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Gulf High’s Kim Theurer is Pasco County’s Teacher of the Year

“She keeps it real with everyone,” one student says. “She brings it down to our level.”
 
Kim Theurer, center, talks with students during her second period U.S. government honors class Friday, Feb. 3, 2023 at Gulf High School in New Port Richey. Theurer was named Teacher of the Year the night before.
Kim Theurer, center, talks with students during her second period U.S. government honors class Friday, Feb. 3, 2023 at Gulf High School in New Port Richey. Theurer was named Teacher of the Year the night before. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Feb. 3, 2023|Updated Feb. 3, 2023

NEW PORT RICHEY — Kim Theurer wore a gold plastic crown during her second period class Friday at Gulf High School.

Her students said their government, law and sociology teacher deserved it after being named Pasco County’s 2023-24 Teacher of the Year at a ceremony the night before.

“She’s not like a lot of other teachers,” junior Kaleb Newsom said. “I can’t think of a single day when I haven’t just wanted to sit down, take my ear buds off and pay attention.”

Kim Theurer laughs as her students applaud her during her second period U.S. government honors class Friday, Feb. 3, 2023 at Gulf High School in New Port Richey.
Kim Theurer laughs as her students applaud her during her second period U.S. government honors class Friday, Feb. 3, 2023 at Gulf High School in New Port Richey. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]

The teens said they appreciate that she makes her lessons relevant and understandable, and that she treats them as individuals.

“She keeps it real with everyone. She brings it down to our level. And she doesn’t make it like a job. She wants to be with us,” said Gianni Carbonia, a sophomore. Carbonia spoke with enthusiasm about Theurer’s lesson on nonviolent protests that has students create and participate in an actual school protest.

Last semester, it was to bring strawberry milk back to the cafeteria.

“Everyone loves strawberry milk,” Theurer said with a grin.

The 34-year teacher is so beloved that even students who haven’t taken her class say she’s their favorite.

Junior Avery Lanham said she talks to Theurer in the hallway during passing periods, and has found her comforting, supportive and understanding of students and their concerns.

“That’s what makes a teacher like family. I would consider her like a school mom. She’s there for everyone,” Lanham said, noting she plans to take Theurer’s class as a senior.

That almost didn’t happen. Theurer had planned to retire at the end of this year, but recently extended those plans by a year. She did it “to make them stop whining,” she joked, referring to the kids who begged her to stay.

Theurer, a 1978 Gulf High graduate, said she loves teaching high school, noting that she learns from the students every day. She credits three things for finding success — a sense of humor, the approach that every day is a new day, and respect.

Kim Theurer works with student Sydney Van Wagner, 17, during her second period U.S. government honors class Friday, Feb. 3, 2023 at Gulf High School in New Port Richey.
Kim Theurer works with student Sydney Van Wagner, 17, during her second period U.S. government honors class Friday, Feb. 3, 2023 at Gulf High School in New Port Richey. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]

“I think I show them some respect with some humor,” she said. “In response, they return the favor.”

Principal Jeff Morgenstein said Theurer is an important school leader who is both serious about her instruction and full of good cheer and Gulf spirit. Jennifer Dixon-Fitzner, who teaches in the classroom next door and was Pasco’s 2020 Teacher of the Year, called Theurer an “inspirational colleague” who involves her students in insightful daily dialogue, bridging content areas to make meaningful lessons.

“The way she genuinely cares for the kids, there is no word for it,” Dixon-Fitzner said.

Theurer said she appreciated the accolades. But she added that, after sitting on past committees to select county teachers of the year, “I know I am not that person.”

“I am not special at all,” Theurer said. “Every single person in this building, and all the thousands of teachers in this county, come to school every day and do amazing things that blow my mind. I just want to represent them the best I can.”

She said her gift, “if you want to call it that,” is her connection with the students. They’re becoming adults, she said, and her job as a government teacher is to help them get ready to be productive citizens.

“I am a very political person. But the kids don’t know that,” Theurer said. “I take a lot of pride in that. I try to be very fair and balanced, not biased. Because I am talking about politics and government with them.... They have to start thinking for themselves. Whatever their decision, that’s fine. They just have to back it up.”

A collection of political bobbleheads are seen during Kim Theurer's second period U.S. government honors class Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, at Gulf High in New Port Richey. Theurer was named Teacher of the Year.
A collection of political bobbleheads are seen during Kim Theurer's second period U.S. government honors class Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, at Gulf High in New Port Richey. Theurer was named Teacher of the Year. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]

Theurer is not the first in her family to win Pasco’s Teacher of the Year award. Her sister, Kristi, received the honor for 1996-97 as an elementary teacher.

“I know my parents are smiling down on us and super proud,” Kristi Theurer said. “She wasn’t even going to go for it. I said, ‘Kim, you’re amazing. You love what you do.’ I really wanted her to go for it because in my heart I had a good feeling.”

Theurer is now a candidate for statewide recognition. Her students said she’s a shoo in.

“I don’t have any doubt about her being Florida’s teacher of the year,” said senior Briana Townsend.

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