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Lee’s Golden Apple winners feted at annual dinner

By Staff | Apr 5, 2008

Six Lee County teachers were honored for winning the Golden Apple — an award recognizing excellence in education — at the program’s annual dinner held Friday at the Harborside Event Center in Fort Myers.

The six winners included Cape Elementary teacher Debra Leith, North Fort Myers art teacher Dyann Miller, Riverdale chemistry teacher Ella Grady, Three Oaks Middle music teacher Jim Knecht, J. Colin English Elementary teacher Suzanne Roberts and Cypress Lake Middle geography teacher Dawn Voyer.

Marshall Bower, the executive director of the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, introduced each of the winners at the beginning of evening. The annual dinner also serves as an opportunity for professionals in education and the business community to discuss their ideas and concerns about education.

“The Golden Apple program has enjoyed a very high level of respect and the support from the community since it was first started 21 years ago,” said Bower. “The program recognizes and applauds the outstanding teachers in Lee County schools.”

More than 2,500 nominations forms were filled out on teachers from all over the county, and 100 applications were carefully scrutinized to decide on who would be a finalist and, ultimately, a winner.

Suzanne Roberts, a third grade teacher at J. Colin English Elementary School in North Fort Myers, discussed the impact one of her teachers had on her.

“It was because of her that I made the decision to become a teacher,” said Roberts.

And Roberts explained that when she first began student teaching she knew that she had made the right career choice.

“Each year when I see the new students I have the opportunity to influence their future,” she said. “As a teacher the most satisfaction I feel is not in my paychecks, but in the accomplishments of my students.”

Dyann Miller, an art teacher at North Fort Myers High, said she always wanted to be one of those teachers who made an impact on students’ lives.

“I would like to believe that each of you has had a positive teacher that has impacted your life significantly and you are different today because of that teacher,” said Miller. “I believe all children have talent and a desire to express themselves.”

She explained that higher level thinking skills are at the core of each student’s education. She wants her students to process visions and thoughts every day to be able to see from a new vantage point in life.

Debra Leith, a second grade teacher at Cape Elementary, said she is honored to be one of the many people who care about children.

“Knowledge, acceptance and self confidence: Those three words are the foundation on which I teach every single day,” said Leith. “Teaching means accepting every child for who they are and working to provide for their individual needs.”

In her second grade class, Leith tries to allow each child to accept themselves and gain confidence in their mistakes.

“I truly believe that acceptance of oneself that leaves to self confidence, and its self confidence that leads to success,” she said.

Besides members of the local business community, the evening also included all five members of the Lee County School Board and the Superintendent of Schools, James Browder.

Golden Apple winners receive their Golden Apple trophy, $3,000 in cash, a Golden Apple lapel pin, a leather portfolio, membership in the Academy of Teachers, an invitation to attend the Collegium for the Advancement of Teaching, as well as a $1,000 cash award for their school.