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Cape Coral teachers shine

By Staff | Mar 7, 2009

Six Lee County teachers were presented with Golden Apples this week in honor of their outstanding performance in the classroom.
Besides taking home the apple statuette — made of pewter marble encased in 18 karat gold — they also receive a cash award worth $3,000, a lapel pin, leather portfolio and membership in the Academy of Teachers.
Although none of these prizes compare to the satisfaction they feel everyday in the classroom.
Deborah Suhrie, a first grade teacher at Trafalgar Elementary, was shocked when a group of 35 people entered her room Wednesday afternoon to present her with the apple.
“I totally didn’t expect it,” said Suhrie. “I had the classes’ space projects all over the floor.”
An educator for 33 years, Suhrie has been in Lee County for the last seven and was part of the first batch of teachers at Trafalgar Elementary. This is her third year as a Golden Apple finalist.
Throughout her tenure as an educator she has taught all over the United States. Her first job was teaching on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico. Later she taught in West Virginia for four years and worked in California until 2002.
“They said I made learning fun, that I was their friend and we always did fun projects,” said Suhrie.
Her class was studying outer space and Suhrie incorporated both academic and hands-on activities to help different types of students learn. They launched rockets made of 35 mm film canisters — propelled by effervescent tablets –designed posters about space and held Reader’s Theatre.
Suhrie said the selections process wasn’t too difficult, but she had 12 separate visits from each judge and not always at times when she expected someone to visit her classroom.
“It’s not difficult but you never know when they are going to come,” she said. “We didn’t change anything we did, we just didn’t expect them.”
On Thursday during a community circle with her students she let the students hold the apple and had them express their feelings on having a “Golden Apple” teacher.
“They said they were excited and I wanted to cry,” said Suhrie. “Everyone is deserving of a Golden Apple.”
Another local Golden Apple recipient, Leisha Roy, health teacher at Gulf Middle, also was recognized by the Lee County School Board for being named Florida Health Educator of the Year.
Roy said she was worried that the often controversial nature of her health curriculum would persuade the judges from choosing her as an apple recipient.
“I was worried because I am open and honest with the kids,” she said. “As much as we don’t admit it, adults are uncomfortable about these subjects.”
Roy employs a program in her class where students take home computerized babies set to cry during random hours of the night. Entitled “Baby Think It Over,” it’s designed to prevent teen pregnancy. She also discusses sex and reproductive topics.
Furthermore, she said the first of 12 observations by the selections committee was her first day with a brand new group of students in a different room because Gulf Middle is remodeling the school.
“I can teach other things but this is my love,” she said.
Roy has been the health teacher at Gulf Middle for the past 16 years, was a finalist two years ago and has been recognized as a Teacher of Distinction half a dozen times. She was stunned when a group of nearly 40 people entered her classroom to give her the award.
“I was really shocked; normally I’ve always got something to say but I had nothing to say,” said Roy.
And now Roy said she is nervous about delivering a speech at the recognition dinner on April 3.
“It adds stress,” she said. “The kids are cracking up because I have to give a speech at the dinner.”
Roy said she wanted to have a celebratory party with some of her colleagues, but instead will wait until after April 3 because of her busy schedule.