TAMPA,FL (WFLA)- Diane McKee, 8th grade Language Arts teacher from Williams Middle Magnet School in Hillsborough County, was named the 2016 Macy’s/Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year at the awards gala held tonight at Hard Rock Live at Universal Studios Orlando. Educators from throughout the state of Florida attended the event to celebrate excellence in education along with McKee’s friends and family to celebrate her accomplishment. The event was hosted by Emmy Award-winning journalist Deborah Norville and Governor Rick Scott; Darlene Hanes, Macy’s Executive Vice President Regional Director of Stores, Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart and Lee O’Rourke, Macy’s District Vice President were on-hand to make the announcement of the winner.
Governor Rick Scott said, “Florida is home to many outstanding teachers, and today I am proud to announce Diane McKee as Florida’s Teacher of the Year for her excellence in the classroom. Diane reflects Florida’s commitment to providing the best education possible for our students. I am confident she will continue to inspire others in her role as an ambassador for the Florida Department of Education and teachers across the state. Florida teachers do so much to prepare our students for their future careers and this year we have invested an historic $19.7 billion in our K-12 schools to ensure our students get the best education.”
“Teachers generously give of themselves every day to educate children, and in doing so, elevate and empower future generations to achieve great things,” said Darlene Hanes, Macy’s Executive Vice President and Regional Director of Stores. “Macy’s is grateful to have the opportunity to celebrate with and honor Diane McKee for her selfless dedication and commitment to education. We wish Diane success with her upcoming year inspiring her colleagues to promote the power of high quality educators in Florida.”
This marks the 27th year of Macy’s sponsorship of the Florida Teacher of the Year program. Macy’s presented Ms. McKee with a check totaling $10,000, a $1,000 wardrobe, a $1,000 check for her school and an all-expense paid trip for four to New York City to attend this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“It is an honor to recognize Diane McKee as the 2016 Florida Department of Education/Macy’s Teacher of the Year,” said Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. “The role of Teacher of Year is a significant one to the education community. I am confident that Diane will inspire teachers and help shape the conversation about education.”
In May, Macy’s awarded $5,000 to each of the other four finalists – Ashlynn Ramirez, Elementary Education teacher from Hernando Elementary School in Citrus County; 7th grade Civics and Social Science teacher Brian Furgione from Milwee Middle School in Seminole County, 6th and 7th grade Language Arts teacher Catherine Beaudoin from W.C. Pryor Middle School in Okaloosa County and Kindergarten teacher Ceola Graham from Madison County Central School in Madison County. Each of their respective schools also received $1,000.
Additionally, Macy’s presented the Magic of Leadership Award to Beth Piccolo from A. Crawford Mosley High School in Bay County; the Magic of Teaching Award to Edward Wolff from Belle Terre Elementary School in Flagler County and the Magic of Caring Award to Donna Barber from Franklin County School in Franklin County. Each of these awards was presented to the three educators who went beyond the basic job description with unique abilities to continue positive growth in their students. Each was honored with the award and a $1,000 Macy’s gift card.
For the past 27 years, Macy’s has annually contributed over $100,000 to the state-run Teacher of the Year program, making it one of the largest corporate cash contributions to Florida public schools. To date, Macy’s has contributed almost $3 million to teachers throughout the state.
The Florida Teacher of the Year is chosen from more than 191,000 public school teachers throughout the state by a Department of Education-appointed selection committee representing teachers, principals, parents and the business community. Florida’s top educator is selected on the basis of the superior ability to teach and communicate knowledge of the subject taught, professional development, philosophy of teaching and outstanding school and community service. The most important qualification is the teacher’s ability to inspire a love of learning in students of all backgrounds and abilities.
During the awards ceremony, 67 district winners were recognized and received $750 from Macy’s, plus $250 for programs at their respective schools.