Published: Mar 11, 2011 9:09 PM EST
Updated: Mar 11, 2011 6:12 PM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla - Six Lee County public school teachers were surprised in their classrooms Friday with the prestigious Golden Apple Award.  Each year, the Golden Apple Program recognizes individual educators who exemplify outstanding performance in their profession.

The teachers who received the traditional surprise visits in their schools are:
Candyce Bond, 4th grade teacher at Allen Park Elementary;
Patricia Buitrago, 5th grade teacher at Three Oaks Elementary;
Jennifer Einstein, 2nd grade teacher at Heights Elementary;
James Guffey, 5th grade Science teacher at Bayshore Elementary;
Donald Payne, 9-12th grade Exceptional Student Education, Life Skills teacher at South Fort Myers High;
and Paula Sizemore, 9-12th grade Psychology and Philosophy teacher at Riverdale High School.
Marshall T. Bower, Esq., President & CEO of the Foundation, said, “The Foundation’s business partners and staff get a big kick out of surprising the Golden Apple recipients in their classrooms each year.  The real joy is seeing the reaction of the students and their teachers as they celebrate the recognition of all the great teaching that is going on in our classrooms.”
Today’s Golden Apple teachers were chosen after going through an extensive selection process which began in September with a community-wide invitation to nominate teachers deserving of special recognition.  The final six teachers were selected after completing a three-step process:  completion of a comprehensive application; observation of their classroom teaching skills; and personal interview by the Golden Apple Selection Committee.  Selection criteria covered both the art and science of teaching, focusing on effective communication of subject matter, deep concern for students’ needs and the ability to inspire love of learning.
Each recipient receives a “gold apple”, $3,000 cash award, a professionally designed gold apple lapel pin, and membership in the Academy of Teachers, the ongoing element of the Golden Apple program.  The Academy, created to provide these teachers with continuing opportunities for developing and using their skills, will now have 134 members.  The school of the Golden Apple teacher receives a check for $500.
The six will be guests of honor at the 24th Annual Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Banquet on Friday, April 15 at the Harborside Event Center in Fort Myers.  This elegant, black-tie preferred affair is a celebration of teaching.  At the Banquet, the community will recognize the Lee County Golden Apple teachers, the 24 finalists, 70 teachers of distinction and the 134 members of the Academy of Teachers  during a 60-minute, live telecast on Comcast – Channel 99 at 8:00 p.m.  Rebroadcast of the Golden Apple Banquet will Saturday, April 23rd at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday, April 30th at 12:00 p.m. on WINK-TV.