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Hernando County announces its Teacher of the Year

Lt. Cmdr. Christian Cruz has led the Naval Junior ROTC program at Central High since 2019.
Lt. Cmdr. Christian Cruz, a retired U.S. Navy officer, was announced Tuesday as Hernando County's Teacher of the Year.
Lt. Cmdr. Christian Cruz, a retired U.S. Navy officer, was announced Tuesday as Hernando County's Teacher of the Year. [ Hernando County School District ]
Published Jan. 25|Updated Jan. 26

Hernando County’s Teacher of the Year is Lt. Cmdr. Christian Cruz, the leader of Central High School’s nationally recognized Naval Junior ROTC program, the school district announced Tuesday.

Cruz joined the program in 2019 following a 30-year career in the U.S. Navy.

“I am a product of the JROTC Program,” Cruz said in a district news release. “From kindergarten through my senior year, I attended the American Military Academy in Puerto Rico. After graduation, I joined the U.S. Navy. The JROTC Program provided me with all the tools and resources to be successful in life. I could not think of a better way to pay back the efforts of every instructor who taught me and helped me along the way than to lead the NJROTC cadets of Central.”

According to the district, an ROTC colleague urged Cruz to consider leading the Brooksville school’s program after his retirement from the Navy.

“All it took for me to say yes to this opportunity was a walk through the ROTC’s hallways. It spoke to me about many years of consistent success,” Cruz said.

“We are grateful for his military service and we are honored to have him continue to serve the students of Central,” Hernando school superintendent John Stratton said in the district’s release. “He is a model of integrity and an exemplary educator who teaches students to learn and lead with confidence and pride.”

Hernando’s announcement comes as other districts in the region recognize their top teachers.

The Pinellas County school district will announce its Teacher of the Year in a ceremony Wednesday evening at Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. Hillsborough County Public Schools chose Armwood High biology teacher Laura Widerberg as the district’s top teacher last week.

Pasco County’s Teacher of the Year, announced in December, is theater teacher Ryan Bintz of Longleaf Elementary.

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