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SRQ DAILY Dec 2, 2023

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"Some gifts are large, others are smaller. All make a difference"

- Roxie Jerde, Community Foundation of Sarasota County

[Education]  The Most Wonderful Time—to Celebrate Teachers
Jennifer Vigne, jvigne@edfoundationsrq.org

Across the county, people are decorating their houses and storefronts and preparing for the holiday season. At the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, we’re busy getting ready for a different celebration: the Ignite Education Teacher of the Year Award Celebration. This yearly event, which the Education Foundation hosts in partnership with Sarasota County Schools and thanks to our generous donors, is one of my favorite occasions of the year. It is an opportunity to reflect on and to honor amazing teachers and all they do for their students, their schools and the community.

This year, I’m struck by the varied pathways that led the three district Teacher of the Year finalists into the classroom—and by something special that they share.

Ronnique Major, who teaches fifth grade at Emma E. Booker Elementary School and who grew up in Sarasota and attended Sarasota County Schools, knew she would teach from as far back as she can remember. She’d always had excellent teachers and wanted to be just such an educator. For 30 years, the Elementary School Teacher of the Year has dedicated her life to her students and has now even begun to teach her former students’ children.

Haley Brown, the Middle School Teacher of the Year, wanted to act and design sets on Broadway. While earning her theater degree at Florida State University, she spent a week in New York City and realized it wasn’t the direction she wanted to pursue. With her love of art that blossomed through stage design, she earned a master’s degree in art education and returned to Southwest Florida. Now in her fifth year at Pine View School, she teaches middle school art and high school theater.

Dennis Pinna came to Sarasota County Schools all the way from Rome, Italy, where he grew up and lived until meeting his wife at the international school where he taught. Pinna chose teaching after working as a lobbyist and then in finance. The High School Teacher of the Year followed his true passion and now shares his firsthand experience in Italian government and finance while teaching International History and World History at North Port High School. 

These finalists represent the 46 remarkable 2023–2024 school-based Teachers of the Year as well as all teachers across the county. They represent teaching as a profession. Just like Ronnique, Haley and Dennis, so many educators have taken varying paths to the classroom, paths that are essential to their teaching style and everything that they bring to their students. While they took different routes, all three finalists do share something special: their mothers have taught or still teach. These three inspiring individuals grew up with educators. They spent time in classrooms before they even attended school. They saw their mothers up late grading papers and planning lessons or even running a school. And they also understood the immense satisfaction that comes from caring for young people and inspiring in them a lifelong love of learning— because they were ultimately drawn to follow in their parents’ footsteps.

Teachers all find their way to the profession differently, but the best of them care deeply about students and understand the special connection that happens in a classroom when students know they are loved, and when they’re challenged and captivated. We are so lucky to have such teachers in our community.

This year’s Ignite Education Teacher of the Year Award Celebration will take place at the Venice Community Center on Dec. 13, starting at 5 p.m. If you have not yet attended this event, I hope you will join us. It is such a privilege to host this most wonderful celebration of individuals dedicated to the community, individuals who, no matter their path to teaching, do so much for their students to help them reach their full potential.

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

Photo courtesy Education Foundation: Colleagues surprise Ronnique Major with news she is the District Elementary School Teacher of the Year.

To learn more about this event and to purchase tickets, click here.

[Community]  'Tis the Season
Roxie Jerde, roxie@cfsarasota.org

As this season of celebration and reflection arrives, many of us look forward to the moments ahead—enjoying hearty, home-cooked meals with loved ones, making new memories of togetherness and that cozy feeling of being with family. 

For some neighbors, though, this is a time of pronounced stress, as the hope of providing cherished moments collides with the reality of budgeting shortfalls that force hard choices, like whether to purchase food for meals or pay this month’s rent. 

