- January 15, 2020
When Faith Bench’s name was called, she couldn’t believe it.
In front of her friends, family and colleagues, Bench, a math teacher at Braden River Middle School, was named the School District of Manatee County’s Educator of the Year during the school district’s Excellence in Education Awards at Manatee Technical College’s main campus Feb. 5.
“It’s incredible,” she said. “I’m still shaking. I can’t even believe it. There were so many amazing other finalists. I didn’t think I would get this far.”
Bench was one of four finalists for Educator of the Year. Other finalists were Jennifer Santora, a third grade teacher at B.D. Gullett Elementary; Amanda English, a science teacher at Bayshore High; and Susan Nickerson, a fifth grade teacher at Palmetto Elementary.
Bench will now advance to the Florida Department of Education’s Macy’s Teacher of the Year competition.
She is in her seventh year as an educator and has spent six of those years at Braden River Middle.
After accepting her award, Bench thanked her family, colleagues and students for their support and being with her at the awards ceremony.
If Bench won, she said her students wanted her to give them a shout out by naming each student using their first, middle and last names. She settled with this statement: “To my little sweet potatoes, thank you for coming into the class every day with a smile on your face and love in your heart,” she said.
“Thank you for your humor, your kindness,” she continued. “Thank you for respecting me and loving me. It is because of my interactions with you every day that I know I chose the right career. Each and every one of you has the potential to accomplish your dreams, and I am so grateful that I get a chance to be a part of your life.”
Kimberlain Zenon-Richardson, principal at Braden River Middle, jumped out of her chair with excitement when Bench was named the winner.
“It is unbelievable, but I am so excited and happy for her and her students,” Zenon-Richardson said. “I think [her students] wanted it more than she did.”