TAMPA — Students may take on a British accent today, clap their hands and cheer "jolly good, darling, jolly good" to teacher Emily Marrero.
That's because Marrero, who taught her fifth-grade class to perform British and various other cheers for motivation, was named Hillsborough County Teacher of the Year on Thursday night.
The Philip Shore Elementary teacher was chosen from five finalists, narrowed down from 234 nominees.
Marrero, 30, dedicated her award to those nominees, her family and the people she works with.
"This award doesn't belong to me, it belongs to the people who support me every day," Marrero said while fighting tears as she accepted the award at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.
She has taught at Philip Shore for three years, but this is her first all-girls class. To help ease the chaos that could occur between girls, Marrero and her students created a "girls' code of honor."
"We refer to it a lot for guidance, when we are having good days and bad days," she said.
The code bans gossiping and disrespect, and adherents promise to represent the class well outside the school.
Marrero is pursuing a master's degree in education leadership at the University of South Florida, where she earned a bachelor's degree in 2001.
But her quest for knowledge doesn't stop there. Marrero said she continually calls on fellow teachers for advice, drawing inspiration from them.
Marrero's early mornings start with the "munchin' math club," when she helps students struggling with math concepts.
As Teacher of the Year, Marrero's prizes include a limo ride to school, family season passes to Lowry Park Zoo and the Museum of Science and Industry, and tickets to Rays baseball and Lightning hockey games.
She will automatically compete for Florida's Teacher of the Year. Last year's Hillsborough County winner, Megan Allen, was named Florida Teacher of the Year and is now a finalist for the national award.
Marrero's husband, Emil Marrero, is in the National Guard and recently left for a 12-month deployment in Kuwait. She has a 4-year-old son, Tony, and a 10-year-old daughter, Olivia, who is a student in her class.
Olivia introduced her mother to the 2,500 people in the audience Thursday night. "I think she is outstanding because she pushes us to be better but isn't hard on you at all," she said. "I believe she is the best teacher in history."
Reach Shelley Rossetter at (813) 226-3374 or firstname.lastname@example.org.