She was the first in her family to graduate from college and high school.

Now, Deborah Stringfellow of Elmore County has been named 2024 Alabama Teacher of the Year.

The annual awards ceremony for Alabama Teacher of the Year was held at The Alabama Shakespeare Festival's Globe Theatre on Wednesday, and it was high drama.

Stringfellow was the veteran among 16 teacher finalists, having served 40 years as a teacher. She is a fourth-grade teacher at Airport Road Intermediate School in central Alabama's Elmore County.

Her parents had been forced to abandon their own education dreams because of economic needs.

Stringfellow found early in her childhood that school and learning were a refuge — a personal source of joy. She embraced every opportunity to teach others. She even helped her parents earn their GEDs and taught her brother to read.

Stringfellow said that education is a life-long journey, not a destination.

She earned a bachelor of science in elementary education and a master of science in special education from what was then Troy State University. Later, she earned a specialist designation in educational leadership from the University of Alabama.  Now, she's continuing to learn as a doctoral candidate.

The Alabama education system will showcase the Deborah Stringfellow story, a dramatic portrayal of the difference education can make when done right.

Now, Stringfellow goes to the nationals. She will compete with 57 other state-level winners for National Teacher of the Year.

She will also serve as a full-time ambassador for education and the teaching profession and will conduct workshops.

The selection process started last fall with 155 teachers in the running. That number was later narrowed to 16 finalists, two each from Alabama's eight State Board of Education districts.

National Teacher of the Year and 58 state-level competitions are organized by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).  It is the only national education nonprofit that represents all 58 leaders of K-12 education systems in every state, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, the Bureau of Indian Education, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. Collectively, the organization impacts the educational needs of:  

  • 50 million students 

  • 3.8 million teachers 

  • 98,200 schools 

  • 13,600 school districts  

CCSSO's National Teacher of the Year Program has been the most prestigious teacher recognition program in the country for 70 years. The program provides a platform for exceptional educators to elevate issues that affect teachers and their students.

"Teaching is a life-changing business." - Jefferey Norris, 2023 Alabama Teacher of the Year

Jim' Zig' Zeigler writes about Alabama's people, places, events, groups and prominent deaths. He is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at

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