The Hernando County School District announces its 2011-12 Teacher of the Year Friday, with the winner chosen from 23 educators identified as the best by their peers at their schools. The School Related Employee of the Year and Teacher of the Year Recognition program is sponsored by the Hernando County Education Foundation. Here are the candidates:
Edward Finch, 50, teaches fifth-grade math and science and has been with the district for seven years. "The best part of my job is to help and encourage students to learn, and then seeing the expressions on their faces when they achieve success. Also working with the wonderful faculty, staff and students of Brooksville Elementary. We are truly a family that works together for one common goal: to give the best to our children."
Anne Billica is the media specialist and is in her fifth year with the district. She was Teacher of the Year in 1996 at an Orlando school. The best part of her job: "The encouragement and support of the students and the staff members makes it all worthwhile!"
Kathy Thompson, 61 teaches music and band and has been with the district for 24 years. She was a Teacher of the Year finalist in 1998. The best part of her job: "Seeing the faces of kids light up, either individually or as a band ensemble, when they learn to do something well for the first time."
Mary Caleb, 65, teaches second grade and is in her 12th year with the district. She was a 1994 Teacher of the Year finalist in Hillsborough. "I like teaching math and seeing kids' eyes light up when they get it. I love my musical theater for MicroSociety."
Cat Fonseca, 42, teaches kindergarten to fifth-grade health and has been with the district for 20 years. The best part of her job: "Being able to be a part of the wonder, curiosity and light in a child's eyes!"
Laura Robinson is a second-grade teacher and has been with the district for 23 years. "The best part of my job is working with young, inquisitive children who love learning new things every day. I love to see the excitement on their faces as they learn to read and write stories or solve math problems. I often smile when they write me a note that says, 'Mrs. Robinson you are the best teacher I ever had.' I smile because I'm usually their third teacher ever! That is the best part of my job: the children!"
Kevin Torres, 47, teaches reading remediation to students in sixth through 12th grades and is in his seventh year with the district. The best part of his job: "I have the opportunity to work with alternative education students, using my best attribute as an educator: patience."
April Crisci, 31, teaches first grade and has been with the district for seven years. The best part of her job: "The amazing faculty that I am surrounded by and the kids!"
Fox Chapel Middle
Ann R. O'Loughlin, 46, teaches sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade technology and has been with the district for nine years. "The best part of my job is being able to give students the experience of trying something new and different, something they've never tried before, and giving them the opportunity to design and build something using their imagination and creativity. To see joy and pride in a student's face after they accomplish a task really makes my day."
Brian Williams, 34, teacher, exceptional student education in English and social studies. He has been with the district for six years. "The best part of my job is seeing the kids every day and interacting with them. The best part also, being in high school, is in some kids' lives I've been a positive male role model."
J.D. Floyd K-8
Christine Voigt teaches seventh- and eighth-grade environmental science. With the district for 11 years. The best part of her job: "Guiding the students to take ownership of their own learning through hands-on, real-life academic experiences."
Dawn DiFresco, 37, is a first-through fifth-grade counselor and has been with the district for five years. "The best part of my job is being part of the Moton Family with so many unique and amazing kids as well as staff members each and every day."
Nature Coast Technical High
Tara Ferlita, 37, teaches ninth- through 12th-grade math mathematics and has been with district for 16 years. The best part of her job: "Watching kids enjoy doing math!"
Gail Nelson, 48, teaches sixth- through eighth-grade art and is in her seventh year with the district. The best part of her job: "Having the kids discover they actually have art skills. When they discover hidden art skills, it's a beautiful thing."
Pine Grove Elementary
Pam Kasten, 38, is a teacher on special assignment, acting as an elementary assistant. She has been with the district for 15 years. The best part of her job: "Making a difference in the children's lives on a daily basis."
Sarah Edgecomb, 33, is a guidance counselor and is in her seventh year with the district. The best part of her job: "Providing students with the tools they will need to be lifelong learners and well-adjusted individuals."
Spring Hill Elementary
Richard "R.J." Inmon, 30, teaches fifth grade and has been with the district for eight years. The best part of his job: "Being a positive influence on so many students."
Kelly Ann D'Arcy, 29, is a ninth- though 12th-grade remediation teacher and has been with the district for four years. "The best part of my job is when I learn along with my students."
Melissa Michelle Howard, 29, teaches second grade and has been with the district for eight years. "There are so many wonderful attributes that go along with becoming a teacher! The best part of my job is that I am able to have an impact on a child's life. Teaching is, in my opinion, the most rewarding job you can have. You get to actually make a difference in the world."
Weeki Wachee High
Kimberly Koparan, 40, teaches English 3, English 3 co-teach, and gifted English honors in grades 9 to 12 and has been with the district for 14 years. "I enjoy helping students overcome adversity. I teach students that challenges are an expected part of life, and one should learn from them."
West Hernando Middle
Jo Ann Hartge, 60, is a sixth-grade science teacher and has been with the district for 25 years. She is a National Board-certified teacher and was a Teacher of the Year finalist in 2000. "Working with middle school students is a very challenging career. In order to be successful, you need to know your students and how they learn. The best part of my job is facing that challenge every day by reflecting back on my lessons and looking at what worked and what I could improve on. That constant reflection makes each day and each student unique. The challenge of making sure that I reach every student so he/she will achieve is the best part of my job."
Michelle Fontaine, 40, is a kindergarten through fifth-grade media specialist and has been with the district for five years. "The best part of my job is that I get to make a difference in the life of a child. I get to play a role in helping them become successful as lifelong learners."
Winding Waters Elementary
Renee Hogan, 37, teaches first grade and has been with the district for 12 years. "The best part of my day is that I get to work with minds and hearts. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to inspire children to believe in themselves and guide them to become motivated learners each and every day."