3 vie for top teacher
Published: Thursday, January 26, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 1:31 p.m.
Three veteran teachers with more than 50 years of combined classroom experience have been named finalists in Alachua County's Teacher Recognition Program.
Betsy Seymour of Chiles Elementary, Kathy Baum of Lincoln Middle School and Marie Herring of Eastside High School are now eligible to be selected as Alachua County's Teacher of the Year.
''These wonderful teachers have dedicated their lives to the education of children,'' said Superintendent Dan Boyd. ''It's an honor to be chosen as a finalist, but clearly it's an honor they very much deserve.''
The announcement of which of the three finalists has been selected as the district's teacher of the year will be made Feb. 9 at the 13th annual Robert W. Hughes Teacher Recognition Program. The district's program is named after the superintendent who established it in 1993.
The district winner will go on to represent Alachua County in the Florida Teacher of the Year Program.
Seymour is the most experienced teacher of the three, having spent 27 years in the profession. She's currently teaching first-, second- and third-grade students who need additional academic challenge. She says her goal is to teach children to become problem-solvers, both inside and outside the classroom.
''I love having the opportunity to inspire the students,'' said Seymour. ''Teachers can be heroes every day, and that's very special.''f-z
''Betsy is an outstanding educator,'' said her principal Ann Mullally. ''She's compassionate, she's knowledgeable, and she puts the child first, which is the most important thing.''
Seymour has been nominated by her colleagues at Chiles for teacher of the year honors several times in the past, and has always turned it down. But the overwhelming support she received from the community after the recent passing of her husband, Bud, himself a much-loved and well-respected teacher from Lincoln Middle School, encouraged her to overcome her reluctance to be in the spotlight.
''I feel I'm getting a really big hug from everyone,'' she said. ''I wanted to take the opportunity to receive it and be grateful I work in this community. It's like a gift.''
Marie Herring, a veteran of 17 years, wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember. As a child she tutored other children in her neighborhood, and even gave piano lessons for a nickel.
Today, she teaches math in the International Baccalaureate program at Eastside High School. She says she enjoys the sparkle in her students' eyes when they grasp a new concept. She's also very pleased when her students come up with a new way of doing something she's taught them.
''I like creating an atmosphere for kids to be creative in their thinking,'' she said. ''Sometimes I'll take what they've come up with and use it in the classroom. It's a learning process for me, and I like that.''
Like Seymour, Herring wants her students to learn more than academics while they're in her classroom.
''I hope I'm teaching lifelong learning skills, and I hope I'm a role model for them,'' she said. ''I act the way I want them to act.''
''She's very dedicated, and the students really trust her and enjoy her class,'' said Eastside High principal Mike Thorne. ''She makes math a lot of fun.''
Kathy Baum entered the teaching profession later in life. She was a PTA president and active volunteer at Lake Forest Elementary while her children were attending the school. She enjoyed the experience so much that she took on a job as a teacher's aide and worked as an interpreter for deaf and hard of hearing students.
Then in her 40s, she decided to go back to college to earn her teaching certificate. She's now been a teacher for 10 years, all of them at Lincoln Middle School. She says it's the culmination of a lifelong dream.
''I always wanted to be in a profession that made a difference in the lives of people,'' she said. ''I loved working with children, and I wanted to make a difference in the world.''
''She is not just one of the finest teachers, but one of the finest people I have ever known,'' said Dean Niederkohr, a former principal at both Lake Forest and Lincoln, who has known and worked with Baum for more than 25 years. ''She has such a big heart for children, and is always willing to go the extra mile for them.''
Baum is an exceptional education teacher, which means most of her students have a disability. Although it's challenging, she says working with special needs children is her passion.
''Every child can learn, whether they are disabled or not,'' she said. ''And they learn more if they're motivated. You've got to make learning fun.''
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