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Florida Department of Education Names Sarasota County Educator Shane Swezey Teacher of the Year Finalist

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 8, 2019 – Sarasota County Schools is excited to announce that Shane Swezey, a music teacher at Oak Park School, has been selected as a state Teacher of the Year finalist. This morning, Jacob Oliva, Chancellor of Public Schools, Paul Burns, Deputy Chancellor for Educator Quality and their team from the Florida Department of Education, joined school district staff and administration at Oak Park School to surprise Mr. Swezey. He is one of five finalists to compete for the 2020 statewide Teacher of the Year. This year’s finalists were chosen from more than 176,900 public school teachers throughout the state.

“We are so pleased that the Florida Department of Education has recognized Shane Swezey as a finalist for the 2020 Teacher of the Year,” commented Todd Bowden, superintendent, Sarasota County Schools. “Shane is a remarkable instructor and provides ongoing inspiration to his students and the entire staff at Oak Park School. Being named a statewide finalist is a perfect way to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week and acknowledge Shane for all he does to ensure his students thrive.”

“Shane Swezey is an example of an educator who goes above and beyond to meet the individual needs of his students, all of whom have special needs,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “As a music therapy teacher, his positive effect on students is measured in a less traditional way, and it is telling that he has helped his students significantly increase their positive behaviors, such as eye contact, verbalizations and peer interaction. He has empowered his students to express their creativity, and we are delighted to name him as a 2020 Teacher of the Year finalist.” 

“I am both humbled and honored to be acknowledged by the Florida Department of Education as a finalist for the 2020 Teacher of the Year, noted Shane Swezey. “Being recognized for simply doing my job – teaching, encouraging and motivating students – is such an incredible feeling. My desire is that this process shines a light on the inherent worth, value and dignity of every one of the students at Oak Park School. I am constantly amazed at the skills and abilities that our students display, emphasizing that disability is truly a matter of perception.”

“The Oak Park community is thrilled that Shane Swezey has been named a finalist,” exclaimed Jamie Lowicz, principal at Oak Park School. “At its most basic, art is a form of communication. Shane is a remarkable educator with an innate ability to use music as his canvas to give all students a voice, both in academics and therapeutic settings. His positivity is infectious, and we are simply delighted he is a finalist for the 2020 Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year.”

Since 2013, Mr. Swezey has provided music education and therapy services to students ages 5 – 22 at Oak Park School, the district’s center school for special needs. He originally studied aerospace engineering at Florida State University but changed course and earned a bachelor’s degree in music therapy and later a master’s degree in music from the University of Kentucky. He is a board-certified music therapist and earned his teaching certification from the State College of Florida. In December, Mr. Swezey was recognized as the Sarasota County Schools Teacher of the Year at the Ignite Education celebration held by the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.

After each school district selects its Teacher of the Year, a selection committee representing teachers, principals, parents and the business community reviews each district application on the basis of outstanding ability to teach and communicate knowledge of the subject taught, professional development, philosophy of teaching, and outstanding school and community service.  

Mr. Swezey will go on to compete with four other finalists from the state of Florida in Tallahassee in June. After interviews are completed, each of the 74 District Teachers of the Year will gather in Orlando in July for the Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year Roundtable and Gala, where the announcement of the 2020 Florida Department Teacher of the Year will be made.

PHOTO CREDIT:  Florida Department of Education. Shane Swezey surrounded by students and staff at Oak Park School along with school district administrators and Florida Department of Education leadership.


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 53 schools that expertly cater to the diverse needs of over 43,000 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