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    Passion for teaching: Cleveland High School teacher a finalist for national award

    English teacher Athena Davis listens as student Kara Cumberton describes her project at Cleveland High School. Davis is one of five nationwide finalists for a “Top Teacher Search” on the “Live With Kelly and Michael” talk show on ABC. Photo by John Rawlston .

    Athena Davis made a mistake.

    After two years in the pre-physical therapy program at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, she realized it wasn’t the career for her. That very day, she changed her major to education; she wanted to be a high school English teacher.

    Wise decision.

    On April 29, Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan, hosts of “Live with Kelly and Michael,” the nationally syndicated morning talk show, announced five finalists in “Live’s Top Teacher Search” contest. Davis, who teaches English at Cleveland High School, heard her name called.

    Davis, nominated by the parent of a student, didn’t even know the contest existed until April 25, when the show announced the 12 semi-finalists in national contest.

    “My principal had tweeted that there would be a surprise on our Raider Connect (our school news show), but we had no clue what it was,” she says. “When it flipped to the show and the announcement was made, I was in shock.”

    Davis was in New York on Monday to appear on “Live with Kelly and Michael,” which airs locally at 9 a.m. weekdays on WTVC Channel 9. The other four nominees will appear on the show this week, one on each day. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, May 20.

    Addie Strode, an 11th-grader at Cleveland High who was watching the live stream, too, texted Davis as soon as her name was announced.

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