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  1. Education

'Extra Yard' promises extra attention for teachers at championship event

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was among the luminaries to address teachers at a past Extra Yard for Teachers event. Officials from the College Football Playoff Foundation expect another impressive list when teachers gather at the Tampa Convention Center on Saturday.
Published Jan. 4, 2017

TAMPA — In the past, a former U.S. Secretary of State has joined motivational speakers, coaches and athletic directors to address one of the community's most influential groups.

Teachers.

Organizers promise another list of luminaries will step before more than 1,000 teachers from Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties as they gather at the Extra Yard for Teachers Summit, a two-hour cavalcade of positive messages, entertainment, food, drink and giveaways at the Tampa Convention Center.

The College Football Playoff, which will hold its national-championship game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers on Monday night at Raymond James Stadium, sponsors the event. The CFP Foundation, the organization's charitable arm, made education its key initiative.

"The whole key to the summit is the ability to say, 'Thank you!'" said Ryan Hall, the CFP's director of community relations. "It's the foundation's way of saying thank you to the best and brightest teachers that we have.

"It gives them a chance to hear something they don't hear as much as they should. 'Thank you. You're doing an awesome job. We love you. This is all for you.' That's what this is all about.''

About 80 percent of the attending teachers were nominated by their schools and selected by their county's school superintendent.

"We believe in the power of education and the power of teachers,'' said Britton Banowsky, executive director of the CFP foundation. "Everyone involved in our game — whether it's a coach, a player or a fan — will likely have a story about a teacher who made a big difference in their life. We want to recognize that and celebrate that. There's nothing more important than the impact a teacher can have on a young student.''

Hall said the Summit has a fast-moving format and a diversity of guests. The speaker lineup is a closely guarded secret, but the past two summits have included the likes of Condoleezza Rice, the former U.S. Secretary of State who serves on the CFP selection committee; Ruthanne Buck, senior advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Education; Charles Best, the founder of DonorsChoose.org; athletic directors and conference commissioners; and ESPN announcers such as Holly Rowe and Joey Galloway.

Saturday's Summit could also include some of the musical acts that are performing around the CFP weekend, Hall said.

"It's a very impactful and emotional event,'' Hall said. "My mother was a teacher for 35 years and I come from a family of educators. So to be in a place where people are speaking to teachers from the bottom of their hearts and saying, 'Thank you … you matter … you're important,' it just smacks you in the face.

"It's a welcome difference from the stark reality you often see in the world where people aren't thanking teachers, they are taking them for granted, they are diminishing their efforts. The passion and sincerity of wanting to support teachers is a real thing here and people will be moved by that.''

The Florida Teacher of the Year, along with the finalists, will be recognized at the Summit. Additionally, three winners will be announced for a classroom makeover.

The Summit runs from 10 a.m. until noon. It's followed by the "Teachers' Lounge,'' from noon until 4 p.m., which is open to all teachers who show a faculty/staff ID.

The Lounge includes more motivational speakers, entertainment, along with food and drink. Some of the CFP sponsors, such as Chick-fil-A and PlayStation, will be involved. The CFP national-championship trophy will make an appearance.

Hall said the Lounge is designed to be comfortable and convenient for teachers.

"We will have bean-bag chairs, special coffee, lots of cool things like that,'' Hall said.

It's located near the CFP's Playoff FanCentral at the Convention Center, an interactive fan exhibit that will be one of the hubs of activity during the weekend.

"So if a teacher is attending FanCentral and wants a little break, we have a perfect little VIP area for them to visit,'' Hall said.

The Extra Yard for Teachers initiative already has made an impact in the Tampa Bay area by providing laptops for selected schools in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties. In November, during a college awareness event at Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High School, the CFP Foundation and Tampa Bay Sports Commission announced a $55,000 donation to pay for all of the school's technology needs that were on a "wish list.''

"Our mission is to elevate the teaching profession by inspiring and empowering quality teachers,'' Banowsky said. "It's our way of giving back and hopefully leaving a legacy that will carry forward long after the game has been played.''

Contact Joey Johnston at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

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