3 Sarasota County educators honored as Teachers of the Year; a fourth receives a scholarship

Accolades come from state organizations

Sandy Waite (left) and Justine Jackson. Photo courtesy Sarasota County Schools
Sandy Waite (left) and Justine Jackson. Photo courtesy Sarasota County Schools

Three Sarasota County teachers have been named Teachers of the Year by statewide education organizations, and a fourth has been honored with a scholarship, the Sarasota County School District has announced.

During the annual conference of the Florida Reading Association (FRA), held in Orlando in late October, Sandy Waite of Southside Elementary School was named the Elementary Reading Teacher of the Year and Justine Jackson of Sarasota Middle School was selected as the Middle School Reading Teacher of the Year, a news release says.

“The FRA elementary and middle school Teacher of the Year awards are given to educators who have made significant contributions in the teaching of elementary reading, have applied innovative reading techniques in a classroom setting, have promoted reading outside the school, and have published articles or made presentations,” the release explains.

The FRA also honored Paige Driza of McIntosh Middle, who received the Joye Coy Shaffer Past Presidents Scholarship, the release notes. That award celebrates educators who have taught for less than three years. Winners receive $200 toward expenses to attend the FRA annual conference, the release says.

“We are proud to celebrate these excellent teachers from our district,” said Laurel Hinds, a Tuttle Elementary School teacher who serves as secretary of the Sarasota Reading Council, an organization affiliated with the Florida Reading Association.

Debra Piner. Photo courtesy Sarasota County Schools
Debra Piner. Photo courtesy Sarasota County Schools

Another organization, the Florida Council of Teachers of English, named Riverview High School College and Career Adviser Debra Piner as the Teacher of the Year during its Professional Development Institute in Cocoa Beach in mid-October, the release continues. Piner formerly taught language arts at Booker Middle School.

“Debra is known for going above and beyond when it comes to reaching her students, and for making and maintaining connections with them,” said Donna Heath, a language arts teacher at Booker Middle who is active with the council. “Students always knew she would attend their events and be in the audience for their performances,” Heath added in the release.

Her former Booker Middle students “have already visited her new office [at Riverview], looking for guidance and encouragement in planning for college,” Heath noted in the release.