Three teachers were surprised at their school sites the morning of January 24 when an entourage led by Superintendent Genelle Yost, school board members, district administrators and representatives of the St. Lucie County Education Foundation visited their classrooms to announce their selection as finalists for the 2015 St. Lucie County Public Schools Teacher of the Year. Pictured is Superintendent Yost, right, with finalist Heather Bolitho of Oak Hammock K-8 School.

The finalists are: Heather Bolitho, media specialist at Oak Hammock K-8 School in Port St. Lucie; Matthew Boswell, Fort Pierce Central High School band and choral director; and Kelly Ridle, media specialist at Fairlawn Elementary School in Fort Pierce.

The difficult task of selecting the finalists was determined by a committee of former Teachers of the Year, principals, and district administrators. The finalists will be visited in the coming weeks in their classrooms for committee members to observe their classroom instruction. The local announcements are always in the year prior to the beginning of the Florida Teacher of the Year reign due to the statewide selection process not culminating until the following school year.

Heather Jean Bolitho, Oak Hammock K-8 School:
Heather Bolitho truly believes and exemplifies that teachers change lives forever. She sees every student who comes into the media center, or whose classroom she visits, for the individuals that they are. Ms. Bolitho cherishes the qualities and differences that make each student unique. She has created a warm, safe learning environment in the school’s media center for students. They love to take reading risks and accept reading challenges because they know she is there to support and guide them.
Ms. Bolitho has been at Oak Hammock K-8 School since 2006, first serving as a reading teacher for five years prior to becoming the school’s media specialist. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies in 2002 from Carlow University in Pittsburgh, PA, and a master’s degree in Library and Information Studies from Florida State University in 2013.
The media center is Ms. Bolitho’s platform to support students, staff and families. Whether helping students select paper books or e-books they will certainly enjoy and read, sharing print and technology resources with teachers, or planning family literacy events, Mrs. Bolitho always has a smile on her face and a song in her voice.
Students describe Mrs. Bolitho as helpful, nice and awesome. They especially appreciate the way she speaks and interacts with them, and they recognize her belief in them.

As a Treasure Hunter in the Kids at Hope school, Ms. Bolitho is committed to searching for all the talents, skills and intelligence that exists in all the students at her school. These are not just the words of the Kids at Hope pledge to Ms. Bolitho, which students and staff hear from her in the pledge every morning during announcements, she exemplifies these words every day with the students and her school-wide colleagues
Ms. Bolitho also serves her school as reading department chair, collaboratively working with teachers to plan meaningful assessment and instruction, to analyze and use data to make instructional decisions for students. She has also served as vice president of the St. Lucie County Reading Council, chair of the Literacy Council, and a mentor to new teachers.

Matthew Boswell, Fort Pierce Central High School:
Matthew Boswell has been at Fort Pierce Central High School (FPCHS) his entire four-year teaching career. Boswell graduated from Florida State University in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in instrumental music education. And according to FPCHS principal Todd Smith, upon his accepting the leadership of the band and choral program at the school, Boswell has accomplished the unthinkable – taken a program of less than 90 students and in four short years established a premier performing arts program and earned the school’s band’s first superior rating in over 17 years.
The typical individual may have seen the low enrollment in the school’s band and chorus program as a barrier to potential success and used the position as a stepping stone for another opportunity. But, instead, Boswell used the challenge to actually build two programs at FPCHS. Not only has the band program soared, but additionally, under his direction, the choral department and musical productions have thrived. The FPCHS choir has routinely earned superior ratings and qualified for state competition for the first time in 15 years. And, the number of student drama productions offered has more than doubled and the program produced back-to-back sell-out shows in Grease and Footloose.
Boswell is also an educational leader, Smith said, who willingly accepts other roles, such as a beginning teacher mentor, and technical director for school-based professional development. In each setting, he has demonstrated the ability to proactively and successfully manage the daily activities without interfering with his innate desire to champion the rights of his students or colleagues. But most importantly, Boswell is seen as a teacher at heart, with the goal to prepare his students for success in life.

