A March 22 event will name the honoree from among them
Teachers at three public schools in Sarasota were surprised on Feb. 9 when they were revealed as the Sarasota County School District’s 2016-17 Teacher of the Year finalists during the annual Teacher Tribute Tour, the district has announced. Superintendent of Schools Lori White, School Board members Shirley Brown and Caroline Zucker, and a team of district administrators, past winners and representatives of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County congratulated the teachers as their students and peers helped celebrate the event, a news release says.
The first stop was Booker High School, where White surprised Khea Davis, the High School Teacher of the Year for the district.
“It’s a huge shock but feels wonderful,” said Davis after receiving a bouquet of flowers and balloons in the school colors of purple and gold. “I’m so honored to be chosen.”
When asked the secret to her success as a teacher, she replied, “I give my students love … I love every one of them.”
A teacher for 15 years, Davis has taught language arts at Booker for two years, the release notes. She sponsors the Black History Club and serves as a mentor for teachers who are new to the profession, the release adds.
Next, the bus pulled into Bay Haven School of Basics Plus, where science teacher Rolf Hanson was revealed as the district’s Elementary School Teacher of the Year, the release continues. Principal Chad Erickson said Hanson “teaches from the heart every day.” Fifth-grade student Bryce Bennett added, “Everyone here is super-proud of Mr. Hanson. He really brings science to life … He’s awesome!”
Hanson has guided students in creating a garden he calls an “edible landscape,” the release points out. “He said the ongoing project is an after-school activity for students,” the release adds. “Although I’ve been teaching for almost three decades, I try to keep things fresh and introduce new ideas and projects to kids when I can,” he noted in the release.
Hanson has been a teacher for 29 years, 17 of them in Sarasota County, the release says. In addition to Bay Haven, he has taught at Ashton Elementary.
The final stop on the tour was Woodland Middle School, where Kristina Beecher was named the Middle School Teacher of the Year. “A technology teacher who guides the school’s robotics team, she started her career in the district as a social worker and rehabilitation counselor,” the release continues. She did not intend to become a teacher, the release adds, but she found herself in the classroom after a reassignment and thought she would “try it for a year,” the release notes.
“I used my social work experience to connect with kids and found that I loved teaching,” she said in the release. “I teach my students to be good competitors, whether they win or lose; our robotics teams get awards for supporting kids they don’t even know.”
Beecher has a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in American Sign Language from the University of South Florida in Tampa, as well as a master’s in social work from Florida State University, the release says.
“The Teacher of the Year program is co-produced by the Sarasota County School District and the Education Foundation of Sarasota County and is made possible through the funding and support of community partners,” the release explains. Each of the three finalists will receive a cash award from the Education Foundation.
The overall district Teacher of the Year for 2016-17 will be announced from among the three finalists at a luncheon set for Tuesday, March 22, at Michael’s On East in Sarasota, the release notes. The individual Teachers of the Year for each school also will be honored at that event.
The district Teacher of the Year will receive a $2,500 cash award from Sunset Automotive Group; the two runners-up will receive $1,250 each from the dealership, the release says.