With her hand over her mouth and tears in her eyes, Central High School health science teacher Bethann Brooks stepped up to accept the honor after she was named Hernando County Teacher of the Year on Friday night at the Palace Grand in Spring Hill. Teachers and administrators stood and applauded.
"I will do my very best to represent Hernando County. I promise," said Brooks, 48. "(I am) truly honored and blessed to be able to do what I do."
Brooks teaches 10th- to 12th-grade students interested in medical careers. She prepares them for tests at the end of their senior year to certify them as medical administrative assistants and then as nursing assistants.
"It gives some students an edge," she said.
It can also be useful for helping students work their way through college.
Brooks, who will represent Hernando County for the honor of Florida Teacher of the Year, is not just a teacher of nursing; she is a nurse, working part time at Brooksville Regional Hospital, on call for emergencies some weekends and during school breaks.
"I feel if I don't continue to work as a nurse, I may miss out on current information," she said.
She does not want to shortchange her students.
Brooks has bachelors' degrees in biology and nursing. She has been a nurse for 23 years and a full-time teacher at Central since 2006. Previously, she had done some teaching as a nurse in the community and with graduate nurses in emergency rooms and enjoyed it.
"I always wanted to teach," she said. "I just love it. I love it!"
As if she doesn't have enough to do being a full-time teacher and a part-time nurse, Brooks is quite involved in school activities.
"She never says 'no,' " said her husband, Craig Brooks. "She's not afraid to do anything."
She is an adviser to the junior class at Central, student government and Health Occupations Students of America, the national student organization that promotes leadership and motivation among health care students. She helps with homecoming and prom.
Brooks' students seem to appreciate what they have.
"She's a great teacher," said senior Josh Lissoy, 17. "Better than the average teacher."
Lissoy took a basic medical skills course with Brooks as a junior and said he wanted to be in her class this year.
"She actually cares about the students," he said.
Lissoy plans to continue in the medical field and will use his certified nursing assistant training as a stepping stone.
Senior Mary Lissoy, 18, has more concrete plans, intending to become a licensed practical nurse at Pasco-Hernando Community College, using that as a bridge to becoming a registered nurse with the ultimate goal of being a pediatric nurse practitioner.
Brooks, Mary Lissoy said, "always dedicates her time to her students. She spends practically all day at school. I would say she's here until about 6 o'clock. She campaigns for HOSA (and) plans fundraisers to help kids go to state competitions. She also does things for homecoming and prom. She's involved in a lot of school activities."
Brooks does have one weakness — an odd one for a nurse.
She is fine with blood, she said, but has a real problem with mucous.
"I can't do anything mucousy," she said. "You have to do it, but I do gag a lot."