Published: Jan 09, 2013 3:54 PM EST
Updated: Jan 09, 2013 4:46 PM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla - The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools surprised 30 teachers in their classrooms today as they recognized them as finalists for the Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Program.  The Golden Apple Program brings awareness to the teaching profession in Lee County by recognizing top teachers in the district. Business and community leaders, school administrators, the Golden Apple Selection Committee and The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools’ staff gathered together and visited the school of each Finalist to make the announcements.

Thousands of nominations were submitted by students, parents and the community. Every nominated teacher was given the opportunity to apply for the Golden Apple Award. The Golden Apple Selection Committee, made up of 12 Lee County business and community leaders, selected the finalists from a group of more than 300 applicants. The group ranked each application, narrowing the field to 67 Teachers of Distinction and 30 Finalists.  In the coming months, the finalists will be observed in their classrooms and interviewed by the Selection Committee as part of the ongoing selection process. The Selection Committee looks for characteristics of outstanding teachers including control of their work environment, outstanding performance in the classroom, demonstration of imagination, commitment, communication skills and personal concern for the needs of students.

This year’s six Golden Apple recipients will be announced in March with a surprise presentation in their classroom. They will be honored at the 2012 Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Banquet on Friday, April 5 at Harborside Event Center. In addition to recognition at the dinner, each recipient will receive a $3,000 cash award, the prestigious golden apple, a golden apple lapel pin, and membership into the Academy of Teachers.  The schools of the six Golden Apple teachers will each receive a $500 grant to enrich and enhance curriculum.

WINK News is a sponsor of the Golden Apple Program.

The finalists are:

Amy Mayer -- Allen Park Elementary

Beverly Joelle -- Bayshore Elementary

Barbara Rebeor -- Challenger Middle

Karen Green -- Challenger Middle

Mara Exposito -- Diplomat Elementary

Quinn Schnabel -- Diplomat Middle

Gwynetta Gittens -- East Lee County High

Kerri Toscano -- Gateway Elementary

Shandra Backens -- Harns Marsh Elementary

Karen Huston-- Heights Elementary

Sondra Best -- Heights Elementary

Patrick Hanrahan -- Ida S Baker High

Fernando Vazquez -- Ida S Baker High

Shane Appeldorn -- Ida S Baker High

Deanna Hasty -- Ida S Baker High

Allan Dyen-Shapiro -- Island Coast High

Joseph Mallon -- Island Coast High

Morgan Wright -- J Colin English Elementary

Jamie McGougan -- North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts

Gwen Gregg -- North Fort Myers High

Linda Grant -- Patriot Elementary

Sara Kohlhauff -- Pinewoods Elementary

Susan Hassett -- Robinson Littleton Elementary

Tonia Petro -- Skyline Elementary

Barbara Winitzer -- Skyline Elementary

Miriam Sutton -- Three Oaks Elementary

Katie Donohue -- Trafalgar Middle