The Hernando County School District will announce its Teacher of the Year on Friday, with the winner chosen from among the 22 educators identified as the best by their peers at their schools. The School Related Employee of the Year and Teacher of the Year Recognition Program is sponsored by the Hernando County Education Foundation.
Here are the candidates:
Brooksville Elementary School
Joe McLain, 42, teaches physical education. "I feel I can positively (morally and ethically) influence and impact each student I come in contact with, through respect, patience and consistency."
Best part of my job: "Being reminded daily of how precious and fragile youth can be and appreciating each day that I am granted."
Central High School
Sharon Baumgartner, 62, teaches English. "Years ago, one of my teachers told me that I would make a good teacher because I was organized, was willing to learn and I could explain things to others. Today, I enjoy the challenge of trying to show young minds how our language works.''
Best part of my job: "When a former student says that he/she learned something in my class."
Challenger K-8 School
Kelly Maharaj, 37, teaches seventh-grade earth/space science. "I've always sought to have a career in helping people in making a difference in a person's life and to society. And I have a love for science and learning. Teaching allows me to do all the things I enjoy.''
Best part of my job: "Getting the 'wow' expression from the students. When they have an 'aha' moment, it's priceless."
Chocachatti Elementary School
Matthew P. Goldrick, 40, teaches kindergarten through fifth-grade students in the math lab. "I started as a teacher of math and science in the Peace Corps working for two years in Gambia, West Africa. I moved to Florida and … I completed my master's of education. Most of my career I have worked with kids and I think I am pretty good at it.
Best part of my job: "The appreciation from the kids. When you are in a grocery store or a sporting event and someone bellows your name like you're a rock star it makes you feel like you're doing something right.''
Deltona Elementary School
Mariann Montesani, 53, teaches third grade. "I have wanted to become a teacher since I was 8 years old. I discovered my passion for teaching when my second-grade teacher assigned me to help my classmates with their school work. Teaching is not just a career path but a calling, my way of life.''
Best part of my job: "Helping students overcome their challenges, whether it be social or academic. Most rewarding to me is to have my students become aware of their accomplishments and to watch them gain the confidence for success.''
D.S. Parrott Middle School
Matthew Leonhart teaches seventh-grade world geography. "I had an interest in teaching ever since I was a young boy. My first lesson taught was at age 10 in my fifth-grade class on the American Civil War. My fifth-grade teacher was so impressed by my knowledge of the time that she allowed me to teach fellow students. From that day on my interest became much stronger in becoming an educator.''
Best part of my job: "Knowing that I have a positive position to fill as an adult to give my students all the help they need in order to become successful in life.''
Eastside Elementary School
Cathy Loiselle, 61, teaches fourth grade. "I enjoy working with students and helping someone else learn new knowledge and skills. It is a passion within me and a lifestyle to learn."
Best part of my job: "Interacting with students.''
Donny Weed, 39, teaches sixth-grade science. "My mother is a teacher and I would listen to her tell stories about her day teaching. Her face had a constant smile and I saw how much she enjoyed her job, so teaching was a easy choice for me."
Best part of my job: "The family atmosphere of a school. Everybody offers their own unique qualities, which makes for no two days ever being the same."
Fox Chapel Middle School
Gretchen L. Hicks, 45, teaches reading and math to exceptional students and general education students. "Teaching is the most important profession there is and I want to make a difference in the life of any student I am able to reach.''
Best part of my job: "Getting to know students at a time in their lives when they are discovering who they are and helping them develop a positive self-image."
F.W. Spingstead High School
Becky Vonada, 45, teaches environmental science, physical science honors, AP chemistry, IB 2/3 chemistry and physical science. "I did not go to school to become a teacher. I decided to teach to "take a break off" between undergraduate and graduate school. Since that first year, I have come to see teaching as so much more than just the delivery process.
Best part of my job: "The mutual respect and the friendships that develop through mentoring, working beside and evolving along side those you see on a day-to-day basis."
