Published: Jan 07, 2011 9:10 PM EST
Updated: Jan 07, 2011 6:11 PM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla - Fort Myers – Thirty outstanding teachers from The School District of Lee County were surprised in their classrooms today as The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools announced the Golden Apple Finalists for 2011.

The Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Program works to bring awareness to the teaching profession in Lee County. 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.

When asked what it means for him, the school, and the Finalists to have this honor, Charles Vilardi, Principal of Skyline Elementary said, “I am thrilled to have 3 finalists at Skyline Elementary.  Teachers work extremely hard all across our district, and to have the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools recognize the hard work and dedication of teachers means the world to me as a principal.  I am delighted to be celebrating with my teachers today, as I know they represent the wonderful teachers we have here in Lee County.”  Skyline Elementary School is represented by three Golden Apple Finalists.

 The selection of the Golden Apple Finalists is an arduous task.  Over 2,000 nominations were submitted by students, parents, and the community.  From these submissions, teachers were given the opportunity to apply for the Golden Apple Award.  An independent body, the Golden Apple Selection Committee, selected the Finalists from a larger group of 296 applicants. They spent the past six weeks reading and ranking all of the applications, narrowing the field to thirty teachers.  Over the next couple of months, these teachers will be observed in their classrooms and interviewed by the Selection Committee as part of the ongoing selection process. The Selection Committee looks for attributes that are characteristic of outstanding professionals.  Control of their work environment, outstanding performance in the classroom, demonstration of imagination, commitment, communication skills and personal concern for the needs of students are just some of the attributes the Committee ranks. The Selection Committee is made up of 13 Lee County business and community leaders.

This year’s six Golden Apple recipients will be announced in March through the traditional surprise presentation in their classroom. They will be honored at the 2011 Golden Apple Dinner on Friday, April 15th at Harborside Event Center.  The program will be broadcast live on local television channel 99 from 8:00 to 9:00 pm with no commercial breaks and rebroadcast the following week on WINK-TV.

In addition to recognition at the dinner, each recipient will receive a $3,000 cash award, the prestigious “golden apple” and golden apple lapel pin, both designed by local jewelry designer Mark Loren, 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.

All 30 finalists are invited to the televised Golden Apple Dinner and will be recognized on stage. They will be presented with a $250 Classroom Grant to create unique hands on projects to enhance student learning. The next level -- 70 Teachers of Distinction -- will also be invited to the Dinner.  Although not Finalists, they ranked high in the application process and will continue to be recognized through upcoming Golden Apple activities. These top 100 educators have the opportunity to attend a professional development teacher training, Collegium for the Advancement of Education, which focuses on best practices and student achievement.

The list of finalists and their schools:

Candyce

Bond

Allen Park Elementary

Amy

Bray

Mariner High

Patricia

Buitrago

Three Oaks Elementary

Elnora

Chaney

Skyline Elementary

Alison

Conant

Pelican Elementary

Allan

Dyen-Shapiro

Island Coast High

Jennifer

Einstein

Heights Elementary

Patricia

Gair

Cypress Lake High

Jim

Guffey

Bayshore Elementary

Susan

Hassett

Robinson Littleton Elementary

Susan

Ives

Lexington Middle

Jan

Klein

Island Coast High

Sara

Kohlhauff

Pinewoods Elementary

Sandra

Lantz

Edison Park Elementary

Louis

Lillard

Riverdale High

Kelly

Mains

River Hall Elementary

Laurie

Metz

Dunbar High

Donald

Payne

South Fort Myers High

Tonia

Petro

Skyline Elementary

Donna

Poland

Sunshine Elementary

Cindi

Priebe

Allen Park Elementary

Barbara

Rebeor

Challenger Middle

Helen

Sadler

Lehigh Senior High

Dana

Sanner

The Sanibel School

Quinn

Schnabel

Diplomat Middle

Paula

Sizemore

Riverdale High

Melissa

Stephens

Lehigh Elementary

Sheryl

Terepka

Challenger Middle

Phyllis

Verrone

Skyline Elementary

Leah

Yeatts

Oak Hammock Middle