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  1. The Education Gradebook

Polk County teacher named best in state

Published Jul. 15, 2016

Pasco County's finalist for Florida Teacher of the Year fell short Thursday night, as Jessica Solano, a third-grade math teacher from Polk County, won the annual award.

Don Blake, an electricity teacher at Marchman Technical College, had been Pasco's first finalist for the statewide recognition. He also was the first career-technical educator to make it to the final five.

Solano, who teaches at Highlands Grove Elementary School, took the $20,000 prize. She will serve for one year as the Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education, touring Florida to talk about educational opportunities and challenges.

Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning, who attended the ceremony in Orlando, was disappointed that Blake didn't win. But he cheered Solano.

"It's good," he said. "They're all very qualified."

Other finalists were Precious Symonette from Miami Norland Senior High, Amy Miller from Kissimmee Elementary School in Osceola County and Laurie Zentz from Switzerland Point Middle School, St. Johns County.

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