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Golden Apple teachers have their night to shine

By Staff | Apr 4, 2009

Apples of glimmering gold shone brightly in their smiling recipient’s hands during the 22nd annual Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Dinner on Friday.
The Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Program is designed to showcase excellence in the classroom through a rigorous nominations process that narrowed down 2,500 exemplary teachers this year to six recipients.
Members of the Lee County School Board, the superintendent, educators and local business leaders gathered at the Harborside Event Center on Friday night for the live broadcast of the recognition dinner.
The 2009 Golden Apple recipients included Tilisa Skerczak from Sunshine Elementary, Jennifer Tomlinson from Fort Myers High, Mirta Torres from Spring Creek Elementary, Debra Hornick from Tice Elementary, Leisha Roy from Gulf Middle and Debbie Suhrie from Trafalgar Elementary.
There were 25 Golden Apple finalists and an additional 69 teachers who were recognized as Teachers of Distinction for scoring high in this year’s selections process.
Leisha Roy, a health teacher at Gulf Middle, has taught for 16 years and was recognized as the 2008 Florida Alliance of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Dance and Sport Health Teacher of the Year.
Student Katina White introduced Roy before she accepted the award.
“She is dedicated, charismatic and a personable teacher,” said White.
During her acceptance, Roy stressed the importance of communicating with teenagers.
“As a health teacher I get a lot of interesting questions, ones that might be too embarrassing but are fair game for Ms. Roy. My best teaching comes from these answers and students realize I am an adult they can trust,” said Roy.
Debbie Suhrie, a teacher at Trafalgar Elementary, has been an educator for 33 years and has been a teacher at Trafalgar Elementary for the past seven years.
Suhrie’s student Tanner Wilson introduced her before she was presented with the apple.
“I was lucky to be in Ms. Suhrie’s first grade classroom,” said Wilson. “She calls her classroom Suhrie’s Safari. When Ms. Suhrie reads, everything is an adventure. We go bananas for all the singing and dancing we do.”
Suhrie told the story of a fellow teacher named Mr. Patterson who was assisted by a student when his car broke down. She stressed the different kind of intelligence that student exhibited.
“Our job as educators and parents is to find that intelligence and nurture that talent. I try to wrap my lessons around the student strengths and stretch their boundaries,” said Suhrie.
Since the beginning of the school year the recipients were visited 13 times for observations by members of the award selection committee.
They were judged on the art of teaching, communication, concern for students’ needs and the ability to inspire the love of learning.
Six were finally chosen and take home the 18-karat gold encased apple, a lapel pin, a name badge, $3,000 cash award, a leather portfolio, membership in the Academy of Teachers and an invitation to the Collegium for the Advancement of Teaching. Their individual schools also receive $1,000.
Florida Commissioner of Education Eric Smith addressed the audience on Friday night. Last year he was unable to attend the recognition dinner because of a scheduling conflict during the legislative session.
“What is very special about tonight and this community is that you as leaders, parents and corporate executives, and concerned citizens have chosen to take time and dignify this profession and a select group of teachers tonight,” said Smith.