Georgeann Manos knows that it's never too early for students to start pinning down what job they want after high school.
As a young adult, Manos hawked vacuum cleaners, china and cookware door to door in Queens, N.Y. It wasn't until after she followed her retired parents to Florida and took a few college classes that she discovered teaching.
That was 17 years ago. Recently, Manos was named the state's top teacher by the Florida Vocational Association, a statewide organization of 2,600 vocational teachers. The Hudson Middle School teacher is the fifth Pasco teacher to win the award in the past seven years.
The official name of Manos' subject matter is Career and Technical Education. Translation: job skills.
"I teach employability skills: interviewing, how to find a job, how to research careers," said Manos. "I try to share with them my experiences, too."
Those experiences are pretty diverse. In her spare time, Manos teaches aerobics and dog obedience, and she recently earned her motorcycle driver's license.
"The kids are crazy with it," Manos said of her unusual out-of-classroom activities. "I really enjoy my students, and I'm always willing to try something new."
Each district selects a vocational teacher of the year, and this year Manos was Pasco's pick. District winners then go on to the state competition.
Manos, 48, started as a science teacher, but after only one year she switched to vocational education, which allowed her to work with a diverse group of seventh-grade students, she said.
In middle school, students rotate through five vocational classes over the course of a school year. The classes range from business to technology and family consumer science.
"Every day is a new experience," Manos said of life in middle school. "You never know what will happen when you walk into a classroom."
One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching, she said, is the chance to work with kids who are on the verge of giving up on their schooling or are just starting to get involved with the wrong crowd. Those students, Manos said, need guidance and help. But more than anything, they need someone to listen.
"You ask questions, observe and you watch," she said. "There's something for each child; you just have to find it. One of my first questions to new students is: "What is your career goal?' A lot of them usually have three ideas right off the top of their heads."
Manos is considering going back to college to become a guidance counselor. That would allow her to work with more students and reach more who are in trouble, she said.
"I really want to help kids get to where they want to go," she said.