Edward LaRose was doubly surprised Friday night at the annual banquet for Teacher of the Year candidates. Not only was he not expecting to hear his own name called, but he was thrown off by the bouquet of roses awaiting the honoree.
"When I saw the flowers, I thought (the winner) was definitely (going to be) a woman," he said on Monday.
Instead, the Hernando County Education Foundation selection committee chose the Nature Coast Technical High School math teacher as the district's 2010 Teacher of the Year.
On Monday, his fellow math teachers continued the surprises by presenting him at lunch with a crown, a cake and a book of inspirational quotes.
The honor is especially notable because LaRose, 29, is a product of the Hernando County School District.
LaRose was born in Brooksville and attended Pine Grove Elementary School, Moton Elementary and Brooksville Elementary. Later, he attended West Hernando Middle and Powell Middle before graduating from Central High in 1999.
He graduated from Chowan University in Murfreesboro, N.C.
Speaking Friday night to a room at the Palace Grand packed with all of the school-level teachers of the year, administrators and guests, LaRose mentioned the importance of teacher and parent involvement for educational success.
He singled out two teachers who were particularly inspirational to him. One was Scott Tyree, his fifth-grade math teacher. "He just took an interest in me," LaRose said. "He kind of reminds me of me in some ways."
The other was Sharon Elliot, his ninth-grade and 11th-grade math teacher.
"Now I have her daughter, who's in ninth grade," LaRose said. Elliot is a co-teacher at Nature Coast.
Three of the four teachers who advised him while he prepared his district Teacher of the Year paperwork were former Central High teachers, now at Nature Coast: Elliot, media specialist Mary Dysart, and media specialist/English teacher Lois Simoneaux.
The fourth teacher was English teacher Dianne Shrieves. She didn't teach LaRose at Central, "but she helped me out a lot," he said.
At Nature Coast, LaRose teaches geometry, algebra II/college readiness and coaches sports.
A football player himself at Central High and Chowan University, he is the Nature Coast defensive line coach and special teams coordinator. He is the assistant wrestling coach and the head track coach. He also sponsors the freshman class.
After the excitement of Friday, in his classroom Monday morning, in between co-workers stopping by to offer congratulations, LaRose pondered his selection. He offered his enthusiasm and involvement as possible reasons.
His students have their own ideas as to why their teacher is the newest district teacher of the year.
"He's probably the best math teacher I've ever had," said sophomore Jessica Rinier, 15. "I think he's a genuine teacher and he's really nice." He offers after-school tutoring, she explained. He keeps at the lesson until she gets it and he's willing to do that with all his students.
"He makes me want to learn math. He makes things simpler," said sophomore Chelsea Sessa, 15. "He's a really good teacher."
Junior Joe DeRosa, 17, agrees. "He's a cool teacher. Funny," he said.
"It's awesome," said sophomore Tiffany McGuire, 16, about the honor. "He deserves it."
Junior Humberto Sabater, 17, is one of LaRose's football players. "He's a great leader. He's a good teacher," he said. "He leads us to victory on the field and off the field."
Friday night's event was sponsored by Suncoast for Kids Foundation (made possible by Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union), the St. Petersburg Times and Avery Agency.
During the banquet, several businesses and organizations were given special thanks for their contributions to the celebration. There were Joni Industries, Hernando County School Board, Academy of Teachers, Hernando County School Board Central Printing, Hernando Association of School Administrators and Affiliates and the Hernando County Classroom Teachers' Association.
Special thanks went to the Nature Coast Technical High School Culinary Arts Academy for creating the desserts for the dinner.