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District unites for education banquet

Because of COVID-19, there was no banquet last year to honor the teacher of the year, and the many support staff who make the entire district run.

This year started off with the same set of challenges, and after the selection of these top people was made earlier in the year, the Franklin Education Foundation made sure there was one, and it turned out very well.

So well, that the foundation, now undergoing a rejuvenation begun in the last year of Traci Yoder’s term as superintendent, is planning to take over the annual event on a regular basis, and make sure it lends the prestige worthy of these annual selections.

Elinor Mount-Simmons, who chaired the organizing committee for the May 10 banquet, which drew about 80 people, said that she plans to bring together representatives of Franklin County Schools and the Apalachicola Bay Charter School in the weeks ahead, to establish countywide criteria for future banquets.

“We were pleased with the event,” she said. “We thank the generous sponsors for their support; without them we would not have made it. They were all very generous with their donations.”

Denise and Cliff Butler, the secretary and treasurer of the foundation, chaired by Joyce Estes, worked to raise more than $2,000 for the affair, to ensure that all the honorees received a token of the esteem and affection the district holds them in.

Both Joe Taylor, head of the Franklin’s Promise, which now offers a complete ED Corps education program, and ABC School Principal Chimene Johnson also served on the organizing committee, as did Missy Cumbie, David Hughes, Elizabeth Kirvin and Temolynn Wintons

A jazz trio featuring Shawn Bentz on electric guitar, Bobby Wintons Jr. on keyboards, and Wintons on percussion played soft music throughout the whole event. Wintons later sang vocals as well, offering inspiring songs suitable for the occasion.

“They were really fantastic,” said Mount-Simmons. “Phenomenal, they sounded so good. They blew me away how well they sounded.”

Johnson was joined by her counterpart at Franklin County Schools, Laurence Pender, in serving as the masters of ceremony.

Mount-Simmons, herself the district teacher of the year in 2008-09, welcomed the attendees, followed by greetings from Superintendent Steve Lanier.

Introduction of the honorees was done by Denise Butler, a former principal at Apalachicola High School, and Elizabeth Kirvin, assistant principal at the Apalachicola Bay Charter School. In the audience were Kirvin’s husband Stacy, chair of the county school board, and board members Pam Marshall, Fonda Davis and Melonie Inzetta.

Because no banquet had been held last year, the 2019-20, and 2020-21 school years were both addressed, beginning with the district’s retirees.

Terry Hilton, with 30-years’ experience, and Barbara Shiver, with 10, were honored after they retired last year. This year’s retirees included Angeline Stanley, with 32 years; Elaine Williams with just shy of 36, Harolyn Walker with 31, JoAlice Buzier, with nearly 36, Marcia Thomas with 16, Nic O’Grady with 19, Pam Mahrt with nearly 17, and Sherry Bass with 10 years.

The culinary department at the school, headed by Ashley Cleveland, served plated meals of roast chicken, with the various young ladies who comprise Seahawk royalty as the ushers.

In honoring the 2019-20 honorees, the banquet paid tribute to the two Elementary Teachers of the Year, Franklin County Schools’ Cheyenne Hartzog, and the ABC School’s Katie Sparks; the Secondary School Teachers of the Year, Franklin’s Kati-Morgan Hathcock, and ABC’s Tara Ward; the School-Related Employees of the Year, Franklin’s Sherry Ard, and ABC’s Crystal Gay.

Ard went on to be selected as the district School-Related Employee of the Year, and Ward as the district’s Teacher of the Year.

For the 2020-21 school year, honor was given the two Elementary Teachers of the Year, the ABC School’s Breanna Golden, and Franklin’s Pamela Hanks; as well as a newly created category for first-year teachers at Franklin County Schools, the Rookie of the Year, which went to Melody Hatfield.

The Secondary School Teachers of the Year were Belinda Cassidy, at ABC, and Cindy Segraves, at Franklin. The Franklin County Learning Center had selected Hilary Stanton as their Teacher of the Year, but she declined the invitation for the district competition.

The School-Related Employees of the Year were Hannah Millender, at ABC, and Tamara Gilbert, at Franklin.

Gilbert went on to be named the district’s School-Related Employee of the Year, and Hanks as district Teacher of the Year.

A three-member panel of education professionals from outside of the county scored the submissions for the district candidates and made the selection of Hanks.

A first grade teacher, Hanks joined the Seahawk family in the summer of 2017, having been a “seasoned” teacher, as she describes herself, with experience in all the primary grades, pre-kindergarten through third.

She earned both bachelors and masters degrees in early childhood education from the University of South Alabama, and throughout her career, worked in Alabama and Mississippi. Hanks and her family have owned property in Franklin County for over 30 years.

“Moving here was a dream come true,” she said. “I am thrilled to finally live in the place I love most, doing what I love most.

“To me, the most rewarding aspect of teaching is helping prepare children for the future. It is a privilege to contribute to the development of our young learners and to participate in their overall growth,” she said.

“Elementary teachers should inspire students and instill a love for learning that will serve them throughout their school experience and beyond,” Hanks said.

“After almost 38 years in the classroom, I’ve just about seen it all… and I still feel passionate about teaching!” she said.

“Mrs. Hanks is an asset to our district, she is an excellent teacher and her students enjoy learning in her class, which is evident each time I visit her room,” said Pender.

In a down home touch, each recipient got an oval tub filled with gifts, and there were drawings throughout the evening.

The Delta Kappa Gamma fraternal organization for teacher gave tote bags to two teachers of the year, and the Mount Up! Consulting Group gave each retiree $50 in cash.

Sponsors for the evening included Kay B. Stueve, as a diamond sponsor for her gift of $1,000 or more; platinum sponsors, for gifts over $500, Acentria Insurance, Duke Energy, Air Con of Wakulla, Frost Pottery Garden, Blue Parrot Oceanfront Café, Stacy and Elizabeth Kirvin, Coastline Clearing & Development, WaterStreet Seafood and Rock by the Sea/Rick Watson.

Gold Sponsors, for gifts over $250, were the Apalachicola Bay Rotary Club, Fisher & Friedman, P.A., Emerald Coast Federal Credit Union, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Charity Fund and Travis Stanley-Fickling & Company.

Silver Sponsors, for gifts over $100, went to Elaine H. Rosenthal, Now & Zen Bodyworks, Fisherman’s Choice & Get the Scoop, Riverlily, Forgotten Coast Fitness & Wellness, Roy & Susan Wilcox, Forgotten Coast Parrot Head Club, Seaside Cotton, Island Adventures, St. George Lighthouse, Mount Up Consulting LLC and Teresa Hamlin.

Bronze sponsors, for gifts over $50, included Tamara and Cal Allen, La Dolce Vita, Bellou and Pam Nobles Grantham, with patrons including the Pearl and Lynn’s Quality Oysters, Inc.

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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