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Sullivan school system honors top teachers, principal

Staff Reports • Feb 17, 2019 at 2:00 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — The Sullivan County Department of Education has honored three Teachers of the Year and one Principal of the Year for 2018-19, Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski announced Monday.

The winners are Brandy Nothnagel of Indian Springs Elementary — Elementary Teacher of the Year; Ryan Lovelace of Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee — Middle School Teacher of the Year; Mary Jernigan of Sullivan South — High School Teacher of the Year; and Lesley Fleenor of Holston Elementary School — Principal of the Year.

Schools nominate and select their Teacher of the Year designees. The Teacher of the Year at each school then submits an application to the district. Applications are reviewed by a committee, which selects the district-level Teacher of the Year. Principal of the Year candidates are nominated by district administrators. School-level and district-level administrators select the Principal of the Year. 

These awards were created through the collaboration of the Tennessee Department of Education. The awards recognize the distinguished accomplishments of a peer-nominated recipient from each district in service to their students, schools and school district.


Nothnagel started her teaching career nine years ago and has spent the last six years at Indian Springs. She received her bachelor’s degree from King University and her master’s in education from East Tennessee State University. She has served in several leadership roles for the school and district including mentor teacher for student teachers, teacher leader from 2015-2018, Read to be Ready liaison from 2016-18 and member of the School-Wide Health Committee.


Lovelace began his teaching career five years ago and has spent his entire career at Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee. Lovelace received his bachelor’s from Carson-Newman College and his master’s in theological studies from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. His current area of endorsement is Biology 7-12 and Physical Education K-12. Lovelace has served in a variety of leadership positions including school liaison for Northeast State Community College Advanced Manufacturing and project leader for ETSU SLICE textbooks.


Mary Jernigan has been teaching in Sullivan County for five years. Jernigan received her undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois and went on to receive her master’s from ETSU and her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina. She has spent her entire teaching career at Sullivan South, where she teaches special education. She also is South’s ACT Test accommodations coordinator, manages individualized education programs and assists students who are working to recover chemistry credit. From 1990 to 2012, she worked at Eastman Chemical Company as advanced senior principal research chemist and then a development associate from 2012 to 2014 before becoming tuition scholar for the ETSU Department of Teaching and Learning. 


Lesley Fleenor has been Holston Elementary principal the last four years. Fleenor went to King University for her bachelor’s degree, Union College to earn her master’s in curriculum and instruction and ETSU to earn her Ed.D. in educational leadership and policy analysis. Fleenor has worked in Sullivan County for 12 years. She has been an elementary school teacher, a federal and special programs coordinator and an assistant principal.

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