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Eight Cape Coral teachers named Golden Apple finalists

January 24, 2019
By MEGHAN BRADBURY (news@breezenewspapers.com) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Last Friday, 30 Golden Apple Award finalists were surprised in their classroom, beginning the next stage of the process of selecting the final six winners for 2019.

"It's my favorite time of the year," The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools president and CEO Marshall Bower said. "I have three favorite times with respect to Golden Apple. First to walk into the classroom, not only to see the teachers, but really to see the students because they are so happy for the teachers. (Second) when we do the actual six recipients, I load the bus up with a bunch of business people and bust into the classroom and then (finally) the big banquet when we shine the light on the teachers.

"Each teacher picks a student to introduce them. We also honor all of the 30 finalists at the event. They are escorted on the stage by various sponsors and introduce them to the audience. We also invite all the 100 Teachers of Distinction to the benefit too."

Bower said they received a record number of applications this year with 350.

Nomination forms are sent out at the beginning of the school year with hard copies given to elementary and middle schools, and some to the high schools due to many of the students preferring to fill it out online.

The Foundation received more than 6,000 nominations, which nominated more than 2,100 teachers, some of which were duplicates. The teachers were nominated by students, among other community members.

Bower sends an email to all of the nominees and shares that they have been nominated for the Golden Apple and explain the next steps in the process.

"The application is a long process," he said, adding that the questions are changed every year.

Out of the more than 6,000 nominees, 350 took the next step. The applications are then given to the Golden Apple Selection Committee and ranked.

Bower said it definitely sends them a positive message when the number of nominations goes up every year.

The 30 finalists will now be visited by all 12 Golden Apple Selection Committee members, which will be unannounced. After being visited in the classroom, they will also be interviewed over a two-day period at the Foundation's office.

"All 30 of the finalists and 100 Teachers of Distinction are great representations of what we have here," Bower said of the teachers.

Finalists provided answers to a series of questions for the Cape Coral Breeze:

* Mark Drew:

Ida S. Baker High School

How did you feel when you were surprised in your classroom? Is this your first Golden Apple experience?

This is not my first Golden Apple rodeo, however; I was surprised to see that I had made the finals again.

What do you teach?

I teach engineering and design, in addition I've picked up coaching duties this year. Current softball assistant coach and unified basketball team coach.

How long have you been teaching?

This will be my 10th year teaching after leaving the field of engineering.

Where do you find your inspiration to continue to engage your student's attention?

I gain my inspiration from my strong desire to touch hearts and change the world! That's why I'm here.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I enjoy being a difference-maker in lives. The vacations are amazing, but the feeling of knowing you made an impact is priceless. I'm just trying to give back to the village!

* Elizabeth Jimerson:

Patriot Elementary School

How did you feel when you were surprised in your classroom? Is this your first Golden Apple experience?

I was overwhelmed with emotions. I was in the top 30 last year, and it was the highlight of my career. My parents are so proud of me and had high hopes that I would be a finalist again. I put my application in about a week before my dad passed away, so making it to the top 30 is a great tribute to him.

What do you teach?

I teach special education functional skills Pre-K fifth grade. My students are non-verbal, have intellectual disabilities, and many are medically fragile.

How long have you been teaching?

I graduated from FGCU in December 2012 at the age of 35. This is my sixth year teaching.

Where do you find your inspiration to continue to engage your student's attention?

I get my inspiration from my students. They all have such unique personalities and experiences. Many of my students are very medically fragile and will have to go to the hospital for an extended stay. When they return, sometimes they have regressed in what they were previously able to do. They work hard for everything they do and every gain that they make. Our academics may not be the ABC's, but we are learning to function (hold our head up, sit, engage in an activity with another person). Their fierceness drives me to push them to their highest potential.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

My students are an extension of my family. I love my job and my kids. It never feels like I am working when I am around my students.

* Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Kimberly Williams: Mariner High School

How did you feel when you were surprised in your classroom? Is this your first Golden Apple experience?

Last Thursday, I spent the entire school day at a JROTC Academic and Leadership Bowl at the Lee County School District's building in Fort Myers, followed by Mariner's Choice Open House that evening. Friday morning I was a little tired, to say the least, and the last thing I expected was a visit from The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools announcing I was a finalist. It was a surprise, but it was definitely a welcome surprise! Two of my co-workers are previous Golden Apple winners, so I have a clear understanding of what an honor this is and how challenging the next month will be as I go through the observation and interview portion.

What do you teach?

I teach JROTC at Mariner High School.

How long have you been teaching?

I retired from the active duty Army in July of 2014 and started teaching at Mariner a month later in August of 2014. Prior to that, I taught journalism at a community college level in the Army. That was where I discovered my passion for teaching.

Where do you find your inspiration to continue to engage your student's attention?

