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Three Teachers Learn They Are Finalists for District Teacher of the Year

SARASOTA, Fla. (November 10, 2023) – On Friday morning, November 10, the teacher tribute bus tour left from the Sarasota County Schools district office at the Landings. On the bus were school administrators, former Teacher of the Year Award recipients, Education Foundation of Sarasota County team members, and local reporters. They visited three schools to share with three teachers some exciting news: they had been named finalists for the Sarasota County Teacher of the Year Award. 

This year’s finalists are:   

In coordination with school-based staff, a surprise event was held for each teacher to recognize their accomplishment as a Teacher of the Year finalist. Dennis Pinna, who thought he was attending professional development with his social studies colleagues, was surprised in the North Port High School gym, where the advanced orchestra class performed, and students and cheerleaders cheered. Haley Brown thought she was attending a school assembly when she was surprised by the tribute bus entourage coming out from behind the curtains to celebrate her. Ronnique Major was surprised to step out of her classroom door to find the other fifth-grade classes, her family, and the tribute tour group clapping and cheering loudly to congratulate her.

The event and announcement of the finalists is part of the annual Ignite Education Teacher of the Year Award Celebration, which the Education Foundation sponsors in partnership with Sarasota County Schools. 

“This tribute tour is one of my favorite events of the year,” said Education Foundation President and CEO, Jennifer Vigne. “It’s great to see the surprise and excitement when teachers learn they are finalists for Teacher of the Year. The recognition is so important because of the outsized role teachers play in our community. These dedicated professionals keep their students safe while instilling in them a lifelong love of learning.

“We are grateful,” added Vigne, “for this opportunity to partner with the district to highlight to the community the amazing teachers who do so much every day for thousands of students.”

Participants in this year’s teacher tribute tour included Vigne; Terry Connor, Superintendent of Sarasota County Schools; School Board members Tim Enos, Robyn Marinelli, Karen Rose, and Tom Edwards; Chris Renouf, Chief of Staff at Sarasota County Schools; Rachel O’Dea, Assistant Superintendent / Chief Academic Officer; Megan Green, Chief of High Schools; Dr. Brandon Johnson, Chief of Middle Schools; Jennifer Mainelli, Chief of Elementary Schools; Lee Broyles, Director of Service Center Operations – Suncoast Credit Union; Troy Simmons, VP of Service Center Operations – Suncoast Credit Union; previous Teacher of the Year Award recipients; and many others. In addition, principals Shannon Fusco and Cameron Parker as well as assistant principal Eileen Cabrera, along with family members of the honorees, participated in their schools’ celebrations.    

“We are excited to celebrate this year’s Teacher of the Year finalists,” said Terry Connor. “These teachers have made a tremendous difference in the lives of their students and colleagues. Teachers are the cornerstone of a student’s learning journey, and we are thankful for all of our teachers and the daily investment they make to enhance the potential of their students. We appreciate the continued support of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County as we pursue our shared focus of educational excellence for all who learn and work in our school communities.”

This year’s Ignite Education Teacher of the Year Award Celebration will be held on Wednesday, December 13, at the Venice Community Center. Forty-six school-based Teacher of the Year finalists will be honored, and one of the three finalists will be named the Sarasota County Teacher of the Year. One teacher will also be recognized as the Innovation Teacher of the Year.

Throughout 2024, 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. 

This celebration is made possible because of generous sponsors. The Education Foundation is grateful for presenting sponsor Sunset Automotive Group as well as Publix Super Markets Charities and Suncoast Credit Union.

For more information about the Ignite Education Teacher of the Year Awards Celebration, including ticket availability, visit