Teachers from Sarasota High School, Wilkinson Elementary School and Oak Park School were honored as nominees for Sarasota County's 2019 Teacher of the Year award.
Three Sarasota County school teachers received a big surprise Nov. 13 when they found out they were nominees for the 2019 Teacher of the Year award. Each year, the school district names elementary, middle and high school teachers of the year. One of those three teachers is then announced as the overall Teacher of the Year for the county.
This year’s nominees come from Sarasota High School, Wilkinson Elementary School and Oak Park School. The Education Foundation of Sarasota County’s Teacher Tribute team traveled to each school to announce the nominees, who were chosen out of 44 winners at individual schools.
During each stop, the school was gathered for an assembly, but the unsuspecting teachers, students and staff were actually there to learn that one of their teachers was an honoree.
The first stop was Sarasota High School where Superintendent Todd Bowden announced Ashlee Middleton as the High School Teacher of the Year. The English, journalism and intensive language arts teacher credited her hard-working students for receiving the honor.
“It’s important to develop a positive classroom environment and encourage students to work as a team,” Middleton said. She has been teaching for seven years and has been at SHS since 2013.
At Wilkinson Elementary School, Tessa Healy was named Elementary School Teacher of the Year. Healy teaches science, technology, engineering, arts and math. She graduated from a Sarasota County dropout prevention program when she was pregnant at 17 and began her career as an educator six years ago at Venice’s Student Leadership Academy. Healy also serves as vice president of the Sarasota Reading Council.
“When I came to Wilkinson, I told my family that I felt like a little fish in a big pond, so I’m excited to represent all of these amazing teachers,” Healy said.
Oak Park School, a special needs school serving preschoolers to high schoolers, was the final stop on the tour where music teacher Shane Swezey was named Middle School Teacher of the Year. Swezey originally studied aerospace engineering at Florida State before deciding to pursue a career in music therapy. He has served as a music teacher and therapist at Oak Park School since 2013.
“My background has given me a unique lens to look at music as a tool to help support student learning more holistically,” Swezey said.
The Sarasota County Teacher of the Year will be announced at the Education Foundation’s Ignite Education Awards Celebration on Dec. 12. The winner receives $5,000 from the foundation while the two finalists will receive an award of $2,500.