Thirty Lee County teachers were surprised this week when they learned they were named finalists for the prestigious Golden Apple Awards, which recognizes the best of the best in the public school system.
And Cape Coral is well represented, with nearly half the nominations.
Among those 30, four came from Ida S. Baker High school, the first time any school has had as many finalists in the award's 26-year history.
Skyline Elementary, Challenger Middle and Island Coast High schools had two finalists named Wednesday, as did one each from the North Fort Myers Academy of the Arts, Diplomat Middle and Elementary schools, North Fort Myers High, and Patriot, J. Colin English, and Robinson Littleton elementary schools.
But Ida Baker went to the head of the class in earning four teachers as finalists out of more than 2,000 teachers who were nominated by parents and students.
Criminal justice teacher Patrick Hanrahan, ESE teacher Fernando Vazquez, academies teacher Shane Appeldorn and English teacher Deanna Hasty all earned finalist status.
* Amy Mayer, Allen Park Elementary
* Barbara Rebeor, Challenger Middle
* Karen Green, Challenger Middle
* Karen Huston, Heights Elementary
* Sondra Best, Heights Elementary
* Patrick Hanrahan, Ida S. Baker High
* Fernando Vazquez, Ida S. Baker High
* Shane Appeldorn, Ida S. Baker High
* Deanna Hasty, Ida S. Baker High
* Susan Hassett, Robinson Littleton Elementary
* Robert Schalmo, Villas Elementary
* Joelle Beverly, Bayshore Elementary
* Morgan Wright, J. Colin English
* Allen Dyen-Shapiro, Island Coast High
* Joseph Mallon, Island Coast High
* Linda Grant, Patriot Elementary
* Quinn Schnabel, Diplomat Middle
* Mara Exposito, Diplomat Elementary
* Jamie McGougan, North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts
* Gwen Gregg, North Fort Myers High
* Tonia Petro, Skyline Elementary
* Barbara Winitzer, Skyline Elementary
* Katie Donohue, Trafalgar Middle
* Gwynetta Gittens, East Lee County High
* Kerri Toscano, Gateway Elementary
* Shandra Backens, Harns Marsh Elementary
* Sara Kohlhauff, Pinewoods Elementary
* Miriam Sutton, Three Oaks Elementary
* Marjan Schoettelkotte, Treeline Elementary
* Kimberly Stinson, Veterans Park Academy for the Arts
"We work so hard every day. We're very student centered," said Melissa Robery, Ida Baker's principal. "Our motto is 'success is the only option,' and our teachers really work toward that goal. It was great thing for the school and our community."
For Hanrahan, it is a huge honor, who along with Hasty, is a repeat finalist.
"The kids are the reason I got it. Teachers don't do it as much as the kids. They make me look good," Hanrahan said. "Everybody here really believes our mission and do what they can for the kids."
Three other Cape schools, Skyline Elementary, Challenger Middle and Island Coast High schools, earned two nods apiece.
Science teacher Barbara Rebeor and math teacher Karen Green were named finalists at Challenger, while Allen Dyen-Shapiro and Joseph Mallon will represent the Gators.
Tonia Petro and Barbara Winitzer earned the two nominations from Skyline Elementary.
Other area finalists include Susan Hassett, Robinson Littleton Elementary; Morgan Wright, J. Colin English; Linda Grant, Patriot Elementary; Quinn Schnabel, Diplomat Middle; Mara Exposito, Diplomat Elementary; Jamie McGougan, North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts; Gwen Gregg, North Fort Myers High; and Katie Donohue, Trafalgar Middle.
Being named a finalist is always big news. Hassett learned about her nomination during a school assembly.
"We had the whole student body present and I asked her to come onstage so I could tell her the news," said Monica Broughton, Robinson Littleton principal. "Everyone was excited for her."
The good news never gets old for Hassett, who is a finalist for the third straight year and hopes this time is the charm.
"It's a huge honor I was named a finalist again. I have a great team that works with me, that gives me ideas and supports me in my science programs," Hassett said. "When you work together with other people you accomplish so much more and that stands out."
Golden Apples are nothing new for Robinson Littleton. Laura Reed won the award last year and four recipients have been teachers at the school.
Broughton said it's just an indication of the quality of educators the school has.
"It's an honor for the school. It indicates Hassett is a great teacher who works in a quality school," Broughton said. "It's positive recognition for the school."
The program is run by the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, and it recognizes the top teachers for their, work in the classroom.
The applications for the award are blind, so the committee doesn't know where the nominee teaches. Therefore, it was simply a case where area teachers were recognized more than usual.
"It was a great turnout for the West Zone schools. It was certainly different that so many came from Ida Baker and Cape Coral," said Janelle Beaber, marketing director for the foundation.
The Golden Apple program has honored 140 teachers since its inception in 1987.
Members of a selection committee will observe and interview the 30 finalists. The six recipients of the Golden Apple will be named later this spring.
"The Golden Apple is an example and opportunity for us to raise awareness of the teaching profession," Beaber said. "Every finalist is a representative of teaching. Six teachers will represent all the fine teachers Lee County has."