My inspiration comes from my faith and my students. I believe I am where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to be doing. A lot of people complain about today's kids, whether it is their attitudes, disrespect or lack of direction, but I have the opportunity to do something about it by influencing, guiding and mentoring kids toward better behavior and choices. That inspires me each and every day.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

When I retired from the Army in 2014, I was at a crossroads. I wanted a job where I could make a difference and still use the skills I developed in the Army. It all came together when I accepted a job teaching JROTC at Mariner. All teachers, not just myself, make a difference each and every day. The best part is when you help a kid who was struggling in school and suffering from low self-esteem, grow into a better student and more confident, respectful young adult.

* Jamie Ayres:

Cape Coral High School

How did you feel when you were surprised in your classroom? Is this your first Golden Apple experience?

Totally shocked! I didn't know they were announcing that day. I was a Teacher of Distinction last year, but this is my first time being a Golden Apple finalist. Last year was the first year I actually went ahead and turned in paperwork, and I had such a great experience meeting other wonderful educators from around the district that I thought, why not apply again? Still, I didn't really expect to be a finalist, but I wanted to put myself out there. We're always telling students to get out of their comfort zones and to shine in their areas of excellence. I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't do that for myself.

What do you teach?

Tenth grade English.

How long have you been teaching?

Seventeen years.

Where do you find your inspiration to continue to engage your students attention?

I want my love of words and books to be present in the lives of my students. Reading and writing in school focuses on skills, but one of my primary goals is to make sure students find joy in reading. It doesn't mean the reading won't be difficult sometimes, but I make sure I help guide their understanding, to teach them how to think, so they gain confidence and independence in their reading and writing.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

Turning a reluctant reader/writer into someone who takes pleasure in those activities. Reading and writing is the best way I know to learn how to examine your life. People I know who read and write without being asked to are the most interesting, insightful, reflective people I know, and I want my students to be those people. They impress me every day with their thoughts.

* Kristina Gale:

Gulf Elementary School

How did you feel when you were surprised in your classroom? Is this your first Golden Apple experience?

I was very surprised, but ready to embark on this amazing journey! This is my second time being a finalist. I was a finalist last year also.

What do you teach?

Third grade, all subjects.

How long have you been teaching?

Six years.

Where do you find your inspiration to keep engaging your students attention?

At the moment, I am finding inspiration from a book called 'The Wild Card.' It is about creative engagement and finding your creative journey with your students.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I enjoy doing new and exciting things everyday. Each day is a new day to try something new. Also, seeing the excitement and joy in my students each day is extremely rewarding.

* Greg Rasner:

Pelican Elementary School

How did you feel when you were surprised in your classroom? Is this your first Golden Apple experience?

I was very surprised and excited. I really didn't expect to make the finals and it felt good to be recognized. This is my first Golden Apple experience.

What do you teach?

I teach in a third, fourth and fifth-grade behavioral intervention classroom. This is a special education program, which offers a smaller setting for students who need additional support.

How long have you been teaching?

This is my sixth year as a teacher. I spent my first four years at Sunshine Elementary in Lehigh Acres, and moved to Pelican last school year.

Where do you find your inspiration to keep engaging your students attention?

My inspiration is my students. By watching how hard they work to overcome their own situations, it inspires me to keep challenging them to ensure they reach their personal goals.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I love working with the students most of all. Watching them grow personally and academically is very rewarding.

* Quinn Schnabel:

Diplomat Middle School

How did you feel when you were surprised in your classroom? Is this your first Golden Apple experience?

I was actually on a charter bus on my way to Orlando for a field trip when my principal called to let me know that I was one of the 30 finalists. The assistant principal that was chaperoning with us got on the loud speaker on the bus and announced it to everyone. It isn't my first time being a Golden Apple finalist, but it is an honor to be recognized and very humbling.

What do you teach?

I teach eighth-grade language arts - all levels of students.

How long have you been teaching?

This is my 18th year teaching language arts at Diplomat Middle.

Where do you find your inspiration to keep engaging your students attention?

I had a professor in college that was very passionate about teaching students a love for reading and writing. She shared the most creative ideas, and I just took it from there. I'm always scouring Pinterest and the internet for new and engaging projects and classroom activities. I'm not afraid to dress up as a character and look silly if it means keeping the attention of my students.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

What I enjoy most is the enthusiasm and excitement of the students. It's infectious. When everything comes together in the classroom and the students have an 'ah ha' moment, that is the best feeling ever!

* Carmen Crussard:

Gulf Middle School

How did you feel when you were surprised in your classroom? Is this your first Golden Apple experience?

This is my first Golden Apple experience. I was completely shocked. At first I was like 'Why are all these people coming into my room?' And then it slowly started to sink in. I cried a little, but still not sure if it was from being shocked or completely honored. Maybe a little both.

What do you teach?

I teach theater.

How long have you been teaching?

This is my eighth year teaching.

Where do you find your inspiration to continue to engage your students attention?

I find my inspiration from my students. I try to include them in my lessons: their experiences, their feelings, their expressions. I want them to feel connected to each other and to what they are learning.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I love watching people grow and discover something about themselves that they didn't know before. This is especially evident in children and I feel honored to be a part of that.

 
 
 

 

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