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2021 Teacher of the Year Finalists Surprised at Four Sarasota County Schools

SARASOTA, Fla. (Dec. 15, 2020) – Four Sarasota County teachers were surprised Tuesday, Dec. 15, when they were revealed as finalists for the district’s elementary, middle and high school Teacher of the Year honors.

The Education Foundation of Sarasota County sponsors the Ignite Education: Teacher of the Year annual recognition in partnership with Sarasota County Schools.

  The finalists are (alphabetical order):

  • Kari Johnson, kindergarten teacher, Fruitville Elementary School;
  • Samantha Miller, design teacher, Sarasota Military Academy Prep;
  • Emily O’BrienSwope, fourth and fifth grade ELA teacher, Alta Vista Elementary School;
  • Becky Satterly, math teacher and dropout prevention coordinator, Booker High School.

  While the Teacher Tribute Tour team that surprised teachers at their schools was smaller in number than in previous years due to COVID-19 protocols, team members made up for it in enthusiasm.

“This year, more than ever, we want to celebrate teachers and let them know the community recognizes and values their work,” said Jennifer Vigne, President and CEO of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. “In this challenging time, our incredible teachers have shown up and given their best, helping each and every student reach their full potential. We are so proud of all of our teachers.”   

This year’s Teacher Tribute Tour team included Vigne; Sarasota County Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Brennan Asplen; and Executive Directors Steve Cantees and Chris Renouf; and School Board members Shirley Brown and Karen Rose. Principals Steven French, Rachel Shelley, Barbara Shirley, and Tom Vara participated in the surprise presentations at their schools, and family members of the honorees attended.  

Dr. Asplen states, “The calling to be a teacher is a noble endeavor, especially while facing the unbelievable challenges that this year has presented. These dedicated educators have unquestionably made a difference in the lives of their students and represent all that is exceptional about Sarasota County Schools.”

One of the four finalists will be named the overall Sarasota County Teacher of the Year at the Education Foundation of Sarasota County’s Ignite Education Awards Celebration on Jan. 21. This year’s recognition ceremony will be a virtual event open to the community.

  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 the year.

More information is available online at




About the Teacher of the Year Program

The Ignite Education: Teacher of the Year program is produced by the Education Foundation of Sarasota County in partnership with Sarasota County Schools and is made possible through the funding and support of many corporate and community partners. Each of the four finalists will receive a cash award from the Education Foundation.


About the Education Foundation of Sarasota County

The Education Foundation of Sarasota County is an independent organization with the mission to enhance the potential of students, promote excellence in teaching and inspire innovation in education. Guided by the belief that education changes lives, the Education Foundation strives to match each donor’s passion with high-impact projects created to ensure students graduate with purpose and are prepared for a postsecondary pathway. The Education Foundation of Sarasota County and its philanthropic investors are champions for students, teachers and schools.


About Sarasota County Schools

Sarasota County Schools is committed to providing unrivaled academic, emotional, and civic growth to every student, every day. As one of the leading employers on the Suncoast, Sarasota County Schools boasts 54 schools that expertly cater to the diverse needs of over 43,500 students. We are one of two Florida school districts to consistently earn an A-grade every year since 2004 and have been awarded the Mid-Sized School District of the Year by the University of Cambridge. Our passionate educators empower students to take charge of their academic and personal success, a practice we believe fosters lifelong growth and achievement. We actively maintain the district’s tradition of excellence and ensure that tradition extends to all students. Our commitment to our students extends beyond graduation to make sure they not only graduate on time, but do so college and career ready. Want to take your student’s education to the next level? Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or visit