Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco narrows candidates for top education employees of year

LAND O'LAKES — If there's one thing that defines all three finalists for Pasco County teacher of the year, it's their lack of preoccupation with the award.

"I'm so busy with these kids that this sort of thing is really not in my realm," said John Long Middle School science teacher Kathryn Bylsma, speaking amid a class of sixth-graders who were constructing solar system models.

Pine View Middle language arts teacher Stephanie Walls said she didn't even consider herself an excellent teacher.

"I just am encouraged for the students," she said during her planning period. "They make me better."

Land O'Lakes High English teacher I. David Berger confided that he didn't even believe the caller who informed him that he was in the running for the honor.

"It's a little unnerving," Berger said after giving some advice to one of his Advanced Placement students. "I'm not typically a spotlight individual. I enjoy being recognized because I know people are paying attention. But I don't seek it out."

Each year, educators at each of Pasco's schools nominate colleagues whom they see as the best representatives of their profession. They look for teachers who connect with students, use innovative methods and lead by example. A panel chooses the finalists after watching the candidates teach and reading essays that each writes.

The county winner goes on to compete for Florida teacher of the year.

Berger, 41, has taught in Pasco schools since 2002. A native New Yorker, he first thought about becoming an attorney specializing in family law, but decided he wanted to help more children by teaching.

Over the years, he has taught fifth grade through high school seniors. And though he focuses on content — Wednesday afternoon found him teaching Yeats to an Advanced Placement literature class — he also strives to go beyond to help students in other ways.

For instance, each year he has seniors apply to "Berger University" so he can help them with college essays and the application process.

"My question to myself is, if I don't do it with them, I don't know who will," Berger explained.

Bylsma, 49, has taught in Pasco since 1993. Over time, she has become respected in science education to the point where she recently served on the committee that rewrote the state's science standards.

Chair of Long Middle's science department, Bylsma teaches gifted students. As someone who moved frequently as a child, she understands that students have specific needs and says education is the great equalizer.

"You do what you need to do for kids," she said, adding that she has trouble with the idea of honoring the teachers "because you're not recognizing the students."

Walls, 42, became a Pasco teacher in 2002 as a second career, after working as a business analyst. She had been on leave while caring for her newborn son when, as a professed Type A, Walls decided she needed something new to do.

She said she tries to bring positive energy to the classroom, and to teach students the way she would like to be taught. She makes herself available to students during lunch, and also mentors other teachers.

Outside the school, Walls and her family have raised thousands of dollars for research into the disease that causes people to be allergic to all foods, an illness her youngest son has. She said teaching allows her to help all students, whatever their situation, realize they can make it in this world.

"I absolutely love teaching," she said. "I thrive on it."

The foundation will announce the county teacher of the year on Jan. 24.

The foundation also has named finalists for three other awards. They are:

• Administrator of the Year -— Steve Knobl, principal, Gulf High School; Ken Miesner, principal, Richey Elementary School; Terry Rhum, director, employee relations

• School-Related Employee of the Year — Kelly Frasier, clinic assistant, Wesley Chapel Elementary School; Donna Lyons, secretary, Mary Giella Elementary School; Tracy Sanderson, secretary, Lacoochee Elementary School

• Non-instructional Non-bargaining Employee of the Year — Beverly Lopata, food and nutrition training manager; Leroy Christopher, plant manager, Stewart Middle School; DeEtte Parrish, bookkeeping resource assistant; Theresa Schuldt, secretary, maintenance department.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

fast facts

Who will win?

The Pasco Education Foundation will announce the district's teacher, administrator, school-related employee and non-instructional non-bargaining employee of the year on Jan. 24 at the Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel High School. The event begins at 6 p.m. Contact the foundation at (813) 794-2705.

Pasco narrows candidates for top education employees of year 01/14/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 9:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Iraqi forces sweep into Kirkuk, checking Kurdish independence drive

    World

    KIRKUK, Iraq — After weeks of threats and posturing, the Iraqi government began a military assault Monday to curb the independence drive by the nation's Kurdish minority, wresting oil fields and a contested city from separatists pushing to break away from Iraq.

    Iraqi security forces patrol Monday in Tuz Khormato, about 45 miles south of Kirkuk, a disputed city that the government seized in response to last month’s Kurdish vote for independence.
  2. Trump and McConnell strive for unity amid rising tensions

    National

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, tried to convey a sense of harmony Monday after months of private feuding that threatened to undermine their party's legislative push in the coming weeks to enact a sweeping tax cut.

    President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell field questions Monday in the Rose Garden of the White House. “We have been friends for a long time,” Trump said.
  3. 'Me too': Alyssa Milano urged assault victims to tweet in solidarity. The response was massive.

    Human Interest

    Actor Alyssa Milano took to Twitter on Sunday with an idea, suggested by a friend, she said.

    Within hours of Alyssa Milano’s tweet, tweets with the words “me too” began appearing. By 3 a.m. Monday, almost 200,000 metoo tweets were published by Twitter’s count.
  4. Tampa tax shelter schemer too fat for his prison term, attorney says

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A federal judge sentenced two Bay area men to prison terms last week for peddling an offshore tax shelter scheme that cost the IRS an estimated $10 million.

    Duane Crithfield and Stephen Donaldson Sr. were sentenced to prison after marketing a fraudulent offshore tax strategy known as a "Business Protection Plan" to medical practices, offering doctors and others coverage against unlikely events such as a kidnapping.

  5. Weinstein Co., overwhelmed by backlash, may be up for sale

    Corporate

    NEW YORK — The Weinstein Co., besieged by sexual harassment allegations against its namesake and co-founder, may be putting itself up for sale.

    Weinstein