It’s been 24 years since Season of Sharing was conceived as a community safety net that could be a resource for people experiencing an acute unforeseen crisis that hampers their ability to meet their monthly bills. For many in our region—where 38% of residents are struggling to keep up with monthly bills despite working—a single accident could set off a cascade of late payments that could drown them in debt. 

Since its inception in 2000, Season of Sharing has raised and distributed $38 million that has offered a lifeboat to 50,000 individuals and families in their time of greatest need. The community’s caring nature and generosity have been notable—time and again the community has stepped up to help neighbors in need. 

The numbers are staggering. Imagining just one household spared an eviction is powerful, and the full impact of Season of Sharing is hard to register. Individual stories of our neighbors offer glimpses into the lives of those helped: retirees recently widowed, parents experiencing health setbacks that pile on debt, mothers living through divorces that jeopardize the stability of their children. 

Thousands of gifts have come in over time, emphasizing it’s not the grand gesture of one, but the help of all who are able, that has prolonged the life of this community asset that assures our neighbors’ security. Some gifts are large, others are smaller. All make a difference. It’s been heartwarming for me to receive the $5 donation with a handwritten note declaring, “It’s what I can give.” This is the spirit of our community—helping in whatever way we can. 

That help of caring individuals is amplified through The Patterson Foundation’s generous match—for every $500,000 raised by the community, The Patterson Foundation contributes an additional $100,000. Last year, that meant a game-changing $600,000 donation from our longstanding partner.

These days, in a moment of shifting economic realities, Season of Sharing is more needed than ever. On top of major events like red tide, the pandemic and Hurricane Ian, the region’s affordable housing crisis and inflation have placed additional pressure on working class families and seniors living on fixed incomes. 

This year’s Season of Sharing campaign, which runs through Jan. 31 and will be called upon for the year to come, so far is again underscoring the altruism of our community, showcasing that we are a community that won’t stand by while hardworking people, people with aspirations for themselves and their families, remain vulnerable to debilitating financial catastrophe. 

There are big challenges that we as a community must unite to solve, like how to empower our neighbors to achieve secure, lucrative careers, how to disrupt intergenerational cycles of poverty and how to create access to basic needs and services like housing and utilities. The Community Foundation of Sarasota County is working with partners in the nonprofit, government and private sectors to address these challenges.

In the meantime, there remains Season of Sharing, a stalwart, trusted safety net that has pulled so many families out of exacerbating uncertainty, anxiety and stress. Donations to Season of Sharing help reinforce the uniquely generous nature of our community. These gestures keep our community intact. These truly are gifts that provide the opportunity for all of us to enter the season with the hope of enjoying nourishing meals with loved ones, creating new memories of warmth and togetherness.

Roxie Jerde is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. 

Image courtesy Pixabay.

[SOON]  MUSIC: Jazz Thursdays , July 13 – December 14, 5:30 to 8 p.m.

Join Sarasota Art Museum for Jazz Thursdays featuring live jazz music, contemporary art, and sips and bites from Bistro. Hosted by the Jazz Club of Sarasota. Jazz Thursday happens on the second Thursday of each month, 5:30-8 p.m. Galleries, Bistro, and SHOP open. FREE for Members, $20 for Not-Yet Members.

[SOON]  PERFORMANCE: Sights and Sounds at Waterside Place , July 28 – May 31, 6 to 9 p.m.

Head out to Waterside Place for a rocking evening as part of the Lakewood Ranch Sights and Sounds Program. Enjoy a live concert in partnership with Easterseals and EveryoneRocks, featuring artists who are rocking their spectrum. This event is free and open to the public; there is limited seating at the Plaza, but attendees are welcome to bring their own seats. Food and beverages will be available from numerous Waterside Place merchants. For more information on shows, dates, and times, visit lakewoodranch.com/sights-sounds/. Waterside Place, 1560 Lakefront Dr., Sarasota.

