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2020 Teacher of the Year Finalists Surprised at Three Sarasota County Schools

SARASOTA COUNTY, November 14, 2019 – Three Sarasota County teachers were surprised Thursday, Nov. 14, when they were revealed as finalists for the district’s elementary, middle and high school 2020 Teacher of the Year honors.

The 2020 finalists are: Heather Young, Venice Elementary School; Marissa Dobbert, Sarasota Military Academy Prep; Josh Grant, Venice High School. (Note: More information about teacher finalists and surprise school visits follows.)

One of the three finalists will be named the overall Sarasota County 2020 Teacher of the Year at the Education Foundation of Sarasota County’s Ignite Education Awards Celebration on Dec. 11 at The Westin Sarasota. 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 2020.

The annual Teacher Tribute Tour team travels to each finalist’s school. This year’s team included Sarasota County Schools’ (SCS) Assistant Superintendent and Chief Academic Officer Laura Kingsley; SCS board members Jane Goodwin, Eric Robinson, and Caroline Zucker; Education Foundation of Sarasota County (EFSC) Board Chair Britt Riner, President Jennifer Vigne, and other EFSC board members; EFSC founder Shirley Ritchey; 2019 Teacher of the Year finalists Tessa Healy, Ashlee Middleton, and Shane Swezey; other representatives of the foundation and school district, sponsors and special guests. The team congratulated finalists as their families, students, principals and fellow teachers joined the surprise tributes.   

First Stop:

The first stop for the Teacher Tribute Tour was Venice Elementary School where a schoolwide assembly of students and teachers erupted in cheers when Heather Young was announced as Elementary School Teacher of the Year. Young’s parents, husband, daughter, and other family members joined in the surprise. 

Young, a 22-year veteran teacher in Sarasota County Schools and graduate of Venice High School who previously taught gifted students, is in her first year as a K-5 visual arts teacher. She thanked her colleagues and administrators at Venice Elementary School for the opportunity to teach art as a method to level the playing field and facilitate problem-solving, risk-taking and creative decision-making skills in students. 

Young earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and has done work in gifted and leadership education at the University of South Florida. In addition to teaching, she serves in various leadership roles, including mentoring new teachers.

Second Stop:

Next, the bus pulled into Venice High School (VHS) where the school band struck up a rousing song when the High School Teacher of the Year, Josh Grant, walked in expecting to help with a school video project. When Grant’s young daughter rushed up to him amid cheers from the Tribute Team and students and a student read a letter she had written to recommend Grant for the Teacher of the Year honor, the former high school football player was visibly moved.

Grant has taught for seven years, the last four at VHS. After teaching English and journalism, he switched to career and technical arts this school year. He is passionate about using productive discussion to teach students to state clear and cogent arguments, understand another point of view and respond appropriately, and make sound decisions.

Grant earned his teaching certification through State College of Florida’s alternative certification program after completing his bachelor’s in British and American Literature at University of South Florida.

Third Stop:

The final stop on the tour was Sarasota Military Academy. Student cadets, in uniforms, lined up in the school’s courtyard and, as the American flag waved in the background, they celebrated middle school math teacher Marissa Dobbert as Middle School Teacher of the Year. Dobbert’s parents, sisters, grandparents and cousin were on hand to witness the surprise.

Dobbert has taught since 2015 and has been head of the math department for two years. She currently teaches sixth and seventh grades and leads the mentoring program for 12 new teachers in different subject areas.

Dobbert has a master’s degree from National Louis University and a bachelor’s degree from Florida Gulf Coast University. In addition to teaching and leadership responsibilities, Dobbert achieved ESOL and Reading Endorsements and has been a summer course recovery teacher since 2016. 

The overall district Teacher of the Year for 2019 will be announced from among the three finalists at Ignite Education Teacher of the Year Awards Celebration held from 10:30 a.m. to noon Dec. 11 at The Westin Sarasota. More information and tickets are available at

To further amplify the importance of teachers on their students and the community, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County also will recognize the nominees and crown the recipient of the second annual Alumni of Distinction award.


About the Teacher of the Year Program

The 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 three 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 partner working to advance philanthropic support for Sarasota County Schools. Its mission is 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 43,900 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



2020 Elementary TOTY   2020 High School TOTY   2020 Middle School TOTY


First stop: Venice Elementary School teacher Heather Young, 2020 Elementary Teacher of the Year

Second stop: Venice High School teacher Josh Grant, 2020 High School Teacher of the Year

Third stop: Sarasota Military Academy teacher Marissa Dobbert, 2020 Middle School Teacher of the Year