Three Sarasota County Schools teachers were named finalists for the district Teacher of the Year award on Monday during a surprise tour to each of their schools by administrators and members of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.
Courtney Smith of Booker High was named high school teacher of the year; Joseph Conner of Venice Middle School was named middle school teacher of the year and Timothy Ferguson of Garden Elementary was named elementary teacher of the year.
School officials made visits to each of the three campuses and surprised each teacher with the announcement.
This year’s Ignite Education Teacher of the Year Award Celebration will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 18, at the Venice Community Center. All 40 school-based Teacher of the Year finalists will be honored, and one of the three finalists will be named the Sarasota County Teacher of the Year.
The district Teacher of the Year will represent Sarasota County Schools at the Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year Program and will serve as a spokesperson for and representative of the teaching profession at various events throughout 2023.
“I am so proud of all our teachers, particularly our Teachers of the Year,” said Brennan Asplen, Superintendent of Sarasota County Schools. “Our teachers have maintained their momentum this school year, despite the unanticipated school closures from hurricanes Ian and Nicole. Their dedication has truly made a difference in the lives of their students. Sarasota County Schools is extremely thankful for the steadfast support of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County and their commitment to helping us honor and celebrate our talented teachers.”
Statewide Teacher of the Year will be announced in July.
“It is so rewarding to be part of this tribute tour,” said Education Foundation President and CEO Jennifer Vigne. “The Teacher of the Year celebration is so important. We value this opportunity to partner with the district to highlight the amazing work of teachers across our county—all their sacrifice, dedication, professionalism, and compassion. So much of what teachers do every day goes unseen, but they are vital in preparing the next generation. They keep our community thriving, and it is an honor to celebrate them.”
Eric Garwood is the managing editor of the Longboat Observer and the Sarasota Observer. Since graduating from University of South Florida in 1984, he's been a reporter and editor at newspapers in Florida and North Carolina.