CLEARWATER — Sleep came in fits and starts. She would suddenly wake up, not believing it happened at all.
It wasn't until she saw the hundreds of kids Friday morning that she knew, once and for all, it was real.
She is Pinellas County's Outstanding Educator for 2009, having been named the winner of the award Thursday night during an Academy Awards-style presentation at Ruth Eckerd Hall.
At 8 a.m. sharp Friday, the limo carrying Bridget Bohnet, approached the red carpet. The crowd went wild as the newly annointed top teacher stepped from the car.
Chants of "Mrs. Bohnet! Mrs. Bohnet!" rumbled down the corridors of Coachman Fundamental for the middle school math teacher.
Despite her lack of shut-eye, the 43-year-old leaped from the luxury vehicle, high-fiving, hugging and grinning from ear-to-ear.
"I am going to enjoy and remember this for quite a while,'' she told a group of fellow teachers.
Principal David Rosenberger, made the official pronouncement on the intercom. "Students, today is Mrs. Bohnet Day. It's a great day of celebration for Coachman Fundamental.''
A congratulatory cake was planned with her fourth period math class. At noon, the limo, courtesy of Pinellas Education Foundation, would transport her home.
"In order to use our time wisely, and because we are so academically focused, we'll have a fire drill at that time,'' joked Carolyn Underwood, assistant principal. "That way the students will be outside, and they'll be able to say goodbye to her.''
Her career path was not crystal clear, said Bohnet, a graduate of Oakland University in Michigan.
"I was majoring in math, but I was also very involved in sports and coaching. I remember when I called my dad, I told him, 'Dad, I'm still going to study math, but I want to go into teaching. I want to make a difference.' ''
According to student Annie Dupree, the teacher has accomplished her goal.
"I was failing at math, and this year, with Mrs. Bohnet, I've gotten A's and B's. I haven't gotten below a C,'' the 13-year-old said.
Since Coachman Fundamental will be consolidated with Kennedy Middle School next year, Bohnet's honor is all the sweeter.
"With this being the last year for our school," Rosenberger said, "her award is a great way to show the success of what Coachman has been.''