New Port Richey, FL – May 5, 2016 – Like every other school day, at 9:30 a.m. today, Donald Blake had greeted his students with a handshake and asked each what their goals were for the day. He had no idea that he was about to receive the surprise of a lifetime! From a group of 72 teachers, Donald Blake of Marchman Technical College in Pasco Countywas chosen as one of five finalists to compete for the 2017 Macy’s/Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year Award!
For the past 28 years, Macy’s, along with the Florida Department of Education, has honored the most exceptional educators in Florida who make magic in and out of their classrooms every day. The Teacher of the Year program recognizes and honors the contributions of outstanding classroom teachers who have demonstrated a superior capacity to inspire a love of learning in students of all backgrounds and abilities.
At 9:30 a.m., Florida Department of Education Commissioner, Pam Stewart, along with Paul Imbrone, Macy’s vice president of Government and Public Affairs, was on hand to make the big surprise announcement. The Electricity teacher was instructing his class when the Commissioner made the surprise visit and told him that he had been chosen as one of five finalists for the prestigious honor.
“The alignment of Donald Blake’s high-quality lessons and the labor market needs to equip his students with 21st century skills to prepare them for in-demand occupations in high-growth industry sectors makes him truly worthy of this honor and recognition. His strong collaborations among his peers, the community and industry leaders strengthens the future for each of his career ready students as well as the community,” said Dennis Witte, Macy’s executive vice president and regional director of stores.
Upon receiving the good news, Donald Blake was presented with a $15,000 check from the Department of Education and Macy’s, and a $500 Macy’s gift card. A $1,000 check, funded by Macy’s, was presented to the finalist’s school. Macy’s will contribute more than $100,000 in cash to the state-run Teacher of the Year program, as it has done since 1988. This year, Governor Rick Scott secured additional state funds for teachers in the Teacher of the Year program to significantly increase these awards for Florida educators.
“Macy’s has been presenting these awards for almost 30 years because we know that exceptional teachers are one of the most important factors of our students’ learning and success. That’s one reason why we’re proud of our long-standing commitment to education in Florida,” continued Witte. “To be a teacher is to be a ‘change agent.’ It is a dynamic profession that promotes lifelong learning. This comes to life in Mr. Blake’s classroom, where students are engaged while innovation and achievement rise. The Teacher of the Year program gives us the opportunity to honor the best educators in the state, as well as motivate teachers to strive for excellence in their own communities.”
“Mr. Blake is a terrific example of an educator who considers students’ needs beyond the walls of his classroom, and it is evident he understands the value of educators collaborating to help every student reach their potential,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. “By fostering meaningful relationships with his colleagues, Mr. Blake has helped his students excel in the technical courses he teaches while also enabling them to enhance their literacy skills, which are essential for any career path.”
The winner of the 2017 Macy’s/Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year award will be announced during a ceremony on Thursday, July 14, 2016. The event, hosted by Emmy Award-winning journalist Deborah Norville, will be held at Orlando’s Hard Rock Live at Universal Studios CityWalk.
In addition to a $20,000 award funded by the Department of Education and Macy’s, the Teacher of the Year will receive awards from Macy’s including an all-expense paid trip for four to New York City to attend the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The winner will also serve for one year as the Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education, touring the state to spread the word about educational opportunities and challenges in the Sunshine State. To date, Macy’s has contributed almost $3 million to teachers throughout the state.
During the event, the remaining nominees will be presented with a $10,000 personal cash award from the Department of Education and Macy’s.
This year’s five finalists were chosen from more than 194,519 public school teachers throughout the state by a Department of Education-appointed selection committee representing teachers, principals, parents and the business community. Each finalist is selected on the basis of outstanding ability to teach and communicate knowledge of the subject taught, professional development, philosophy of teaching, and outstanding school and community service.