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Students, teachers feted for educational excellence

By Staff | May 1, 2015

They are among the best and the brightest. One is a colonel in the JROTC, another was a previous recipient, while another is a member of the U.S. National sailing team. Some are athletes, all are students.

As for the educators, one had won the award once already, while another had just won a $5,000 grant from Century Link just hours earlier.

The students and educators from Cape Coral and North Fort Myers were recognized for their hard work Monday at the 23rd annual Excellence in Education Awards at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre.

The awards, presented by the Breeze Newspapers and the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce, among others, paid tribute to the 30 students and teachers at each school, and many of the higher ups in the Lee County Public Schools system were on hand.

“The Cape does a great job appreciating our children and they do a great job recognizing our teachers and students,” said Steve Tueber, vice chairman of the Lee County School Board. “It’s a great opportunity for us to do that.”

Chrysten Foley, assistant director of recruitment at Nova Southeastern and the chairperson for the education committee for the Chamber, which puts on this event as well as the Principal’s Luncheon and Taste of the Cape, said the principals choose the best educators, while the educators pick the best students.

“It’s a great way to recognize the students who are here, and hopefully they’ll come back to the community and give back in the future,” said Foley, a product of Cape Coral schools. “This is a great opportunity to inspire students to reach for more.”

Kevin Hunter, campus director, said Nova has graduated much of the faculty through its master and doctorate programs, and that the caliber of recipients continues to be strong.

“It’s great seeing young individuals go across the stage. We have some talented students in Southwest Florida,” Hunter said. “We’re glad to be a proud sponsor.

On top of earning plaques, each high school recipient also got a $1,000 scholarship.

The event featured music from the North Fort Myers Academy Steel, directed by Christina Moffat and the Diplomat Middle School Jazz Cats, directed by Linda Mann.

Oasis Elementary School principal Steven Hook hosted the event, with Cynthia Gallagher of the Breeze Newspapers and Christie Kurtz, Lee County assistant superintendent of schools also saying a few words.

North Fort Myers graduate Emily Teachout was the keynote speaker. Teachout joined the Peace Corps after graduating from Florida State University, serving in Paraguay for two years.

She said she was privileged to be in speaking in front of excellence and praised the winners for their achievements and for being nominated by their peers.

“Somebody else thought you were so great that you were excellent, which goes beyond good. You have achieved a standard of near perfection in someone’s eyes,” Teachout said.

But the real stars were the recipients, and they came up to accept their awards at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

Kylie Marie Kellermeier of Mariner High School is the highest ranking officer for the JROTC as a Cadet Colonel and Brigade Commander. She said she hopes to take her dreams into the military and eventually into the veterinary sciences.

“It’s a great honor. I didn’t think I would be honored because I’m recognized for my rank, but for them to choose me was something I will hold close to my heart,” Kellermeier said.

Justin Callahan, a fifth-grader at Oasis Elementary, is on the U.S. national sailing team with his twin brother. With all his accomplishments, he said it was an honor to represent his school.

“It’s amazing to be the best student in the whole school. I was in Peru for two weeks with the U.S. sailing team,” Callahan said. “I hope to go to Harvard and go to the Olympics in sailing.”

Noah Pegg of Island Coast High School won as a middle school student four years ago and took home another Monday, thanks to a nomination from Joe Mallon, a Golden Apple recipient last year.

“It’s a big honor. It’s amazing I was able to achieve excellence and recognized by my teachers for it and I don’t ask for recognition,” Pegg said.

Educators included Quinn Schnabel of Diplomat Middle School, who earned a $5,000 grant earlier in the day which will be used to buy word processors to better the students’ typing skills.

For the teachers, who get little more than an extra line on their resume, it was still a great honor to attain the award.

“It’s a real great honor and I feel really privileged people think that highly of me,” said Sandra Henson of North Nicholas High School.

“It’s a great chance to get together with a lot of other great educators. It’s great to be recognized,” said Jimmy Melvin, physics teacher at North Fort Myers High School. “Sometimes teachers feel they don’t get recognized, but when this happens, you begin to think that maybe people do see what you’re doing in the classroom.”