Kelly Ridle, Fairlawn Elementary School:
As the media specialist at Fairlawn Elementary School, Kelly Ridle is an integral part of the school’s team and takes her role very seriously. Her patience, enthusiasm, and genuine concern for all students are exemplary. She works collaboratively with colleagues, always staying focused on the goal of student achievement, realizing that every student can learn more than they currently do. She works with students to deepen their understanding of literacy and works with families to access resources for them to use with their children.
Ms. Ridle earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, Magna Cum Laude, at Florida Atlantic University in 2004, having studied Interdisciplinary Studies at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA.
She began at Fairlawn Elementary School in 2003 as a first and second grade teacher, before becoming the media specialist for the school this year. With experience in such professional settings as a public relations manager, and a home health care liaison, prior to becoming a classroom teacher, Ms. Ridle brings her ability to establish relationships, communications and organization skills to her current role she describes as a literacy adjunct, combining classroom teacher knowledge in reading programs, Common Core standards, and student data-based needs with the media center resources to promote literacy for students and resources for teachers and classroom instruction.
Ms. Ridle has also served Fairlawn Elementary as an Odyssey of the Mind student group and sea camp group sponsor, in-service facilitator, Scholastic Book Fair chairperson, Thinking Maps trainer, school advisory council member, and Building level Planning Team member. She is an active community volunteer and biker.

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The 2015 Teacher of the Year and 2014 School-Related Employee of the Year, which are statewide programs, as well as the two local school district employee recognitions of Distinguished Minority Educator of the Year and Outstanding First Year Teacher, will be announced Saturday, February 22, 2014, at the “Night of the Stars” celebration held at Lincoln Park Academy, sponsored by the St. Lucie County School District the St. Lucie County Education Foundation.

Sponsors for the different awards are: The Morganti Group, Teacher of the Year; The St. Lucie Education Foundation, School Related Employee of the Year; Keiser University, Distinguished Minority Educator of the Year; and Seacoast National Bank, Outstanding First Year Teacher of the Year.
The event will be televised live on WLX, The Education Channel, Comcast Cable Channels 13 in north St. Lucie County, 19 in south St. Lucie County, and Hometown Cable Channel 19 in Tradition, beginning at 6:00 PM. The program will also be streamed live through the school district website under the WLX button, and later posted on the Video on Demand section at http://www.stlucie.k12.fl.us/MediaServices/.

All nominees and their school sites are:
GREEN ZONE
C.A. Moore Elementary Katherine Christopher
Dan McCarty School Robin L. Fillmann
Forest Grove MS Leigh Kimberly Bretherick
Ft. Pierce Central HS Matthew Boswell
Ft. Pierce Westwood HS Maureen Greenberg
Lakewood Park Elementary Jennifer Lusardi
Lawnwood Elementary Ashlay Parker
Palm Pointe @ Tradition Jade Alisen Joie
Samuel Gaines K-8 Christen McCray
St. Lucie Elementary Angela Ehrhard
Weatherbee Elementary Cindy Keesler Winterkamp
White City Elementary Rhiannon Myers

RED ZONE
Allapattah Flats K-8 Danya Etter
Bayshore Elementary Jennifer Archer
FK Sweet Elementary Cynthia Langel
Ft. Pierce Magnet School of Arts Heather Nesbitt
Lincoln Park Academy Sally VanDereedt
Manatee K-8 Dawn Montoya
Oak Hammock K-8 Heather Bolitho
St. Lucie West Centennial Hs Carol E. Rondeau
St. Lucie West K-8 Michelle Fryer Dommel
Treasure Coast HS Grace Pierre-Louis
West Gate K-8 Kimberly L. Wolcott-Rappuhn
Windmill Pointe Elementary Stephanie E. Sakowski

BLUE ZONE
Fairlawn Elementary Kelly Ridle
Floresta Elementary Grace Duvelsdorf
Mariposa Elementary Theresa Delancy
Morningside Elementary Allison R. Hargroves
Northport K-8 Alexander M. Phillips
Parkway Elementary Laurie A. Farr
Port St. Lucie HS Shea Lodes
Rivers Edge Elementary Natasha R. Rodriguez
Savanna Ridge Elementary Andrea N. Rice
Southern Oaks MS Tiffany Barrett
Southport MS Maureen Dakin
Village Green Environmental Studies School DeeDee Bradley
Alternative Education Steven Michael Farley