WESLEY CHAPEL — Sean Gaudet arrived for classes Monday morning without hoopla.
He walked in the front door of Wesley Chapel High's administration office, checked his mailbox and headed off to his classroom, as usual.
It didn't take long for the congratulations to start for Pasco County's newly announced 2010 Teacher of the Year.
"I know it was because of all that stuff I taught you," Spanish teacher Paul Werner said, grinning as he greeted Gaudet in the staff break room. "I'm so proud of you."
English teacher Lori Savoy caught Gaudet speeding through the hallway to the copy room before the first bell.
"Wait!" Savoy shouted, rushing up to Gaudet, who is in his 11th year teaching drama at Wesley Chapel High. "I am so excited. Can I hug you? When my nominee wins, I am so excited. Oh, my gosh."
After chatting briefly, Gaudet resumed his walking, only to run into media specialist Pam Willoughby, who carried a large blue banner congratulating him on the honor. Pretty much everyone who knew Gaudet cheered him, clapped for him or offered kind words.
They shared a common opinion that he deserved the recognition.
"He's a great teacher," said freshman Holly Morris, who stopped by Gaudet's classroom before first period. "The way he teaches is great. He always starts out the day in a happy way, and he always gets everybody's mood in a happy mood."
Gaudet, 40, said it's easy to have good relationships with students because he loves his job. He became a teacher in 1999 after moving here from Massachusetts, where he had been a team leader for Whole Foods.
His rapport with the kids became clear in Drama I, where Gaudet kept every student's attention from bell to bell despite beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Students promptly took their seats and quietly listened as Gaudet reviewed the week's expectations and deadlines for their screenplay projects. They stayed focused on the work even as they broke into small groups, allowing Gaudet to move through the room answering questions and offering advice.
There was laughter all around.
"He's the best. He makes us crack up at everything," freshman Brianni Hecker said. "You should have come here when he was trying to be a paper airplane."
Freshman Natasha Otto credited Gaudet with making the early-morning course worth attending.
"Most of my teachers, you can't notice that they love their job," she said. "But Mr. Gaudet, he loves his job. He's my favorite teacher."
Added junior Marc Arredondo, "I never thought I would be in drama. I would hate this class if it wasn't for Mr. G."
Savoy, who nominated Gaudet, agreed that he's a "fabulous" teacher who has the respect not only of his students, but also of his colleagues.
"He is basically an unsung hero," she said. "And I love him."
Math teacher Catherine Haight entrusts her daughter, Danielle, to Gaudet's instruction. Haight said Danielle has "rearranged her entire life" just to get into his classes.
That kind of enthusiasm energized Gaudet, who said he couldn't imagine doing anything else. Not even taking a year off to serve as Florida Teacher of the Year, who typically gets a paid leave to serve as an ambassador for education. Gaudet now is in the running for the state honor, currently held by Hillsborough teacher Megan Allen.
The Department of Education announces its regional and state winners later this year.
"I wouldn't want to give this up," Gaudet said. "You don't pick someone as teacher of the year who wants to give up the classroom."
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.