SARASOTA, Feb. 5, 2015 – Teachers at three public schools in Sarasota were
surprised when they were revealed as the district’s 2015-16 Teachers of the
Year finalists by the annual Teacher Tribute Tour, Thursday morning (Feb. 5). Superintendent
of Schools Lori White, School Board members Shirley Brown, Caroline Zucker,
Bridget Ziegler and a team of district administrators, past winners and
representatives of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County congratulated the
teachers as their students and peers helped celebrate the event.
The first stop was Suncoast Polytechnical High School, where Russell Finger was named High
School Teacher of the Year for the district. Students joined in the
surprise; there were lots of hugs and smiles.
“It feels really amazing to get this
recognition from my peers,” said Finger. “But this is really a shared reward
because teaching is always a group effort: teachers, students, parents, administrators
and the whole community. So it’s hard for me to feel more special than anyone
Regarding his approach to teaching, Finger
said, “I try to engage students with science and technology because as a
society we’re going to need that expertise more and more in the years to come. I
try to tap into students’ natural curiosity and enthusiasm and feed off that
wide-eyed wonder. I love what I do.”
Finger has been teaching for a decade, including eight years in
Sarasota County. He teaches chemistry and physics at Suncoast Polytech. A
nuclear engineering major at the University of Wisconsin, he switched to
chemistry at Portland State University in Oregon, earning a bachelor’s degree
in chemistry and a Master of Education. He spent 10 years as an analytical
chemist in the computer-chip industry before switching careers. He taught in
public high schools in Portland and began teaching in Sarasota County at North
Port High School in October 2006.
Finger created an “exploration” teaching
unit that integrates art and chemistry for EdExploreSRQ.com, a website that
links teachers to various learning opportunities in Sarasota County, and helped
bring the Suncoast Science/Faulhaber FabLab to the Suncoast Technical College
Next, the bus pulled into Brookside Middle School, where
Principal Kristine Lawrence called International Baccalaureate Program
Coordinator Christi McDowell-Cameron
on a walkie-talkie to tell her there was a visiting group from China to greet
in the media center. Used to greeting global visitors, McDowell-Cameron was shocked
when White announced that she is the district’s Middle School Teacher of the Year.
MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER OF THE YEAR:
Christi McDowell-Cameron, center, was
surprised as the 2015-16 Sarasota County Middle School Teacher of the Year at
Brookside Middle School Feb. 5. Behind her are her father, Bill McDowell, at
right, and Brookside eighth-grade student Michael Medico, at left, holding
artwork with student handprints.
coordinator for Brookside’s IB Middle School Program, McDowell-Cameron works
with teachers and students to help develop student portfolios — examples of
student work in particular areas that is required by the globally recognized
to problem-solve and create,” McDowell-Cameron said. “I also enjoy mentoring
students in need of extra support. I believe we all really do need each other
and that each person has something special to offer to others.”
likes to identify a student each day and try to make his or her time at school
a little better.
“We all have rough days,” she
explained. “I like to find a student who needs a little extra bit of
encouragement and give it to them.”
teacher for 14 years — all of them in Sarasota County — McDowell-Cameron taught
at North Port High School and Heron Creek Middle School in North Port before
joining the Brookside faculty in 2005-06. She was Heron Creek’s Teacher of the
Year in 2004-05.
McDowell-Cameron earned a bachelor’s degree in
education from Indiana Wesleyan University and a Master of Education, Curriculum
and Instruction from National Louis University.
The final stop on the tour was Wilkinson Elementary School, where
Edward Hashey was named the Elementary
School Teacher of the Year. The school’s chorus sang “Today is the Best Day
of My Life.” It clearly was one of the best days of Hashey’s life; he didn’t
hesitate to share his emotion with the students as he choked up a bit at the
really just love being a teacher and spending the day with other teachers and
students,” he said. “This is the toughest job I’ve every loved. To be a teacher
is more than a job — it’s a lifestyle; you have to live it. But I get to work
with students who are struggling and help them succeed. The work rewards me
every day because it reminds me that even the toughest problems can be solved
with collaboration and teamwork.”
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER OF THE YEAR:
Edward Hashey, at right, gets high-fives
from his fifth-grade students after being named the 2015-16 Sarasota County
Elementary School Teacher of the Year. Students pictured from left are Dakota
Arnold, Robert Easterbrook, Jonathan Macias and Timothy Schneckenberger.
was taught for 12 years: eight of them in elementary schools and four at the
college level. A U.S. Navy veteran, Hashey earned a bachelor’s degree in
illustration from Ringling College of Art and Design and a Master of Education
from the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. He was an adjunct
faculty instructor in graphic design at Ringling in 1999-2000 and at USF’s St.
Petersburg campus in 2004-05.
2007-08 he taught at Rowlett Magnet Elementary School in Bradenton, then taught
at Wakeland Elementary School of International Studies from 2008-2013, joining
the Wilkinson Elementary faculty later in 2013.
About the Sarasota County Teacher
of the Year program
Teacher of the Year program is co-produced by the Sarasota County School
District and the Education Foundation of Sarasota County and is made possible
through the funding and support of community partners. Each of the three
finalists will receive a cash award from the Education Foundation. All 40
individual schools’ Teachers of the Year will receive a quality professional
portrait by Prestige Portraits.
The overall district Teacher of
the Year for 2015-16 will be announced from among the three finalists at a luncheon
Tuesday, March 24, at Michael’s On East in Sarasota. The individual Teachers of
the Year for each school also will be honored at that event.
district Teacher of the Year will receive a $2,500 cash award from Sunset Chevy
Buick GMC; the two runners-up will receive $1,250 each from the dealership. The
district’s Teacher of the Year also will represent Sarasota County Schools at
the Florida Department of Education-Macy's Teacher of the Year program and will
serve as a spokesperson for and representative of the teaching profession at
various events throughout the 2015-16 school year.
About the Education Foundation of
The Education Foundation of Sarasota County,
founded in 1988 as an independent 501(c)(3) organization, serves more than
41,200 students in 58 elementary, middle and high schools. The Education
Foundation is the leading advocate for an exceptional public education for all
students in Sarasota County. With strong support from donors and the community,
the Foundation undertakes significant, high impact projects and initiatives
that go beyond what tax dollars can provide. The Foundation encourages donors
with a passion for education to express their imagination in finding solutions,
to make an investment in providing new opportunities for student learning, and
to share the inspiration their generosity sparks in young people whose lives
are forever changed. For more information, visit www.EdFoundation.net or call