Make January 21 Teacher of the Year Day

Guest Correspondence

BY JENNIFER VIGNE SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY JAN 2, 2021

January is a celebratory time of year--a time of happy holidays, season’s greetings, and joyful toasts to an auspicious new year.

We like new beginnings at the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. After all, our focus is on preparing future generations to step confidently into their college and career paths.

Now, at the threshold of 2021, we can look in the rear-view window and acknowledge that the past year of the coronavirus pandemic has been incredibly difficult, yet equally promising, in different ways for so many people. 

This is particularly the case for our teachers who have experienced more than their fair share of ups and downs. There is no better time than now to celebrate them.

In addition to the usual traditions marking the turning of the calendar page, this time of year traditionally marks our annual Teacher of the Year celebration.

The COVID-19 safety protocols may have disrupted our usual large celebrations but witnessing the recent reality has elevated our appreciation for and support of our teachers.

On that point, it gives me great pleasure to recognize the four finalists for Sarasota County Teacher of the Year:

  • Kari Johnson, kindergarten teacher, Fruitville Elementary School;
  • Samantha Miller, design teacher, Sarasota Military Academy Prep;
  • Emily O’BrienSwope, fifth grade ELA teacher, Alta Vista Elementary School;
  • Becky Satterly, math teacher and dropout prevention coordinator, Booker High School.

One of these professionals will be named district Teacher of the Year at a virtual celebration scheduled for Jan. 21, 2021. More information as to how to participate is available at EdFoundationSRQ.org/IgniteAwards

Leading up to their selection, it was my pleasure to participate in interviews with various teachers of the year from different district schools. The interviews served to increase my appreciation for what teachers provide each and every student.

Even in the midst of the most unexpected and tiring school year imaginable, our teachers demonstrated they are part of a common cause helping to build up our community.

One after the other told the interview team they felt lucky to be a teacher because they got to be part of a student’s success.

They didn’t bemoan the circumstances in which they are required to teach in this odd year. Instead, they told us why they still have the joy of teaching.

One fifth-grade teacher said, “When you’re living day to day and watching these children grow, it’s unlike anything else.”

A kindergarten teacher said, “I hope the community sees that teachers are putting all they have into doing the best they can for the students.”

From another teacher, we heard: “In this weird year we just go with the kids. No point in getting down because that would make them down too.”

Undoubtedly, teachers are important and what they do in the classroom is unique. We invite the community, businesses and individuals to join us on Jan. 21 for Ignite Education: An Awards Celebration Honoring Sarasota County Teachers by registering here: EdFoundationSRQ.org/IgniteAwards

Many creative ways exist to say to teachers “thank you” and “you are valuable” not just on Jan. 21 but throughout the year. We challenge our resourceful community to develop and share their favorite ways to recognize and celebrate our community’s dedicated, talented asset—our teachers.

Jennifer Vigne is President and CEO of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.

Photo: Becky Satterly, Booker High School, is honored as Sarasota County High School Teacher of the Year.

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