Congratulations to Pinellas County's Outstanding Educators.
Two high school, one middle school and seven elementary teachers are finalists this year. They were selected from among 110 nominees. They will be honored, and the Teacher of the Year will be announced at a luncheon Wednesday at the Belleview Mido Resort Hotel.
CIGNA HealthCare sponsors this program and will present $1,500 to the Teacher of the Year, $1,000 to each of the nine finalists, and $250 to each of the 10 semifinalists. The Pinellas County Teachers Credit Union awarded $100 to each of the finalists and $50 to each of the semifinalists.
KIMBERLY BLOOR, Blanton Elementary School in St. Petersburg.
Bloor was nominated by a parent who called her "an enthusiastic, caring and devoted teacher." Bloor teaches third grade at Blanton Elementary and has a bachelor of science degree from Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas and a master's degree from Nova Southeastern University of Florida. She has taught in Pinellas County schools for 10 years. "It is my belief that every child who walks through my door is a unique, intelligent, and special individual who will be unconditionally accepted and loved," she says.
M. JANE DUKES, Sandy Lane Elementary School in Clearwater.
Dukes was nominated by her assistant principal, writing, "She remains in the forefront providing the ideas, leadership and energy necessary to effect change and have a lasting and positive impact upon the lives of those she touches." She has been teaching since 1968 and has a bachelor of arts degree from the College of New Jersey and a master of arts from Mobile College of Alabama. Dukes teaches fourth grade at Sandy Lane Elementary. "I believe that we as teachers must strive for perfection in ourselves and in our students," Dukes says.
SAMUEL L. HAYWARD, Countryside High School in Clearwater.
A music teacher in Pinellas County for 41 years, Hayward teaches music at Countryside High School. His principal wrote in her nomination, "His effectiveness with students in the classroom, on the practice field or performing at a Friday night football game is almost unprecedented." He has a bachelor's in music education from Lincoln University of Missouri, a master's in music education from the University of South Florida, and a certificate in administration and supervision from USF. "I believe in the worth and the dignity of each of my students. . . . Each student can be successful," Hayward says.
MARIA T. LINDQUIST, Oakhurst Elementary School in Largo.
Lindquist teaches second grade at Oakhurst Elementary. She was nominated by her principal, who wrote, "She is extremely positive with her students, innovative in the classroom and a leader in our school." A teacher for 15 years, Lindquist has a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education and a master's in educational leadership from the University of South Florida. "Our ultimate goal in this journey is to create lifelong learners who are prepared academically and socially to meet the challenges of the 21st century," she says.
ELAINE MEILS, Safety Harbor Elementary School.
Meils was nominated by a parent who wrote, "Because of her deep concern, understanding, and dedication, Meils has probably changed the course of my son's life." She teaches in a multiage classroom for fourth- and fifth-graders. Teaching since 1992, she received her bachelor's degree from Lebanon Valley College of Pennsylvania, and her master's and doctorate in education from Nova University of Florida. "I believe that children are not to be molded, but unfolded. As students unfold their strengths, they connect intellect with the senses. Discovering these connections creates crystallizing experiences for a lifetime," Meils says.
KAETHE PEREZ, Melrose Elementary School in St. Petersburg.
"The children with whom she comes in contact benefit from her creative teaching skills, dedication and positive energy," wrote a colleague nominating Perez. A teacher for 25 years, Perez teaches kindergarten at Melrose Elementary as part of the Early Success Program. She has a bachelor's in elementary education from Slippery Rock State College of Pennsylvania. "I firmly believe that all children can learn. My goal is to generate and maintain enthusiasm and love of learning into each person, no matter the age," says Perez.
LESLIE POHLEY, Largo Middle School.
A Pinellas County educator since 1978, Pohley teaches science at Largo Middle School. She was nominated by a parent who wrote, "I am always astounded by the constant, seemingly unending energy and enthusiasm Leslie has for her students." Pohley has been named Largo Middle's Teacher of the Year five times and was named Pinellas County's Outstanding Science Educator twice. She has a bachelor's degree in biology and science education from the University of South Florida. "My role is to help my students realize that they can understand and in turn appreciate science and its many wonders," says Pohley.
CHERYL SINKS, Frontier Elementary School in Largo.
Sinks teaches fourth grade at Frontier. She was nominated by a parent who wrote, "Because of her innovative teaching methods, her dedication to the students and the outstanding education results she consistently produces, I know of no teacher more deserving." Sinks has a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Palm Beach Atlantic College and has been teaching since 1982. "My philosophy as an educator is to develop in each child a sense of pride, self-worth and coping skills, along with critical thinking and problem-solving skills so he/she will be able to live a happy and productive life in the 21st century," Sinks says.
LINDA WHITAKER, East Lake High School.
Whitaker teaches Chemistry Honors/Advanced Placement Biology at East Lake High School and was nominated by her principal who wrote, "Linda is a resource person, leader and tremendous teacher. She is tireless." A Pinellas County educator for 18 years, Whitaker has a bachelor of science degree from the University of South Florida. "My mission as an educator is to excite the minds of my students and to cultivate the seeds of knowledge," Whitaker says. "I celebrate excellence in teaching with the improvement of one child at a time."
ELIZABETH A. WOLFE, Curlew Creek Elementary School in Palm Harbor.
"Beth Wolfe is an incredibly enthusiastic teacher. Her high energy level transfers to her students, volunteers, co-workers and all who come in contact with her," wrote a colleague upon nominating Wolfe. A Pinellas County educator for 20 years, Wolfe teaches in a self-contained, fifth grade class at Curlew Creek Elementary. She has a bachelor's degree in childhood education from the University of South Florida. "The three most important aspects of school are success, success, success," Wolfe says. "During the school years, life should be filled with learning, risk-taking and enjoyment."