Hernando High School
Barbara Davis, 58, teaches computer classes and business. "I enjoy working with teenagers and being there to help and guide them in the right direction to becoming successful. Many teens today may not be able to continue their education after graduating high school, but with the skills I teach my students, they are prepared for the business world and can become successful in the business field."
Best part of my job: "When my students come back and tell me that 'because of you, Mrs. Davis, I was able to make it' or 'everything that you taught me, Mrs. Davis, I am still using it.' ''
J.D. Floyd School of Environmental Science
Kara Anderson, 38, teaches fifth grade. "I have always loved school and loved learning, so I thought the best thing to do was to become a teacher so I could pass that feeling on to a new generation of students.''
Best part of my job: "Seeing students take what they have learned and apply and extend it in new and different learning situations."
Moton Elementary School
Eileen Leach, 36, teaches kindergarten. "I thought it would be fun to work with children and that it would be a very rewarding job. I am attracted to jobs that have meaning to me and this job has fulfilled this need for me."
Best part of my job: "Laughing on a daily basis. My students are a source of great pride and joy and I can honestly say that I love getting up in the morning to come to my job."
Nature Coast Technical High School
Dan Lambert, 50, teaches environmental science. "I have always loved science. I had a 24-year career in the Navy in the fields of meteorology and oceanography. After I retired as a master chief petty officer in 2004 becoming a science teacher was the next logical step.''
Best part of my job: "The interaction with the students."
Pine Grove Elementary School
Kristal Barnes, 37, teaches third grade. "My parents raised me in a positive and caring home environment. They always inspired me to do my best. This motivated me to teach and encourage my students to reach their highest potential just like my parents encouraged me to reach mine.''
Best part of my job: "Watching prior students walk through my door and visit me. It is an honor to have them think of me as they continue their education."
Powell Middle School
Paul H. Duncan, 50, teaches seventh-grade math. "I have always had a love for learning and wanted to share that with students and hopefully instill that love of learning in them.''
Best part of my job: "When a student has that 'aha' moment. That's the moment when what they are learning finally makes sense to them. You can see the look on their faces when all the pieces of the puzzle come together for them."
Spring Hill Elementary School
Jaycey Wetherington, 32, teaches kindergarten. "I went into teaching to inspire a love of learning, and to make a positive impact on children."
Star Education Center
Melody Lane Whitaker is a Grades 6-12 guidance counselor. "I always admired my teachers and recognized that they helped shape who I am today. I realized in college that I wanted to work with young people and hoped to make a meaningful contribution to my community.''
Best part of my job: "I enjoy seeing the growth and changes that occur when a student begins to value educational opportunities and begins to believe in possibilities."
Suncoast Elementary School
Laura Mendoza, 36, teaches third grade. "When I was younger, I would play school and try to be a teacher like the ones I had as far back as when I was in first and second grades. It was just something I always thought I would do."
Best part of my job: "Giving my students a welcoming, comforting and encouraging environment to come to each and every day."
Weeki Wachee High School
Angela M. Kennedy, 32, teaches English II and English II AP Prep. "I cannot work in a job that requires that I do the same thing day after day, and I like meeting new people, so teaching is the perfect combination of what I need in a career.''
Best part of my job: "Getting to spend a year with my students and watching them mature, both intellectually and emotionally. High school is a difficult period for teens, but there is tremendous potential within these walls. There are some great kids in this county who are going to realize phenomenal success one day."
West Hernando Middle School
Cecelia L. Solomon, 57, is the school library media specialist. "I can't answer why I became a teacher. It was so long ago I don't remember exactly!"
Best part of my job: "Even though there is a set job description for the school library media specialist, every day is an adventure. We never know what a student or teacher may request that sends us on an expedition for information."
Westside Elementary School
Amy Roberts, 38, teaches a kindergarten class of boys. "I had a kindergarten teacher that was unforgettable and I wanted to be just like her!"
Best part of my job: "The fact that I am my students' first teacher and I have the opportunity to ensure that their educational career starts out on the right foot!"