contributions as a magnet teacher have been at the individual student level. McCracken works hard to build strong relationships and a positive classroom community creating a space for students to take risks with their art. “I think students would say my art room is a calming haven. I live for the moments where I can help students create an artwork they worked hard on and are beaming with pride when they see it displayed for their peers or in an exhibit,” he said.

2020 National TOY ◊ Megan Heitkamp

Megan Heitkamp

Salk Middle School
ISD 728

Elk River, Minnesota

Megan Heitkamp says becoming a teacher was not a linear progression; it was not something she had dreamed of doing since she was a young student. However, she does feel she was destined to be a teacher, to be a shaper of skills and to be a supporter of students overcoming challenges in and out of class. “I have a bias toward helping, and this factor has a positive influence over my journey,” she says.

As a magnet teacher, Heitkamp has focused on both the small steps within classrooms that build into the giant leaps toward systemic school culture changes. She is in a unique position teaching 7th grade students, and being the curriculum coordinator for the school’s magnet program. Because of this diverse role, she can concentrate on things that impact the students in her classroom, and zero in on helping teachers improve their work in regards to the magnet theme and the five pillars of magnet programming.

Heitkamp believes that teaching should be inquiry-based, authentically connected to the learners, and should help learners examine new perspectives with curiosity, not judgement. As she says, “It is my hope that learners participate in discussions about scientific and environmental issues as they begin to craft their own scientific values that will impact their decision-making. Learners need to be able to understand the results at doctor’s appointments, grasp the weather report in the media, and weigh the pros and cons of local and global environmental initiatives that have long-lasting impacts. Encouraging a deep scientific literacy is at the heart of my teaching philosophy.”

2019 National TOY ◊ Walter Carter

Walter Carter

2019 Teacher of the Year. Walter Carter

Milford Mill Academy|
Baltimore County Public Schools
Baltimore County, Maryland

Mr. Walter Carter, an automotive services teacher at Milford Mill Academy, distinguishes himself as an automotive professional with a large and ongoing body of knowledge in automotive education.

Mr. Carter has taken his lifetime love and involvement in automotive service to develop a program to expand his students’ knowledge and skills. He has developed relationships with the business community and coordinated internships and externships for the automotive students.

Carter, an ASE certified technician since 1985, has been teaching for 12 years, all of them at Milford Mill Academy. From 2008 – 2014, he served on Maryland’s curriculum writing committee for automotive technology. He is a National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence certified automotive educator and was selected as the school’s own 2019 Teacher of the Year.

2018 National TOY ◊ Dr. April Guenzler

Dr. April Guenzler

Brooks Museums Magnet Elementary
Wake County Public School System
Raleigh, North Carolina

Dr. April Guenzler has been a classroom teacher in North Carolina for 17 years. She became a National Board certified teacher in 2014 and graduated with an EdD in Curriculum and Instruction from Gardner-Webb University in May of 2016. Dr. Guenzler loves working with families and their communities and is passionate about integrated curriculum. She has been a part of her school since the conception of its magnet program and her teaching philosophy clearly aligns with the Paideia principles, which provide the foundation for Brooks Museums Magnet Elementary. She believes that learning occurs when students are actively engaged in hands-on authentic experiences and she has facilitated professional development on Paideia Principles, Responsive Classroom, museums approaches to learning, the Theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI), and curriculum unit design.

She is also a mentor at her school and works weekly with new teachers (during their first three years of initial licensure) to develop their capacity in teaching. Most recently she was invited by Gardner-Webb faculty to become involved with the Urban Educators Leadership Collaborative (UELC) through Teachers College at Columbia University, NY.

Learn how to become a Nationally Certified Magnet School

Raise the level of performance consistent throughout school districts nationwide and creates a platform from which all magnet schools can flourish. Magnet Schools of America’s national certification process is designed to recognize the hard work of the best magnet schools in the nation and to help them as they grow.

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