Alachua County Public Schools honors year's top educators
Glen Springs' Donna Schroeder named 2014 Teacher of the Year
Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 9:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 9:30 p.m.
Donna Schroeder began her teaching career in 1969, when she was 21 years old. She never looked back.
2014's top teachers
High school teachers of the year:
Tammy Meyers, Eastside High; Dawn Bekaert, Gainesville High; Amy MacCord, Hawthorne High; Patti Markoch, Sidney Lanier Center; Rikki Boria, Professional Academies Magnet at Loften High; Lance Hardy, Newberry High; Valerie Pfister, Santa Fe High; Marilyn Booher, Buchholz High.
Middle school teachers of the year:
Joseph Dickens, Howard Bishop Middle; Sean Sand, High Springs Community School; John MonMarquette, Horizon Center; J. Collin Whitlock, Kanapaha Middle; Jillian Geis, Lincoln Middle; Jenn Diley, Mebane Middle; Stephen Carter, Oak View Middle; Barbara Toops, Westwood Middle; Amanda Bush, Fort Clarke Middle.
Elementary school teachers of the year:
Toby Rudd, Alachua Elementary; Christy Thomas, Archer Elementary; Monica Leon, Chiles Elementary; Alex J. Martinez, Duval Elementary; Ellen Meeker, Finley Elementary; Jamie Nations, Stephen Foster Elementary; Sam Pearl, Hidden Oak Elementary; Dena Robinson, Idylwild Elementary; Michelle Thurmond, Irby Elementary; Talisha Jordan, A. Quinn Jones Center; Kutura Woods, Lake Forest Elementary; Erin M. Cushing, Littlewood Elementary; Allen Finney, Meadowbrook Elementary; Dorothy Wilkins, Metcalfe Elementary; Kelly Wyckoff, Newberry Elementary; Shellie McSwain, Norton Elementary; Sarah Myhre, Rawlings Elementary; Michelle Green, Shell Elementary; Valerie Linn, Talbot Elementary; Leanne Baker, Terwilliger Elementary; Lelia Powell, Waldo Community School; Annette Redwine, Wiles Elementary; Sara McKechnie, Williams Elementary; Donna Schroeder, Glen Springs Elementary.
“And I have always loved it,” Schroeder said Thursday, after she was named Alachua County Public Schools' 2014 Teacher of the Year.
More than 500 people packed Trinity United Methodist Church for the 2014 Robert W. Hughes Teacher Recognition Program for Alachua County Public Schools.
Forty-one teachers were honored, including Schroeder, who has taught a combined classroom of kindergarten, first and second grade at Glen Springs Elementary for the past 12 years.
She also taught in Starke and at Metcalfe Elementary, and spent 20 years as the director of a preschool.
“I represent you,” Schroeder told the teachers in the room, after former Superintendent Dan Boyd introduced her. “I am a teacher just like you are. Thank you so much, I have always loved being a teacher.”
The Idylwild Elementary Eagle Singers, wearing matching red shirts, led the crowd into the program with “Keep a Candle Glowing.” Later in the program, Buchholz High senior Hua-Lin Wu sang “Fly Me to the Moon,” made famous by Frank Sinatra.
The teacher recognition program is important, School Board Chairman Gunnar Paulson said.
Teaching, Paulson said, is “a profession that is a calling, not just a job. A profession that helps us mold our most precious resource: our youth.”
And Alachua County public school students go far, interim Superintendent Hershel Lyons said.
“Our students are achieving great things, thanks in large part to our dedicated and talented teachers,” he said. “Almost every day there's a new accomplishment and that's a part of this job that I really enjoy.”
Leo Zsembik, a junior at Buchholz, introduced the high school finalist for teacher of the year, chemistry teacher Marilyn Booher.
He thanked her for the life lessons and the education he received during two years in her classes, but also for her personal interest in her students.
“While it is undeniable that Ms. Booher's statistics as a teacher are impressive, her greatest quality is that she honest-to-god cares,” he said.
Booher is retiring this year, after spending 32 of her 38 years teaching at Buchholz High.
“I've even changed the name to Boo-holz,” she said.
To those who will remain in the schools, she threw out three challenges: for the School Board and the teachers to hold the state Legislature accountable to students; for Buchholz faculty to prepare students to deal with life after high school; and for her students to “be the best you can be,” she said. “Every one of you has the power to impact the world in a positive way.”
Annie Freedman, the daughter of 2007 Teacher of the Year Sarah Freedman, was once in Amanda Bush's class at Fort Clarke Middle, and introduced her as the middle school finalist.
Mrs. Bush is kindhearted, understanding, knowledgeable, influential and organized, Annie said. She's also great at communicating with her students and managing her classroom — all qualities of a great teacher.
“There are a plethora more, but I don't think there's enough time,” Annie said.
Teaching at any level is a challenge, Bush said, but middle school is truly unique.
One of her jobs out of college was a two-day stint as a middle school substitute.
“I seem to have blocked much of that experience from my memory,” she said, but she does remember vowing to her mother she'd never teach middle school.
“Now, after four years at the Fort, I'm proud to say I was wrong,” Bush said. “Middle school is the best kept secret in education.”
Before Schroeder was announced the winner, Glen Springs Elementary second-grader Evelyn Ragsdale introduced her teacher, with whom she's spent three years.
Mrs. Schroeder, Evelyn said, is “one of the most important people in my life. I love school and I love her very much.”
Schroeder said she loves her students, too, and almost everything about being a teacher.
“I like new boxes of crayons. I like freshly sharpened pencils,” she said.
“I also like the last day of school,” Schroeder said, to laughter from the audience.
But there are very few careers in the world where you get to see the light of discovery in a child's eyes, she said. The enthusiasm of elementary schoolers, especially, is unparalleled and inspiring.
“They are so funny and wise,” she said. “How wonderful they are.”