Kathleen M. Turner, Sharon High School French instructor, named state teacher of the year

A Sharon High School French teacher was named Tuesday as the Massachusetts 2013 Teacher of the Year, the state’s highest honor for educators.

Kathleen M. Turner, of Walpole, the 51st teacher to receive the honor, is now Massachusetts’ candidate for the National Teacher of the Year Program, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said Tuesday. The state award was announced on National Teacher Day.

“I am honored to have been chosen from so many qualified candidates,” Turner said Tuesday. “There are so many wonderful teachers doing amazing things across the state.”

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Turner grew up in Northbridge and attended Northbridge High School. She was hired as a French teacher at Sharon High following her 1994 graduation from Harvard College, officials said. At Sharon High, Turner established a student exchange program with a school in France and regularly leads trips to Paris during spring break.

Turner said in an interview Tuesday that she told her parents she wanted to be a French teacher after her first day of eighth grade French class.

“I went home and told my parents that I would be a French teacher and here I am,” she said.

State officials praised Turner in a statement released Tuesday.

“Massachusetts educators are well represented by Kathleen Turner, who through her leadership and exceptional teaching provides students with a well-rounded education that enriches their lives and prepares them for success beyond high school,” Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester said in the statement.

Sharon High School principal Jose Libano wrote in his letter of recommendation that Turner’s classroom “is proof that she fosters an enriching, student-centered environment” where students can “find and reach their potential.”

Turner was selected from six finalists, who were interviewed by a panel of experts, including past teachers of the year.

Over the next year, Turner said, she expects to meet with other educators and state education officials.

“Teaching is never static,” she said. “You are always learning and always adapting. Having the opportunity to talk to so many other educators will only enhance what I do, and that is really exciting.”

Turner will be honored with other top educators at an award ceremony on June 18.