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The Pinellas County School District has announced 25 semifinalists in the 2009 Outstanding Educators Recognition program. According to a news release, five semifinalists were named in each of five categories. Winners in each category and the 2009 Outstanding Educator will be announced at an awards show on Feb. 26 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, sponsored by the Pinellas Education Foundation.

The semifinalists in each category are:

- Commitment to improvement of the profession: Dolores Hudson, Frontier Elementary; Beverly Lemon, Cross Bayou Elementary; Jennifer Mekler, Lake St. George Elementary; Jarnae Pope-Oriol, Seminole Elementary; and Melissa Walls, John M. Sexton Elementary

-Creativity and innovation: Pamela G. Benton, Boca Ciega High; Janice Embrey Brown, Nina Harris School; Emily Hall, Blanton Elementary; Linda Lawson, Countryside High; and Brian Mackenzie, Palm Harbor Middle.

-Inspiring students to performance at higher levels: Heidi Baird, Belcher Elementary; Catherine Fahey, Lealman Intermediate; Ann Fennell-Meredith, Madeira Beach Middle; Gail E. McGlathery, Blanton Elementary; and Dwayne Shepherd, Osceola Middle.

-Commitment to children and families: Marlene Brinkley, Maximo Elementary; Bill Broome, Safety Harbor Elementary; Doreen Chonko, Palm Harbor University High; Deborah Hargrave, Bear Creek Elementary; and Patricia Jones, Azalea Middle

-Ambassador of the profession: Bridget Bohnet, Coachman Fundamental; Shirley Green, Meadowlawn Middle; Carolyn Ruth Myers, North Shore Elementary; Pamela Richardson, Palm Harbor Elementary; and Patricia Van Driessche, Douglas L. Jamerson Jr. Elementary.

Five win Excel Awards

Five Pinellas County schools teachers received the 2008 Excel Award from the Foundation for Excellence in Education on Friday night in Lake Buena Vista.

The Excel Award recognizes up to 100 Florida educators whose students demonstrated the greatest gains on the FCAT from 2006-07 to 2007-08, based on data from the Florida Department of Education. The award honored educators in various categories, including those who teach students who are below grade level, high achievers, coping with disabilities or learning English.

One Pinellas winner - Ginande Jester from Calvin Hunsinger School - was the only one of the 100 honored educators to win in three categories. She was recognized for motivating students to achieve the greatest gains in the state of Florida, motivating students with disabilities and motivating students who are below grade level, all in the reading area. She received a $1,500 gift card to use for her class, a field trip to the Kennedy Space Center for her class, two cruises, a gift bag packed with items such as attraction tickets, a Smart Board and a $1,000 gift card for her school.

The other four Pinellas winners each received a $1,500 gift card to use for their classes, a cruise, a gift bag and a $1,000 gift card for their school. They are Lee Gore, Highland Lakes Elementary, math, motivating students who are below grade level; Colleen Howard-Wahls, Northwest Elementary, math, motivating students with disabilities; Claudine Kwiatkowski, Perkins Elementary, reading, motivating students with disabilities; Joyce Svabek, East Lake High, math, motivating students who are high achievers.

For more information on the Excellence in Teaching initiative, go to and click on the Excellence in Teaching link.