Good News


April 2018

Learn about our 2018-2019 Sarasota County Teachers of the Year!

Cyd Quinn, our teacher mentor, has been teaching teachers for decades. Read her profiles of this year’s 2018-2019 Teachers of the Year, all of whom are members of the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association:

Our representative for Elementary Schools is Bethany Burnett. Bethany has been teaching in Florida for 26 years and in Sarasota County for 20 years.

Bethany currently teaches at Venice Elementary. She is teaching in an inclusion setting, working with therapists and an ESE teacher. She provides a wonderful learning environment that meets the needs of her students through differentiating instruction and using those strategies that impact learning most.  She works very closely with the school nurse to monitor medically fragile children and also works with local community agencies, families and therapists to ensure her students needs’ are being met.

Ms. Burnett serves on a myriad of community organizations, such as School Advisory Council (Chair & Vice Chair,), Literacy Council Chair, VES PTO Chair, Teacher Ambassador for NASA. These are just a few of a long list of organizations Bethany is involved in.  She also serves on professional leadership committees such as Sarasota Panhellenic Past President and Vice President, Phi Mu Alumni Association and serves in a volunteer capacity for Gulf Coast Community and Venice Young Marines. Ms.

Burnett states “The greatest increase in my students’ performances for the first day of school to the last of school cannot be measured on any formal test. On day one, my student has strong self-esteem or understand the power behind positive self –talk. Once the students obtain the power to celebrate their uniqueness, it is the great gift they can give themselves academically. Positive relationships between the teacher and students are the greatest factor for success. Once those relationships are in place then the academic success follows.

Bethany serves as the Chairperson for the Serve Above Self organization. Her school community focuses on increasing literacy for students at Tuttle Elementary. They collected over 2,000 books and created home libraries for every student at Tuttle.

She also applied and received grants to support a sensory integration room for all children, dance classes to increase expressive language and put into place the first exceptional education class to become a technology model. This was through a grant from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

Bethany shares her message to the public: “We have the ability to emulate the uniquely beautiful qualities of each of our students and highlight those character traits to allow our student to view themselves in a positive way. Gifting each of our students the power of embracing their remarkable personality traits, we can change the negative mindset and stigma even our youngest learner have acquired before entering the doors on the first day of kindergarten. By empowering our students to celebrate their extraordinary and distinctive character traits we can create a future society unified together by originality.”

Allison Cohen has the honor of representing Sarasota County Middle Schools. Allison has been teaching math at Booker Middle School since 1997 and has also served as a summer school instructor at Oak Park School for ten years. She currently teaches sixth grade math.

Ms. Cohen is very involved in her school serving on the Bill and Melinda Gates Teacher Advisory Council, is a Math Curriculum Leader, Math Department Chair, serves as a Peer Mentor, and works to recruit and retain volunteer math tutors.

She also serves in our community as an Officer/ Board of Directors of Brothers and Sisters Doing the Right Thing and is an active member of the Council for Exceptional Children.

Allison, who describes her students as “striving sixth graders who learn that ANY gains are welcome gains and students build on their individual successes. There is no predetermined magic number and therefore there are no disappointments; all successes, no matter how small are celebrated”.

Allison shares that her successes with her students are due to her collaboration with the families of her students. This includes daily communication with parents/guardians, via text messaging, daily agenda book notes, telephone calls and home visits. She also conducts data chats on a regular basis to give students consistent feedback. All of these interactions help to build relationships with her students and their families. She also donates her planning time, lunch and after school time to provide additional support to her students.

She finds that by the end of each year, not only have her students made gains academically, they are now confident learners. Every child does succeed in her classroom.  Ms. Cohen’s message is that failure is “Never an option”!

Es Swihart has been teaching English in Florida for the last 11 years, and has been teaching at Riverview High School since 2013.  Es is Sarasota County’s High School Teacher of the Year.

Es teaches a wide variety of classes including IB HL Literature 3 & 4, Pre-IB English2, Pre-IB English 1, Acting 3& 4 and Intensive Reading with READ 180. Her honors include IMG Teacher of the Year 2011, IB Last Lecture Presenter 2016 and Class Nobel Educator of Distinction 2017.

