Never underestimate the impact of a good teacher. Each year, Hillsborough educators nominate colleagues they see as the best in their profession for teacher of the year. Now the county is set to choose the top teacher from five finalists, selected by the Hillsborough Education Foundation. The foundation will announce the winner — and the district's top diversity educator and instructional support employee — at its annual education celebration, starting at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Morsani Hall of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. The district's teacher of the year moves on to compete for Florida teacher of the year honors. City Times caught up with the finalists.
Michael Boza, 50, Plant High
Position: Advanced placement psychology teacher and cross country coach.
Experience: An educator since 1982, teaching a variety of social studies subjects.
Accomplishments: A member of the Jesuit High School Hall of Fame, the Florida Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and the Florida Track and Field Hall of Fame. Recent awards include the Class of 2009 Outstanding Teacher Award and the 2010 Faculty Humanitarian Award.
Golf in the classroom: "I teach AP psychology and I love golf. About once a month, I turn my room into a miniature putt-putt course and we play a review game called Psychology Golf. The students play in teams and must answer questions as well as sink putts of various degrees of difficulty to win."
Amanda Newman, 30, Valrico Elementary
Position: Second-grade teacher.
Experience: Now in her 10th year as a teacher in Hillsborough County at Valrico Elementary. She is National Board certified.
Activities: Active member of the district's teachers association, Empowering Effective Teachers initiative and Speakers Bureau.
Reaching out to others: "My class has a special friendship with a class in our school, which has students with a range of exceptionalities. We try to get together every other week for a fun music activity and socializing. My students have learned so much about not only differences and acceptance, but also as to the things that unite us."
Cynthia Folsom Crim, 29, Palm River Elementary
Position: Math resource teacher at her childhood elementary school.
Experience: Now in her seventh year teaching in Hillsborough County.
Accomplishments: District trainer for the elementary mathematics department. Awards include one from the Hillsborough County Elementary Mathematics Council.
Best memory teaching: "Hearing students clap and cheer with excitement when I told them we would be having Saturday Academy. We saw students walking to school in the pouring rain on Saturday mornings, coming because they wanted to do better for themselves, not just for their parents and teachers. These are the moments that made me thankful to be a part of their lives."
Desiree Daerr, 34, Webb Middle School
Position: Eighth-grade algebra teacher.
Experience: Now in her 13th year as an educator, she worked eight years with the school district and four as an educator/co-owner of A+ Tutoring Center.
Tagline on her e-mails: Nine-tenths of education is encouragement — Anatole France
Memento: "A student gave me a card that read, 'Mrs. Daerr, I've been thinking and I've never had such a great teacher ever. I think it is because you care. Thank you for everything!' At that moment I truly realized my passion and delivery affects my students' achievement more than the content presented in my classroom."
Emily De Vizio, 37, Edison Elementary
Position: School mathematics coach and trainer for the school district.
Experience: An educator for 13 years, all in Hillsborough County.
Accomplishments: She facilitates all school-based mathematics activities, with a focus on children and teachers in Title 1 schools. She is president of the Hillsborough County Elementary Mathematics Council.
Coping with changes: "Many elementary teachers recognize the mathematics they experienced is not the mathematics they want their students to experience. While we understand the reasons for change, it is often difficult to figure out how to change. As a mathematics coach, I spend all of my time in classrooms working with teachers to build capacity and with students to maximize their learning experiences."