Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bartels Middle School teacher named Hillsborough's best

MELISSA LYTLE   |   Times
Bartels Middle School teacher Debby Dowell was named the 2008-09 Hillsborough County Teacher of the Year.  Many congratulations followed the announcement, including a hug from one of her daughters, Cristina Orr.

MELISSA LYTLE | Times Bartels Middle School teacher Debby Dowell was named the 2008-09 Hillsborough County Teacher of the Year. Many congratulations followed the announcement, including a hug from one of her daughters, Cristina Orr.

TAMPA — Debby Dowell was named Hillsborough's Teacher of the Year Thursday night with all the trappings of a coronation — roses, spotlights, paparazzi, a cheering fan club and even a luxury car.

"What we do is so important," the Bartels Middle School teacher told the crowd of more than 1,500, fanning her eyes and pressing a hand to her chest. "And isn't it cool to drive a Lexus for doing what I love?"

Offstage, Maribeth Franklin, principal at the New Tampa school, whipped out a cell phone.

"Get the band ready," she said, laughing with disbelief into the receiver. "She won. Game on in the morning."

Just the fuss over being one of the 12 finalists for the award, selected out of 222 nominees across Hillsborough, had blown away Dowell. Her brothers, daughters, friends and co-workers flocked to the awards dinner at the Tampa Convention Center.

"I'm being treated like royalty for just doing what I do every day," said Dowell, 50, who teaches sixth-grade language arts, reading and geography, and eight-grade reading.

This fall has been a big one for her. On top of Thursday's honor, she also received her national board certification and graduated in December with her master's degree, her principal noted.

She goes "above and beyond,'' "Franklin said. "Debby volunteered to teach six classes, and the normal work day for a teacher is five classes.''

Dowell still found time to open her classroom each morning before school and during lunch for students needing extra help. At Bartels, she chaired the School Advisory Committee last year. She serves as a school team leader and helps to select novels for middle schools across Hillsborough.

Plus, she's a single mother with two daughters in college.

Eighth-grader Roman Thompson, introducing her at the ceremony, said big words didn't do justice to the teacher of 15 years, who entered his life during an in-school suspension.

"She did not just see some black kid with dreads and an attitude," he said. "She took time out of her schedule, usually after school, to teach me. And now I'm an As and Bs honor roll student."

Dowell always wanted to teach, but studied accounting in college, thinking that she needed to make more money. Years later, she earned a degree in elementary education at the University of South Florida. She recently completed her masters online at Walden University, specializing in reading and literacy.

Her prize basket as Teacher of the Year, sponsored by the Hillsborough Education Foundation, included $1,000 cash, a classroom grant and scholarships to continue her education. She also won a four-day, three-night vacation to the Bahamas and two round-trip tickets on Southwest Airlines.

Like half of the Teacher of the Year finalists, however, she didn't receive a merit pay bonus earlier this year, which is based heavily on student test scores. About one-third of Hillsborough's teachers received it.

Not that anything could beat the cream-colored Lexus that Dowell gets to drive for the next year, in lieu of a beat-up Toyota Camry in need of new tires. "I feel like a rock star.

Times staff writer Robbyn Mitchell contributed to this story. Letitia Stein can be reached at lstein@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3400.

.Fast facts

The finalists

Stephanie Bikowski, fourth grade at Burney Elementary

Terry Senhauser, fourth grade at Nelson Elementary

Courtney Clark, fourth grade at Gorrie Elementary

Mary Booth, second grade at Chiles Elementary

Marcy Ringdahl, media specialist at Summerfield Elementary

Kristy Verdi, seventh-grade geography at Randall Middle

Isidoros Passalaris, geography at Williams Middle Magnet

Donald Langland, music teacher at Brandon High

Sylvia Albritton, works with juvenile offenders and students receiving treatment for substance abuse.

Juanita Sanderson, first grade at West Tampa Elementary

Ross Anderson, teaches a program to raise academic expectations for students at Sligh Middle.

For more education news and bios on the 11 finalists, visit The Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Bartels Middle School teacher named Hillsborough's best 02/28/08 [Last modified: Thursday, February 28, 2008 11:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa man driving ATV killed in Gibsonton crash on U.S. 41

    Public Safety

    GIBSONTON — A 24-year-old man driving an all-terrain vehicle died Monday afternoon in a crash on U.S. 41, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

  2. Questions about Russia chase Trump during first Israel visit

    World

    JERUSALEM — President Donald Trump solemnly placed a note in the ancient stones of Jerusalem's Western Wall on Monday, sending a signal of solidarity to an ally he's pushing to work harder toward peace with the Palestinians. But his historic gesture- and his enthusiastic embrace of Israel's leader - were shadowed …

    President Donald Trump shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after making joint statements, Monday in Jerusalem. [AP photo]
  3. Data breach exposes 469 Social Security numbers, thousands of concealed weapons holders

    Corporate

    Social Security numbers for up to 469 people and information about thousands of concealed weapons holders were exposed in a data breach at Florida the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The breach, which the agency believes happened about two weeks ago, occurred in an online payments system, spokesperson …

    Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam on Monday that nearly 500 people may have had their Social Security numbers obtained in a data breach in his office.
[Times file photo]

  4. Trigaux: Can Duke Energy Florida's new chief grow a business when customers use less power?

    Energy

    Let's hope Harry Sideris has a bit of Harry Houdini in him.

    Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris laid out his prioriities for the power company ranging from improved customer service to the use of more large-scale solar farms to provide electricity. And he acknowledged a critical challenge: People are using less electricity these days. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  5. Editorial: Preserve wild Florida before it's too late

    Editorials

    The last dairy farm in Hillsborough County has milked its final cow, the pastures sold to developers who will build 1,000 new homes. The remnants of the last commercial citrus grove in Pinellas County, where the Sunshine State's famed industry began in the 19th century, were sold last year to make room for 136 homes. …

    As dairy farms and citrus groves disappear, much more needs to be done to avoid paving over Florida’s wild spaces.