[SOON]  MUSEUM: Working Conditions at The Ringling , August 26 – March 3, varied times

Explore labor through The Ringlings Working Conditions photography exhibit, running until March 3, 2024. The Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries radically changed the nature of human labor. That era is defined by a global shift from producing goods by hand to manufacturing by machines and technologies that emphasized efficiency. Working Conditions explores the myriad ways in which photographs have communicated ideas about labor since the nineteenth century through examples from The Ringlings photography permanent collection. For more information, visit ringling.org.

[SOON]  BUSINESS: Lets Connect at Oscura in Old Manatee , August 31 – December 26, 8:30-10am

Connect with local business owners at every Thursday at Oscura. Lets Connect is a community of collaborative business professionals from the Manatee and Sarasota County areas. RSVP on Eventbrite to attend, admission is free.

[SOON]  MUSIC: Jazz Under the Stars , December 2, 7-9pm
Enjoy some superb and smooth jazz. SRQuintet plays everything from songbook standards to bebop classics, blue note gems, Bossa Nova favorites, and new original tunes, the quintet is a cannot-miss feature of the Sarasota jazz scene. SRQuintet is committed to exploring the music of the jazz canon. Tickets are $8. thereserveretreat.com.
[SOON]  SCIENCE AND NATURE: Feast Upon the Fields , December 3, 12:30pm
Join us for an unforgettable afternoon at the beautiful and conserved Myakka Headwaters Preserve. Located where seven creeks converge to form the mighty Myakka River, our Myakka Headwaters Preserve is a breathtaking slice of natural Florida. The property contains numerous diverse landscapes, including floodplain forests, marshland, longleaf pine flatwoods, and oak hammocks. Fields of wildflowers host pollinators of all shapes and sizes, and fern-lined streambanks rise just a foot or two above the clear-flowing water, which supports submerged aquatic vegetation unable to grow in the sunlight-blocked blackwaters found elsewhere in the Myakka River. Experience this stunning landscape firsthand at our eighth annual farm-to-table luncheon, Feast Upon the Fields. Featuring a one-of-a-kind menu by Chef Paul Mattison, this ticketed event will sell out quickly. Early reservations are strongly recommended. conservationfoundation.com.
[SOON]  GRAB BAG: Bradenton Market Returns , October 7 – May 25, 9am-2pm

Realize Bradenton is happy to announce the return of the Bradenton Market to its weekly schedule. This beloved community gathering will be held Saturdays through May 25, 2024 from 9:00 am - 2:00 pm on Old Main Street in Bradenton. Founded in 1979, the Market has expanded to include more than 90 local vendors. In addition to the weekly shopping and music, the Market hosts special event days throughout the season. Halloween at the Market will be held on Saturday, October 28. This family-friendly event includes trick or treating with vendors, face painting with Manatee School for the Arts Academic Team from 9:30 am - 12:30 pm, and a dance performance by Slick Motion Studios at 10:00 am. For more information, visit RealizeBradenton.com.

[SOON]  HEALTH: Wellen Park Group Fitness , October 15 – December 16, 8-9am

Starting the week of Oct. 15, a dynamic lineup of weekly fitness activities for the community will begin. Groups will meet in Downtown Wellen, in front of Kind Vibes Outfitters. Yoga and Zumba classes meet on the Great Lawn. Walking Group Meet-Up, every Saturday from 9 to 10 a.m. Cycling Group Meet-Up, every Saturday from 10 to 11 a.m. Running Group Meet-Up, every Monday at 6 p.m. Yoga, every Saturday from 9 to 10 a.m. Zumba, every Monday from 8 to 9 a.m. For more information, visit wellepark.com.

SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine. Note: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. Senior Editor Jacob Ogles edits the Saturday Perspective Edition, Letters and Guest Contributor columns.In the CocoTele department, SRQ DAILY is providing excerpts from news releases as a public service. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by SRQ DAILY. The views expressed by individuals are their own and their appearance in this section does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising and sponsored content opportunities, please contact Ashley Ryan Cannon at 941-365-7702 x211 or via email

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