2013 'Excellence in Education' Awards: 17 Finalists Surprised at Local Schools

"Surprise patrols" visited Hillsborough public schools this month to announce the finalists for the Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year, Instructional Support Employee of the Year and Teacher of the Year.


Representatives from the Hillsborough Education Foundation visited schools and educational sites this month to surprise and recognized 17 edcators as finalists for this year's Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year, Instructional Support Employee of the Year and Teacher of the Year awards.

"The 17 finalists represent the 'best of the best' from Hillsborough Public Schools," according to a foundation report. "A winner in each category wil be named at the 2013 Excellence in Education Awards banquet, presented by the Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union."

The banquet is scheduled for March 28 at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa.

Hillsborough is the state's third-largest school district, and the nation's eighth-largest. The school system is the county's largest employer.

Among the seven finalists for Teacher of the Year is Cassandra Mattison, a teacher at Spoto High School in Riverview, where she teaches Advanced Placement (AP) English, serves as the department chair and is a writing resource teacher.

  • See Hillsborough Teacher of the Year Surprised at Spoto High School
  • See 2012-13 Teacher of the Year: A List of Finalist Contenders

Among the five finalists for Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year is William F. Leonard II, a social personal and reading teacher for exceptional students at Progress Village Middle Magnet School.

  • See Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator Finalist Named at Progress Village Middle Magnet

The finalists are as follows:

Teacher of the Year Finalists

  • Cassandra Mattison, AP literature, writing resource, English department chair, Spoto High School
  • Dakeya "Dre" Graham, band and orchestra director, King High School
  • Brian Nanns, 7th grade computer applications in business, William Middle Magnet School
  • Krysta Porteus, 7th and 8th grade math and math research, Young Middle Magnet School
  • Sharon S. Smith, EET mentor, first-grade, inclusion, Claywell Elementary School
  • Kyla Bailey, music, second-grade chorus, Lanier Elementary School
  • Kathy Hill, second grade, Mitchell Elementary School

Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year Finalists

  • Leticia Brull, English-as-a-Second-Language (ESOL) resource teacher, Dickenson Elementary School
  • JoAnna Helak, kindergarten and second-grade reading coach, B.T. Washington Elementary School
  • William F. Leonard II, social personal and reading teacher, for 6th, 7th and 8th grade exceptional student education (ESE) and EBD
  • Stacey P. Hirn, fourth-grade math, science, writing and social studies, FishHawk Creek Elementary School
  • Soccorito M. Claudio, fifth-grade language arts and social studies, for exceptional student education (ESE) and ELL

Instructional Support Employee of the Year Finalists

  • Maryann Bordonaro, secretary, Essrig Elementary School
  • Cindy Nunez, kindergarten assistant, Claywell Elementary School
  • Susan Blackmon, kindergarten aide, Title I, Oak Park Elementary School
  • Kelly Foss, secretary, Symmes Elementary School
  • Brenda Gail Mosley, secretary, Robinson Elementary School


Road to “Excellence in Education” Recognition:

  • In all, there were 690 nominations, broken down as follows: 230 for the Ida S. Baker award, 224 for the instructional support award and 236 for top-teacher honors.
  • The annual Teacher of the Year Award program starts with nominees at each of Hillsborough’s public schools, which leads to the selection of one top teacher at each school.
  • In turn, those teachers become the nominees for the district’s list of finalists.
  • “All schools in the district are invited to nominate one teacher at their site whom they feel is the most well-rounded and professional,” according to a notice posted on the Hillsborough Education Foundation website. “Finalists are selected by a district committee and individually interviewed. One winner is then selected for the prestigious honor of being named Hillsborough County’s Teacher of the Year.”
  • The district’s top teacher goes on to compete for Florida State Teacher of the Year.
  • The state’s top teacher then enters the national Teacher of the Year contest.
  • Cynthia Folsom Crim, a teacher at Palm River Elementary, was named the 2011 Teacher of the Year.
  • Emily Marrero, a teacher at Philip Shore Elementary School, earned the honor in 2010.
  • Cleveland Elementary School teacher Megan Allen in 2009 won not only Hillsborough’s Teacher of the Year award, but also advanced as a finalist in the National Teacher of the Year contest by earning the state’s top-teacher title.




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