Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

TOAST TO A TOP TRIO | Three Finalists Celebrated for Sarasota County Award

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

TOAST TO A TOP TRIO | Three Finalists Celebrated for Sarasota County Award

Article excerpt

SARASOTA -- A Pine View School teacher who, at age 4, used to place stuffed animals in front of a chalkboard and grade their make- believe papers was one of three Sarasota County public school educators named as Teacher of the Year finalists Thursday morning.

Self-described "late bloomer" Christine Braun, who earned her education degree at 37, drew her hands to her mouth when she was cited in the surprise announcement before a capacity-filled school auditorium. After catching her breath following a standing ovation, the seventh-grade civics and history teacher saluted her faculty colleagues and called the honor "the Oscars" of teaching.

Variations of the same scene played out at Riverview High, where Rams basketball coach and history teacher B.J. Ivey was caught flat- footed during a gymnasium assembly, and in the Tatum Ridge Elementary cafeteria, where Holly Houghton-Brown was equally stunned.

"I was looking at my students just to make sure they were behaving properly and I didn't even know that my name was called," Houghton-Brown

admitted during a lull in the applause. "My legs are shaking right now."

Braun, Ivey, and Houghton-Brown were welcomed into the exclusive club by their predecessors from last year's elementary, middle, and high school honorees -- Rolf Hanson, Kristina Beecher, and Khea Davis. Each finalist receives a cash prize from the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, and the overall winner will be announced in April. The district's winner will represent Sarasota County Schools at the Florida Department of Education-Macy's Teacher of the Year program and serve as a spokesperson for and representative of the teaching profession at various events in the 2017-18 school year.

"Truth be told," said Ivey, advancing a common theme, "I feel like the reason why I'm a good teacher is because I've got good students who come in and listen and buy in to what I ask them to do. …

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