This year's Outstanding Educator will be announced at the annual "Evening of Excellence" Feb. 25 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. The event is presented by the Pinellas Education Foundation, and tickets are available at pinellas education.org, rutheckerdhall.com, or by calling (727) 588-4816. The finalists receive several prizes, including tickets to Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning games and a skating party for their classes. The winner, chosen by a three-judge panel, gets a limousine ride to school the day after being named. The foundation also asks the public to help choose a "fan favorite" by going to pinellaseducation.org. Here is a look at the finalists, selected from more than 75 nominees.
East Lake High, East Lake
Teaches language arts and reading
Education: BS, San Diego State University
Years teaching in Pinellas schools: 25
From the recommendation letter: "Teachers at East Lake routinely come and observe in her classroom to gain insights and observe a master educator teach her students. Mrs. Anderson also serves as our K12 Reading Facilitator. … Under her leadership, the lowest 25 percent of readers in our school have continually improved each year she has served in this role. In the past three years we have increased the number of students scoring at a proficient level in reading in this critical area by over 17 percentage points. This is a remarkable gain and directly a result of Mrs. Anderson's leadership."
Robert Poth, principal
Palm Harbor University High, Palm Harbor
Teaches math, serves as department chair
Education: BA and MA in mathematics education, University of South Florida
Years teaching in Pinellas schools: 18
From the recommendation letter: "She records all of her lessons via her Smartboard and posts them daily to her Moodle page. This enables the students to review the lesson again at home to gain a full understanding of the lesson. … She also keeps her students on their toes by using a random name selector to choose students to answer questions. … She is available for extra help every morning at 6:30 and after school on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. She posts videos of her lectures online. … She teaches for concept rather than have kids memorize an algorithmic process."
Kim Barker, assistant principal
Sawgrass Lake Elementary,
Teaches autistic students
Education: BA in political science, University of New Hampshire; MA in specific learning disabilities, University of South Florida
Years teaching in Pinellas schools: 16
From the recommendation letter: "Krista doesn't teach students with disabilities. She teaches students with endless abilities and provides rich opportunities for students every day. … Early October 2012: It's about 86 degrees outside but in Krista's class it's a crisp autumn day … Students are divided into stations. Some are at an old-fashioned apple press, making cider. ... Students are predicting and counting seeds while comparing and contrasting apples. Some students are baking apple pies (while learning) the circumference of the pie. … The important things in schools, the things we remember with our hearts and minds, happen every day in Krista's class."
Jean Marks, principal
Tarpon Springs Fundamental Elementary, Tarpon Springs
Teaches in the gifted program
Education: BA in English, University of Florida
Years teaching in Pinellas schools: nine
From the recommendation letter: "Her classroom is a place of inquiry, discovery and application of new concepts. … We personally refer to her as 'the educator's educator.' She eagerly and willingly shares new information, websites, books and conference opportunities with other faculty and parents. She puts the concept of a growth mind set into practice as she passes on what she's learned in hopes that others will benefit from these new ideas as well."
Patrick and Terri Hogan, parents
Perkins Elementary, St. Petersburg
Education: BS in early childhood education, Florida State University
Years teaching in Pinellas schools: 23
From the recommendation letter: "So, one day while driving my 5-year-old son to school he says as we get off the interstate near Perkins Elementary, 'Daddy, there's a lot of trash under the interstate. I want to stop and pick it up and clean up the environment.' … He was clearly getting this at school. That day we went to school and told his teacher about his idea. She told him to let her know what day he'd like to go and clean it up and she would help him. Not only did she keep her promise and pick up the trash with us, she did it on her birthday. I knew at that moment my wife and I were lucky that our child was in this lady's class."
Jerry Eeten, parent
Safety Harbor Middle School, Safety Harbor
Education: BA in drama, Zulu, English, University of Natal, South Africa
Years teaching in Pinellas schools: nine
From the recommendation letter: "We were impressed when we met her during the open house, but that was just the beginning. There was no hiding her immense passion for teaching. She has a personality and sense of humor which made us think that she could make a special connection with anyone that she came across. As the year progressed it became increasingly apparent that Mrs. Wright was no ordinary teacher. Our daughter soon began speaking of her class with such great enthusiasm. … She demonstrated the ability of embracing the latest technology while caring for and connecting with each of her students."
Adam and Christina Willis, parents