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Two Tropic Isles educators earn honors

By Staff | Oct 25, 2010

A teacher and the interim principal at North Fort Myers’ Tropic Isles Elementary School recently received two top honors.
Teacher Andrea Garber, for the second year in a row, has won the prestigious Excel Award, and Interim Principal Brandy Macchia has been promoted to Senior Examiner status for the Sterling Examiner Corp., which helps determine the Governor’s Sterling Award For Excellence.
Garber’s Excel Award honors exceptional educators in Florida whose students learned at least one-and-a-half times the average student in their grade and achievement level in reading or math. Former Gov. Jeb Bush and educator and author Ron Clark will present the award to her on Saturday, Oct. 30, in Orlando.
“Only two teachers in all of Lee County earned this honor,” said Macchia of Garber’s achievement. “We are all very, very proud of her.”
Garber is a fourth grade teacher at the school.
“I’ve been at Tropic Isles for 23 years, 19 years in fourth grade,” Garber said. “I’m very proud of this award but this is something the whole school shares. The fourth grade teachers always work as a team. If we find that a child needs a certain skill we help each other with that so that child becomes successful in learning that particular skill.”
Of the award itself, she said, “I’m extremely honored.”
She met the former governor last year when she accepted her first award then, and is looking forward to this year’s presentation. It is part of the Foundation for Excellence in Education “Celebration of Teaching” that will include a roundtable of sharing teaching strategies that lead to success.
Of her own success, she said, variety in materials is key. “We read a diversified amount of materials, a plethora if you will. I don’t stick to one type of reading material and the students like that. We also do themes throughout all the classes, including math, and do art projects.”
In the roundtables, she said, all of the state’s Excel winning teachers share their secrets of success. “The bottom line is that everyone there loves teaching, and has the best interest of children.”
She will be accompanied to the ceremony by Macchia. “This award is so important because reading is the key to life success. It is important we get students at a young age, to make them lifelong readers,” Macchia said.
Macchia herself has received notification that she has been promoted to Lead Examiner within the Sterling Examiner Corp. by the Florida Sterling Council, which will determine winners for the Governor’s Sterling Award For Excellence.
Her promotion was based upon recommendations from the Sterling Examiner Committee, which considered criteria such as exemplary participation as a Sterling Examiner over the past years, as well as contributions to the professional development, teamwork and networking of the Sterling Examiner Corps.
Additional consideration was given to years of service, number of site visits completed and recommendations from team leaders for the promotion.
The goal of the examiners is to help the school district achieve strategic goals, including creating systems of teaching and learning that will ensure each student reaches his or her highest potential, and create an organizational design to achieve the district’s mission and objectives.
Macchia said it is a process of learning success from different organizations. “You go on site visits and do a case study on organizations applying for the Governor’s Sterling Award,” she said. “You then provide feedback, identifying strengths and opportunities for improvement.”
These can be a variety of organizations, large and small. One example was working with a Miami-based hospital last year.
“Many organizations are just looking to improve,” she said. “My role as an examiner is to help that organization to capitalize on its strengths and identify the greatest opportunities of improvement.”
She’s been doing this for more than four years. “I enjoy the experience. I also enjoy working with people from different sectors, looking at good management, leadership and more. You can do an organization with two people to one with 3,000 people and see how they approach things. It helps them and you improve and grow.”