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Garden Elementary's Ferguson is Sarasota's top teacher

The music instructor will represent the school district as nominee for the statewide recognition.

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  • | 9:00 a.m. January 19, 2023
  • | Updated 11:00 a.m. January 21, 2023
Timothy Ferguson has taught music for 20 years in New York and Florida.
Timothy Ferguson has taught music for 20 years in New York and Florida.
Courtesy photo
  • Sarasota
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A music teacher from Garden Elementary School was named the 2023 Sarasota County Teacher of the Year on Wednesday and will now represent the local district in the running for the statewide award.

The award was presented to Timothy Ferguson, who has taught music for 20 years in New York and Florida, at the Education Foundation of Sarasota County’s annual awards celebration at the Venice Community Center. Ferguson received a $5,000 award.

“It’s so important for us to show appreciation for our teachers and all of their hard work,” said Chris Renouf, acting superintendent of Sarasota County Schools. “Our educators pave the way for their students’ current and future success through their compassion, expertise, and genuine love of teaching and learning. We are thrilled to join the Education Foundation to honor our teachers.’’

Amber Rylak received the 2023 Innovation Teacher of the Year award.
Courtesy photo

Teacher of the Year finalists Joseph Conner of Venice Middle School and Courtney Smith of Booker High School were also honored Wednesday, as was Amber Rylak, a physical education teacher at Emma E. Booker Elementary, who was named Innovation Teacher of the Year. Smith, Conner and Rylak received awards of $2,500.

During the ceremony, all 41 Teacher of the Year nominees representing schools across the district were honored. All received cash gifts of $250.

In December, school and Education Foundation administrators visited the schools of each of the three finalists, surprising them with the news. 

“These celebrations are vital for teachers—and for our community,” said Jennifer Vigne, president and CEO of the Education Foundation. “No matter the circumstances, teachers do so much for their students and truly keep Sarasota County thriving. This event reflects our deep, abiding support for all the amazing educators across the district.”

Guest speaker George Couros, who wrote “Because of a Teacher: Stories of the Past to Inspire the Future of Education” and other books, discussed the power of teachers and the vital role they play in the lives of their students.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Garden Elementary.


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