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Gullett teacher named Educator of the Year

As a child, Brandi Witman knew she wanted to be a teacher. After just four years teaching at Gullett Elementary, she received the Educator of the Year award.

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  • | 12:00 a.m. March 18, 2015
Brandi Witman has always had a love for teaching, even when she was a child.
Brandi Witman has always had a love for teaching, even when she was a child.
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Brandi Witman didn’t wonder what she wanted to be when she grew up as a child.

“My friends and I would play school, and I always was the teacher, there was no question,” she said, laughing.

Witman, 27, has been teaching kindergarten at B.D. Gullett Elementary since 2011, and after just four years as an instructor at the East County school, she received county’s top recognition March 11 at the Excellence in Education Awards.

She accepted the Manatee County School District’s Educator of the Year award and a $5,000 check from Suncoast Credit Union.

Witman will be up against other teachers statewide at the Florida Department of Education Macy's Teacher of the Year awards this summer in Orlando.

“It still feels like a dream,” Witman said. “It still hasn’t sunk in yet.”

She plans to spend the money, building a fence to give her dogs, Riley and Cooper, space to play behind her Summerfield home.

Although Gullett Principal Kathy McLean screamed with excitement when she heard Witman’s name announced as the winner, she wasn’t surprised.

McLean admires Witman’s teaching style and ability to cater to different students’ needs in and out of the classroom.

“Brandi realized her students needed more than drilling in sounds to learn letters and the alphabet,” McLean said. “So she taught them songs and dances to learn woods and letters’ sounds. The kids loved it, and they were learning. She’s doing these remarkable things as a young teacher. Just think what she’ll do throughout her career.”

Witman’s relationship with students may have also set her apart from other educators, Assistant Principal Mike Kelley added.

“All teachers care about their students,” Kelley said. “But Brandi cares about all students. She has a genuine heart.”

Although Witman, a 20-year gymnast who also teaches at Lakewood Ranch Gymnastics, has always wanted to teach, she didn’t realize kindergarten was her calling until the position opened at the Ranch school.

McLean hired Witman as an exceptional student education (ESE) teacher’s aid four years ago. She held aid positions for four months, until McLean approached her about the need for a kindergarten teacher.

“Brandi was the first person I thought of for that position,” McLean said. 

Today, Witman plans to spend the foreseeable future as a kindergarten teacher. 

“These 5-year-olds are my passion,” Witman said. “Teaching kindergarten is where I’m supposed to be. I do what I do for those little faces.”

"These 5-year-olds are my passion. Teaching kindergarten is where I'm supposed to be. I do what I do for those little faces." — Brandi Witman



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