The district kicks off a two-week celebration to show appreciation for its more than 6,000 employees.
Josh Hunsader, a Braden River High School student, stood among his fellow band members and played a solo on his saxophone as the band began to play "We Are the Champions."
As the rendition of the classic song continued, the school's choir started singing, but the words were different than what people would normally hear.
The choir changed the lyrics into a 'thank you' song for the more than 6,000 School District of Manatee County employees who have worked every day to support one another and the district's nearly 50,000 students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The performance was a part of the district's kickoff to its Champions of Education, a two-week celebration to show appreciation for all district employees that started March 1.
"To be a champion, you're a fighter, you're a protector, and when we go back and we reflect on the year on the year behind us, that's exactly how I would describe each and every one of you because you did more than just educate our students this year," said Cynthia Saunders, the superintendent of the School District of Manatee County.
Faith Bench, a former Braden River Middle School math teacher and 2020 Educator of the Year who now serves the district as a curriculum specialist, thanked the teachers and staff for their dedication to the students throughout the year. She reflected on the school year as a teacher, district administrator and mother of a son, Bradyn, who is now in middle school.
"It is because of you that students across our district continue to learn and achieve great outcomes," Bench said. "I have seen resilience, compassion, resourcefulness and most of all overwhelming love that we all have for our students. ... If there was ever a year for teachers to rely on excuses, it might be this year, but over and over again, I go into classrooms, and I don't hear excuses. Instead, I see tremendous growth and change happening."
The Manatee Education Foundation raised $86,000 for the celebration. Employees will be given food, giveaways, a certificate of recognition and more throughout the two weeks.