Less than six weeks from today, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County and Sarasota County Schools will host its annual Teacher of the Year recognition event in a newly revamped format titled Ignite Education. On Wednesday, December 13, 40 nominated finalists representing elementary, middle and high schools will convene at the Westin for a celebratory brunch to salute their individual accomplishments and accolades as professional educators.

The Education Foundation invites our community to join us in this celebration to amplify our appreciation for these teachers who, because of their commitment, passion and expertise, help ignite a love for learning in our youth. Ignite Education allows the community to highlight the nearly 2,500 educators in Sarasota County whose incredible value directly correlates to the success of our students and schools.

Sarasota County Schools is one of only two districts in the state of Florida that has achieved an A-rating for 14 years in a row. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the National School Boards Association have recognized the district for outstanding arts education, Pine View School was recently recognized as the top Florida High School by US News & World Report, Booker High School Principal Dr. Rachel Shelley was crowned this year’s Florida Principal of the Year, and 39 Sarasota County Schools recently received Golden School Awards by the Florida Department of Education, two of which have been Five Star Schools since the award began in 1994: Bay Haven School of Basics Plus and Venice Elementary School. The list of accomplishments is applaudable.

The Education Foundation will also present the inaugural Alumni of Distinction award during the Ignite Education celebration, honoring an alumnus of Sarasota County Schools. Nominations are now open at http://tinyurl.com/ignitealumni and we encourage you to submit the nomination of a graduate who is deserving of this honor. All alumni nominated will be recognized and will provide additional affirmation of the indelible imprint teachers make. We will uncover powerful stories of teachers who went beyond the textbook and connected in amazing ways with these accomplished men and women during their school years. Sarasota County has produced many accomplished graduates and on this day, we will tip our hats to the teachers who made the early investments in these students.

The challenges of being a teacher today are immense, yet the rewards of impacting students and changing lives is priceless. On December 13, the Education Foundation, together with your support, will shower these well-deserving teachers with deep gratitude from our alumni, district leaders, donors and community. By uniting and celebrating together, we can return the very love they sparked in students and powerfully validate the difference they are making each day.