By ANDREA GALABINSKI
Three West Zone teachers are among those named Golden Apple recipients by the Foundation for Lee County Schools.
Only six countywide were chosen from the more than 2,000 nominated
Kim Smith, fourth grade teacher at North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts; Laura Reed, Pre-K teacher at Dr. Carrie D. Robinson Littleton; and Billy Lansberry, 9-12th grade teacher at North Fort Myers High, are among the honorees.
The Breeze is presenting a three-week series to highlight each of these professionals. On March 14, it was Laura Reed. This week, we feature Kim Smith, wrapping up next week with Billy Lansberry.
When Kim Smith was surprised by officials from the Foundation for Lee County Schools. her students, staff, administration and her family could not have been more proud.
Marshall T. Bower, Esq., executive director of the Foundation, always leads the traditional surprise announcement in the teacher's classroom.
"It recognizes excellence in teaching and celebrates the profession," he said.
"Everyone gathered around her, it was great," said fourth grader Nicole Rogers. "She's just a great teacher."
Her immediate supervisor, Assistant Principal Wes Moreland, could not agree more.
"She really takes the time to care for the kids," he said. "She makes sure that every day, they learn."
Volunteer Everlener Wineston also complimented her.
"She is great; she deserved it. She has a big heart for teaching."
Academy Principal Dr. Douglas Santini also is a big fan of Smith.
"Kim Smith is a very deserving teacher for the Golden Apple award. She is very creative with her teaching methods. Kim shows a lot of energy and enthusiasm towards teaching. Kim loves the children and the Academy. Her students, parents, co-workers and staff also love her. She is an example of what the Golden Apple stands for, which is a teacher who is outstanding at every level," he said.
Her family is extremely proud.
"I got a call from my father to join my family for dinner at his Moose Lodge. He then called me back and said, 'You do have the Apple, right?'"
And there is her daughter, Carli, one of her three children, a sophomore majoring in elementary education to follow in her mother's footsteps at USF St. Petersburg.
"She has been going with me to the Golden Apple awards for four years, every year I was nominated," Smith said. "She was beyond thrilled when I won this year."
A native Floridian and a Port Charlotte resident, her other children are Collin and Corey. She is married to husband Clark.
"I started teaching in Lee County five years ago, at the Academy, in 2007, the only school where I have taught in Lee. The Academy is an extraordinary place. The kids are just so talented in every facet of their educational world, academics, dance, music, drama and art," Smith said.
Of the other recipients, she said, "They are all fabulous teachers. A nice part of the process is meeting and networking with teachers I have not met before."
She wanted her students recognized as well.
They include Nicole Amador, Samantha Cherry, Reagan Denny, Michael Depiro, Ronald Etienne, Bella Ferrazzano, Leena Flores, Nicole Garcia, Diego Giraldo, Mikayla Gonzalez, Shawn Hall-Krabill, Ashton Herald, Donovan Hesselmeyer, Patrick Horton, Dalton Jones, Julisa Landaverde, Shiann Null, Elizabeth Rodriguez-Olvera, Nicole Rogers, Isaac Stine, Serenity Vasile, Alexia White and Reilee Williams.
"It is a rare distinction to have three teachers from the same area," Smith said. "When we saw each other, we said it isn't the teachers, it is the children in this area. They just need people to believe in them."