Teacher of the Year Finalists Named

Superintendent of Schools, Mary Beth Jackson, had the pleasure of surprising the three Teacher of the Year finalists – Heather Erickson, Elliott Point Elementary School, Frank “Gator” Heath, Meigs Middle School, and Christine Sadler, Wright Elementary – last Friday with flowers and the announcement of their selection as a finalist. 

“This is one of my favorite times of the year – being able to recognize our outstanding teachers for their hard work and dedication to our students,” said Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson.  “It was a pleasure visiting with the three finalists on Friday.”

Each Teacher of the Year is selected by their peers at their individual schools.  The school winners are then asked to submit a portfolio that mirrors the MACY’s State of Florida Teacher of the Year packet that asks them to provide a resume and address questions regarding their teaching philosophy and practice. 

“Particularly, they are asked about public education, their impact of instruction on student learning, their leadership, and their use of the common core standards in the classroom,” said Tavia Marez, 2008 Teacher of the Year Winner from Fort Walton Beach High School and this year’s Teacher of the Year Selection Committee Chairman.  “Our three finalists were selected based on their answers to the above questions and the data that they provided to exemplify their significant contributions to the students they teach, their involvement with parents and families, as well as the community.  Each of our finalists continues to improve their practice daily and strive to further the overall teaching profession.”

Heather Erickson – Elliott Point Elementary School

Heather Erickson has been living and teaching in Florida for the last eight years.  She was born and raised in Elmira, New York and graduated from William Smith College in 2005.  She moved to Florida that summer for a teaching position in Navarre.

In 2011, Erickson came to Elliott Point Elementary School excited and eager to see what her future held.

“While teaching at Elliott Point, I have grown tremendously as a teacher,” said Erickson. “Being surrounded by excellence has inspired me to hold myself and my students to a higher standard than ever before.”

This year Erickson took on the role of a Data Team leader.  As a leader, she has inspired her colleagues to set expectations higher, push students harder, and teach smarter.

“The best part of my job is watching my students’ faces when they learn something new and being able to watch them grow as learners as they are inspired throughout the year,” said Erickson.

Erickson truly believes she is the best teacher she has ever been due to the support of her colleagues and the incredible students at Elliott Point.

Frank “Gator” Heath – Meigs Middle School

Born and raised as a Florida boy, Heath joined the Air Force to see the world after high school.  Through twenty-seven years on active duty he experienced many different cultures and environments.  One of those diverse cultures was at the University of Florida, where he graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree (thus the nickname Gator). 

“This multitude of life-experiences is one of the most valuable resources that I can bring to the classroom,” said Heath.  “Relating these experiences to the material being presented brings math alive.  Making math real to every one of my students is a huge motivator for me.” 

With his passion for coaching, Heath challenges his students to push themselves when the problems get tough, building their confidence as they conquer those problems.  Whether on the football field or in the classroom, he demands the best from his students and athletes, working with them each step of the way as they grow.  Helping young people explore and grow in their faith, Heath sponsors the Fellowship of Christian Athletes huddle at Meigs. 

When not at school, Heath is active in the community, leading various activities at his church and numerous other endeavors throughout the community.  As a devoted family man, time spent with his family is valuable to him. 

“Faith in God, family, and friends are the forces driving Gator Heath to be a man for all seasons,” said Heath.

Christine Sadler - Wright Elementary

Christine Sadler spent the first five years of her life in the “Great State of Alabama, (Tuscaloosa - Roll Tide!),” but she grew up alongside her younger brother and two younger sisters in Fort Walton Beach.  Her educational career started and is still going strong right here in Okaloosa County.  Sadler graduated from Oakland Heights Elementary School, Max Bruner Jr. Junior High School, Fort Walton Beach High School, and the University of West Florida.

“My first and only career choice has been Elementary Education,” said Sadler.  “I have served my entire twenty-one year teaching career at Wright Elementary School teaching kindergarten -second grade, with the majority of that time spent as a kindergarten math teacher.  I have seen and loved thousands of innocent and inquiring faces at Wright Elementary, including those of my own two children, Annie and Christopher Sadler.”

Aside from a job that she loves, Sadler enjoys books, maps, and travel.  She is also a nature lover and spends a fair amount of time outdoors.  But most of all, Sadler says she relishes time spent with her family.

“As a teacher, I am doing what I was meant to do,” said Sadler.  “I adore children. And for as far back as I can remember, I have had a love for learning.  To put these two together is for me, sublime.”

The Teacher of the Year’s Selection Committee this year is made up of Tavia Marez, Selection Committee Chairman, Fort Walton Beach High School, Dale Chavers, Shoal River Middle School, Linda Evanchyk, Choctawhatchee High School, Cynthia Tuznik, Edge Elementary, and Cathy Thigpen, School Board Member.

The winner of the Teacher of the Year award will be announced at the annual Teacher of the Banquet being held on Thursday, February 21st, 2013 at the Emerald Coast Conference Center.

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