It's been a rough few weeks of interviews and stress for the 32-year-old Alexandria Elementary teacher, who learned Wednesday night in Montgomery she was the state elementary school teacher of the year.
"I'm actually looking forward to the time I can just sit down and enjoy this," she said.
Finley is also the alternate for the state teacher of the year, which went to Yung Bui-Kincer, a science teacher at Booker T. Washington Magnet School in Montgomery County. Finley is the second teacher from Alexandria Elementary in two years to make it to the final four.
Finley, an Alexandria native, is in her 10th year and teaches second grade. She's been stressed, but the recognition did come with some perks.
The National Board Certified teacher met the governor, attended several meetings in the capital and was recognized at the state Board of Education meeting. And after the Wednesday ceremony, she received countless checks, grant money for her classroom, and flowers, among other things that widened her smile.
"I really can't wait to see my kids though," she said.
Being the alternate teacher of the year means next year will be even busier. She'll teach while also being called on to present workshops, conferences and speaking engagements.
"I feel like I'm a winner in both ways," she said. "I still get that nourishment in the classroom and still get to go out and help the teachers also."
"Even though she wasn't the teacher of the year, it's quite an honor," said Calhoun County Schools Superintendent Judy Stiefel.
Added Alexandria Elementary Principal Sarah McClure: "She just captivates everyone … Just when you need her and talk to her, you just go away feeling uplifted yourself."