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Garden Elementary School’s Timothy Ferguson named district’s 2023 Teacher of the Year

SARASOTA, Fla. (Jan. 18, 2023) – Timothy Ferguson, a music teacher at Garden Elementary School, was named the 2023 Sarasota County Teacher of the Year at the Ignite Education Teacher of the Year Award Celebration hosted by the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. 

  Ferguson, who has taught music for 20 years in New York and Florida, will represent district teachers throughout the 2023 calendar year and serve as the Sarasota County Schools nominee for state Teacher of the Year. 

  During the event, Amber Rylak, a physical education teacher at Emma E. Booker Elementary School, was recognized as the Innovation Teacher of the Year. This award honors teachers who use new, exciting lessons and strategies to meet their students’ unique needs and prepare them for the 21st century.  

  “It’s so important for us to show appreciation for our teachers and all of their hard work,” commented Chris Renouf, Acting Superintendent of Sarasota County Schools. “Our educators pave the way for their students’ current and future success through their compassion, expertise, and genuine love of teaching and learning. We are thrilled to join the Education Foundation to honor our teachers!” 

  Each year, thanks to generous donor support, the Education Foundation hosts this exciting event, which brings together exceptional teachers and their families, school and district administrators, local politicians, and business and community leaders. This year’s event was held at the Venice Community Center. 

  The award celebration was emceed by the 2021 and 2022 district Teachers of the Year, both of whom were top-five Florida Teacher of the Year finalists, Kari Johnson and Dr. Jennifer Jaso. Guest speaker George Couros, author of “Because of a Teacher: Stories of the Past to Inspire the Future of Education” and other books, discussed the power of teachers and the vital role they play in the lives of their students.   

  Leading up to the announcement of the teacher of the year, videos showcased Ferguson as well as his fellow district Teacher of the Year Award finalists—Joseph Conner of Venice Middle School and Courtney Smith of Booker High School.  

  “These celebrations are vital for teachers—and for our community,” said Jennifer Vigne, president and CEO of the Education Foundation. “No matter the circumstances, teachers do so much for their students and truly keep Sarasota County thriving. This event reflects our deep, abiding support for all the amazing educators across the district.” 

  Thanks to the presenting sponsor, Sunset Automotive Group, the Education Foundation presented Ferguson with a $5,000 cash award and Conner, Smith, and Rylak with gifts of $2,500 each. 

  During the ceremony, all 41 Teacher of the Year Award recipients representing schools across the district were honored and celebrated. All received cash gifts of $250 thanks also to Sunset Automotive Group. 

  The Ignite Education Teacher of the Year Award Celebration was made possible by presenting sponsor Sunset Automotive Group and gold sponsors Publix Charities and Suncoast Credit Union. The Education Foundation is grateful for their generosity and support of teachers. 


Headshot of 2023 Teacher of the Year Tim Ferguson        Headshot of 2023 Innovation Teacher of the Year Amber Rylak

   Timothy Ferguson                 Amber Rylak  


About the Education Foundation of Sarasota County 

The Education Foundation of Sarasota County sponsors the Ignite Education: Teacher of the Year annual recognition in conjunction with Sarasota County Schools. The Education Foundation is an independent, philanthropic organization whose mission is to enhance the potential of all students, promote excellence in teaching, and inspire innovation in education, guided by strategic philanthropy and the belief that education changes lives. 


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 55 schools that expertly cater to the diverse needs of all our 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. Working as one, 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 FacebookInstagram and Twitter, or visit