The glittering Golden Apple Award was presented to 10 phenomenal educators in teaching’s biggest night of the year.
The Golden Apple Award is bestowed upon those outstanding public school teachers in Hendry County; those teachers who go the extra mile to ensure their students receive the highest level of academic achievement and do everything in their power to get them there, including coming to work early and staying at work late.
As the 21st Annual Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Dinner commenced on Feb. 4, excited teachers, along with their family and friends, gathered at the John Boy Auditorium for dinner and a show.
The program began with two humorous movies depicting how the ten Golden Apple nominees spend their “free time.” The first movie, set to the song “Walking on Sunshine,” showed five of the female nominees splashing around at the beach, their faces imbedded on cartoon bodies.
Laughter filled the room as two nominees splashed around in the “shark-filled” water, and two others buried each other in the sand. Not to leave the other five nominees out, including the only male teacher to be nominated for the award, the second movie showed those five dancing an exceptionally well-performed Riverdance routine.
Presenter Jodi Bell assured the audience that “teaching is not the only talent we have in Hendry County.”
Bell then introduced a special guest who came all the way from Tallahassee. Brian Dassler, Florida Department of Education’s deputy chancellor for Educator Quality, extended a warm greeting from the Department’s Commissioner, Pam Stewart, and Gov. Rick Scott.
“Thank you for making Florida the best place for our students to learn,” said Gov. Scott through Dassler.
Before the Golden Apple Awards were distributed, Ron Hamel, of Gulf Citrus Growers Association, presented the Brilliant Orange Award, which was given to six exceptional teachers from Hendry County’s elementary, middle and high schools. The winners received a plaque and $50.
Next, Deputy Superintendent Gordon Swaggerty Jr. presented the Heritage Award. In its third year, the Heritage Award was presented to Bo Davidson, a veteran Hendry County school board member. Davidson sat on the board for 32 years after he was appointed in November 1968. In those 32 years, Davidson never missed a meeting.
Swaggerty calculated that Davidson attended 768 meetings, not including special meetings, during his eight consecutive terms.
Finally, the moment came when the ten teachers would be introduced and awarded for their commitment to Hendry County schools.
The principals from each school introduced a student who has been influenced by the nominated teacher. The students were current and former students, one even drove four hours from the University of Florida to introduce her former middle school history teacher.
One by one, students recounted funny stories about moments in the classroom and relived the significant steps those teachers took to change that student’s life for the better.
As the teachers accepted their awards and posed for a picture alongside their respective principal and student, the moment came when the Teacher of the Year would be announced.
Superintendent Paul Puletti had the honor of announcing the outstanding teacher, but first recounted a story about what makes Hendry County schools so special.
Puletti said he recently walked into the administrative office of one school, and was greeted by the receptionist with, “Hey baby, what do you need?”
Flattered by the receptionist’s compliment, he thought to himself that “he still had it.” What he didn’t realize was the kindergartner standing behind him to whom the receptionist was addressing.
That, said Puletti, is what makes Hendry County schools so great. In that moment, he said, the kindergartner was the most important person in the room.
Puletti gave up the podium for a moment to allow the 2014 Teacher of the Year to share her experiences representing Hendry County’s public schools.
Keri Alford gave a heartwarming speech about her efforts as a teacher and said she was honored to have represented her school and humbled to have represented Hendry County.
Puletti returned to the podium and asked for the “envelope, please.”
The 2015 District Teacher of the Year was awarded to Kim Jordan, exceptional student education teacher at LaBelle Elementary School. The 13-year veteran teacher was moved to tears as she accepted the award. Jordan thanked her boss, who she said inspires her and requires more from her ever day — a quality that she appreciates and welcomes because it pushes her to become the best teacher she can be.
Below is the list of the Golden Apple Award recipients:
- Brianna Catalina, first grade, Westside Elementary School
- Pam Crockett, Art, LaBelle Middle School
- Diane Fromm, fifth grade, Upthegrove Elementary School
- Melinda Gebhardt, exceptional student education grades three to five, Central Elementary School
- Rhonda Kosh, guidance councelor, LaBelle High School
- Mary Ann Mammen, seventh grade civics, Clewiston Middle School
- Kristin Mann, fourth grade, Eastside Elementary School
- Reko Parantha, ESE algebra, Clewiston High School
- Kristen Walker, fourth grade, Country Oaks Elementary School
- Teacher of the Year Kim Jordan, exceptional student education, LaBelle Elementary School