Sanibel teacher named on Golden Apple finalist list
A new educator at The Sanibel School made the cut for this year’s Golden Apple award finalists.
On Jan. 18, the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools announced the 32nd Annual Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Program finalists. Fourth-grade educator Joe Camputaro, who joined the island school this year but has been employed by the district since 2004, was among the 30 names on the list.
“These finalists are dedicated professionals who are representative of all the excellent teachers in the Lee County School District who we entrust with the responsibility of educating our greatest community asset, our students,” foundation President Marshall T. Bower said in a prepared statement.
On the day of the announcement, the finalists were surprised in their classroom with the news.
“Absolute shock and pure excitement,” Camputaro said of his reaction. “It was a very surreal feeling.”
He was named as a finalist last year too, but did not receive a Golden Apple.
“I was honestly surprised to be named two consecutive years as a finalist,” Camputaro said.
“It was pretty exciting to say the least,” he added.
A native New Yorker, Camputaro holds a bachelor’s in communications and media studies, but changed careers when he moved to Florida in 2004. He joined the Lee County School District that same year.
“I wanted something more fulfilling,” he said. “I wanted to give back and do more for the community.”
Camputaro called teaching his “true passion.”
“The greatest thing about being an educator or a teacher is every day is a new day. It’s never the same,” he said, adding that his students deserve the credit for that.
In his prior career, Camputaro spent a lot of time in a cubicle, which was far from exciting.
“But I get plenty of excitement and fun and laughter with my kids,” he said.
Prior to joining The Sanibel School, Camputaro worked in the East Zone, including at Harns Marsh Elementary and Sunshine Elementary in Lehigh Acres and Manatee Elementary in Fort Myers.
He noted that he loves working with elementary students.
“At that age, the kids are so excited and eager to learn new things and share their experiences at school and home,” Camputaro said.
In the classroom, his style is to marry traditional teaching with today’s gadgets.
“It’s like a blended learning environment,” he said, adding that he incorporates technology like VR headsets and even made a green screen for his students so they can make videos and animation.
His wife, Alexis, is a third-grade teacher at the school and his daughter is a student.
“It came to be a family affair, so to speak,” Camputaro said.
Outside of the classroom, he serves on a handful of leadership committees for the school district, including as chair of the Curriculum Advisory Committee, on the Teacher Evaluation Committee and was recently appointed to the Strategic Planning Committee. He is also a sports league organizer.
“As Joe’s principal, I am thrilled for him to be recognized as a teacher. He will not only represent himself well, but the teaching profession and The Sanibel School,” Principal Chuck Vilardi said. “Joe has a true passion for students and their learning. He goes above and beyond in his planning to meet the needs of all of his students.”
“I feel so fortunate to have Joe as a new addition to the Sanibel teaching staff. He fits right in with our school family,” he continued. “Joe deeply cares about his students and it shows. It has been a neat process as his principal to watch him build a sense of community in his classroom. He has high expectations for each of them. I also admire that he brings the real world into the classroom.”
“I am so proud of him,” Vilardi added.
Camputaro had an opportunity to see some of the nomination forms his students filled out.
“It was incredibly humbling and I was overwhelmed,” he said, explaining that the youth shared kind and warm words about him. “They have been so supportive – they are really pulling for me.”
“If I wind up being a recipient this year, it is definitely a team effort,” Camputaro added.
The finalists will be personally interviewed and observed in their classroom by the Golden Apple selection committee, and six teachers will be selected as the Golden Apple Award recipients.
According to the foundation, the Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Program was the first major project it founded and developed for the Lee County Public Schools. Since its inception, as a way to enhance public education by recognizing and rewarding excellence in teaching, the foundation has awarded 183 educators with the prestigious Golden Apple Teacher Award.