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Lehigh Elementary educator is Teacher of the Year

February 5, 2011

A surprised look and a wide smile is how the newest Teacher of the Year at Lehigh Elementary School greeted members of the school board, the interim superendent of schools and an army of press people who covered her presentation Friday morning.

"I was really surprised, but I knew when I saw all of you marching in that I had won. I think the kids knew instantly because they all began shouting," said Barbara Esno, who is her first year of teaching at Lehigh Elementary School. She lives in Lehigh Acres.

When the surprise came, she was in the school's broadcast studio where she helps the students put on the morning newscasts.

Article Photos

Barbara Esno

Photo by Mel Toadvine

But before the announcement to the school could be made, Esno was being greeted and presented flowers and all kinds of things for winning the coveted title.

"I knew I was one of the nominees," she laughed, "but I hadn't really thought it would be me."

Alex Dworzanski, a vice principal at the school said it was an excellent choice.

"Her getting the title was well deserving. She is a wonderful teacher and excels with the way she works here. I am glad to see her move up to the state level."

Tom Scott, chairman of the Lee County School Board, was one of the army of folks marching into her room as classes began Friday morning at around 9:15 a.m. Scott is a new member on the school board and this is his first time in participating in the presentation of the Teacher of the Year award.

"She's a great teacher in the system. She challenges her students to do better and that is what we need in teachers," he said.

Mary Fischer, a member of the school board, echoed much of Scott's words.

"She's wonderful. She is an excellent example of a great teacher. I am very happy for her," she said.

Her students congregated around her as she smiled and thanked those who were responsible for naming her Teacher of the Year.

"I can't believe it," she said.

Joe Donzelli, director of communications for the school district, was also on hand. In a prepared statement, Donzelli said that for Barbara Esno, teaching provides the ability to have a "profound positive impact on the world."

"She has learned that when you take time to build a relationship with students and their parents, you have the opportunity to impact the world in a positive way.

"Teaching involves so much more than simply 'teaching' the basics of math, science, reading and language arts," Esno said. "Good teaching includes developing social skills, counseling children and parents through challenges in their lives and working to develop productive citizens for the world," Esno said in an interview during the selection process.

Esno has worked for the school district for the past 10 years but was hired for the last school year at Lehigh Elementary School by the school's principal, Dwayne Courtney.

"She has brought so much to our school. Many of her ideas have been worked into our curriculum," Courtney said. "Things like the Odyssey of the Mind and she planned a fifth grade environmental trip to the Everglades," he said.

Teachers who are selected from nominations are made by school principals and Principal Dwayne Courtney, said he knew he had made a great choice in her nomination.

Esno believes her creativity in developing highly challenging and motivating lessons is one of her strongest attributes - and that's clearly evident in her work on the Million Dollar Math Project, the Inventor's Fair and the Inventor's Museum. And the fact she teaches two different grade levels provides her with a unique opportunity.

"It's an opportunity to teach two very distinct curriculums, addressing the new standards covered at each level, while differentiating instruction and challenging my gifted learners," Esno said. "It gives me a thrill to play for each day."

Donzelli said that Esno will represent Lee County public Schools during the 2011-2012 school year and will be part of the Florida Teachers of the Year process. In addition to being selected as the Teacher of the Year, Esno will receive several gifts from sponsors of the annual award.

She will be given things like tickets to Barbara B. Mann Theater, gift certificates, photo sittings and pictures, flowers, a 14K. gold lapel pin especially designed for the Teacher of the Year, a Broadway Palm Dinner theatre pair of tickets, gift baskets, a South Seas island Resort vacation package and chocolates.

Acting School Superintendent Dr. Larry Tihen said he had interviewed Esno in the process of selecting the Teacher of the Year.

"She was outstanding. But I want to stress that the other nominees were remarkable and were so much involved in their schools."

Tihen is the interim superintendent until the school board hires a permanent person to fill the position.



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