Athanasia Kyriakakos teaches in Baltimore city, is the MD teacher of the year and now a finalist for National Teacher of the Year. (Maryland State Dept of Education) (N/A/Maryland State Dept of Education)

A Maryland teacher has been tapped as one of four finalists for the 2017 National Teacher of the Year Award.

Athanasia Kyriakakos, who teaches in Baltimore city and previously won top teaching honors in Maryland, was described by her principal as “an internationally award-winning artist who has sacrificed her personal ambitions to share her passion of art with students.”

Kyriakakos will compete against stand-out teachers from Wisconsin, Massachusetts and California in the annual competition, run by the national Council of Chief State School Officers. The winner is to be announced in May at a White House ceremony.

In a letter of recommendation, Craig Rivers, principal at Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School, where Kyriakakos has taught since 2014, said her credentials and work were so impressive she could have worked anywhere she wished.

“She chose the students of Baltimore city and I believe she is here for a purpose,” he wrote.

Kyriakakos fights for equity in art and education, he said, working “tirelessly to take our students to the world in which they must compete.”

At a school that can get hyper-focused on math, science and language arts, she has become a voice for the importance of “the whole child,” he said.

Maryland education officials said Kyriakakos, a teacher in Baltimore since 2011, lived in Greece as a child and later taught in Connecticut. A Fulbright scholar, she earned a master’s degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree from Maryland Institute College of Art.

In October, Kyriakakos was named 2016-2017 Maryland Teacher of the Year.

As a finalist for the national teaching award, she is up against Megan Gross, 2017 California Teacher of the Year; Chris Gleason, 2017 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year; and Sydney Chaffee, 2017 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year.

Kyriakakos is the fifth Maryland teacher since 2006 named a finalist for the national award. Three have been selected National Teacher of the Year, state officials said.

“We congratulate Ms. Kyriakakos on this terrific honor for her and for the State of Maryland,” Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said in a statement. “Great teachers and great schools make an enormous difference in the lives of our children and in the future of our state.”