Doug Smith, principal of Osceola High School, is watching closely for the winners of the top awards handed out by the Pinellas School Board: Teacher of the Year and Support Employee of the Year.
In each contest, Osceola employees are among the 10 finalists. Smith nominated both of them.
Sandra Hopkins, a biology teacher, "holds kids to high expectations and helps them get there," Smith said.
As for Linda Beitelshees, Smith's secretary, he couldn't run the school without her.
"I guess more than anything else, she's conscientious, she's caring and she follows through," Smith said.
The other 18 finalists come from all kinds of schools in all parts of the county, from Dina Nelson, a kindergarten transition teacher at Tyrone Elementary in St. Petersburg, to Carol Garasic, an office clerk at Dunedin High.
This week, judges will observe the teaching finalists in their classrooms. The finalists were nominated by parents and colleagues, then won their school contests.
The 1998-99 Teacher of the Year will be announced Feb. 12 at a luncheon at the Belleview Biltmore Resort and Spa. The contest is sponsored by Cigna Healthcare through the Pinellas County Education Foundation. The county winner will represent the district in regional and state competition.
The Support Employee of the Year will be announced Jan. 26 at a breakfast at the Sheraton Sand Key. The Pinellas County Teachers Credit Union is sponsoring the event and will award $500 to the winner.
of the Year:
Donna Benitez, kindergarten, Plumb Elementary School
Keith Bylander, air conditioning, Pinellas Technical Education Center, Clearwater campus
Connie Dierking, first grade, Curtis Fundamental Elementary
Elizabeth Fulham, first grade, Cypress Woods Elementary
Sandra Hopkins, biology, Osceola High
Kim Lopez, third grade, Bay Vista Fundamental Elementary
Robyn Marquith, mathematics, Dunedin High
Joey Miazga, choral director, Seminole Middle
Dina Nelson, kindergarten transition, Tyrone Elementary
Sandy Smith, pre-kindergarten autistic, Lynch Elementary
Finalists, Support Employee of the Year:
Linda Anello, secretary/bookkeeper, Shore Acres Elementary
Linda Beitelshees, secretary, Osceola High
Robin Best, teacher assistant, Nina Harris Exceptional Student Education Center
Timothy Capps, maintenance parts foreman, Walter Pownall Service Center
Dena Economos, office clerk, Tarpon Springs Middle
Carol Garasic, office clerk, Dunedin High
Jane Howell, clerk specialist, district financial aid office
Wanda Marchant, secretary/bookkeeper, Belcher Elementary
Tom Ramos, head plant operator, Leila Davis Elementary
Deborah Stephens, secretary/bookkeeper, Frontier Elementary