Ms. Swihart continually supports her students’ learning through a variety of assessments such as student journals, written exams, and presentations. She emphasizes importance of growth through student acknowledgement and vocalization. She provides an example of this through an IB Assessment. Students are asked to independently analyze a poem and present their argument and supporting analysis orally. As they do this several times as part of the IB Program, she shares that she marvels at the growth her students have made by their senior year.

Ms.Swihart’s message to the public: “ Some students need to write, some need to dance, some need to calculate and some need to problem solve. Let school be a place where students discover who they are while they foster skills needed to be a part of a community.”

From one of her co-workers: “Es has an unparalleled capacity for language intellectual thought, philosophical reflection and innovative instruction. She projects energy and enthusiasm in all of her classes…”


What an honor it is to have these incredible educators represent all instructional staff for Sarasota County!  Congratulations to these four amazing Educators! We thank you for what you do each and every day to ensure our students are thriving and learning!

October 20, 2017

SC/TA’s Dress Drive: Let’s Start Now!

The Homecoming season has triggered lots of “dress donation” questions for The Closet, a project of the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association that provides prom gowns and accessories to teen-agers.

Organizer Chris Mayer says even though The Closet only donates prom gowns in the spring, it is accepting donations TO The Closet now, and through the spring. Dresses, shoes, jewelry, purses, and other accessories are welcomed, Chris says. But also, she asks donors to keep some limitations in mind.

“We can only accept items in gently used condition,” Chris reminds potential donors. “We don’t have the funds to dry-clean items, and unfortunately, we don’t need very vintage items or wedding dresses. We appreciate all donations, but our space is limited!”

Donations can be dropped off at 4675 Tamiami Trail, next to Phillip Shores Elementary in Sarasota, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 4 p.m. Thank you for supporting this great cause!

“Thank you again for all of the love and support,” Chris says. “We can’t wait to make some dreams come true this spring!”


SC/TA members Christine Braun, Holly Houghton-Brown, and B.J. Ivey are Sarasota County’s 2017-2018 Teachers of the Year.

Oct. 4, 2017

A nod to our 2017-2018 Teachers of the Year

As we continue the 2017-18 school year, here’s a shout out to our current Sarasota County Teachers of the Year 2018:

• Christine Braun is our district’s Middle School Teacher of the Year. She has been teaching at Pine View School since 2005, first as a 4th grade Gifted Language Arts/Social Studies teacher, then as a 7th grade Gifted Civics Social Studies teacher. She now teaches AP European History.

Chris facilitates her team’s Professional Learning Community, co-wrote curriculum for the Civics Law Unit, is a Class of 2018 Sponsor, serves on the graduation committee, and on the School Advisory Committee, and is an active member of the Pine View Association.

Mrs. Braun promotes an open mindset and pushes her students to see real world connections between civics and their personal lives. She takes great pride in exposing her students to the thought that as we age, life will change from black and white thinking to gray. It is her hope “that my students begin to see a “gray” perspective to learn the art of compromise and problem solving.”

She also believes that planning time with colleagues is paramount. The collaborative team planning among her and her team members engage creates thought-provoking lessons, rigorous and stimulating lessons and conversations amongst her students, and helps to build camaraderie and relationships.

Mrs. Braun truly instills a passion for learning with her students and colleagues. She is an inspiration to the teaching profession!

• Representing Sarasota County Elementary is Holly Houghton-Brown. Holly is a fifth-grade teacher at Tatum Ridge Elementary and has been teaching in our school district for 17 years.

Mrs. Houghton-Brown works tirelessly to ensure her “school” children’s needs are met. She believes it is critical to find a healthy balance between facilitating her students’ skill development and nurturing their confidence and curiosity.

She believes each of her students has value to offer to their classmates, the community and the world. With that philosophy, she builds strong flexible teams of students who interact with each other in a positive manner and support each other both academically and emotionally.

Her peers see Holly as dynamic, the ultimate professional, and the one teacher that all students should have in their lives. Her administrators, both past and present, feel Mrs. Houghton-Brown goes above and beyond to meet the needs of her diverse learners, works collegially with the staff and families, and is admired by all.

Holly currently serves as the Chairperson of the Tatum Ridge Literacy Committee and has been a member of the Tatum Leadership Committee.  

• Serving as our High school Teacher of the Year and Sarasota’s County Teacher of the Year is B.J. Ivey, history and AP Psychology teacher at Riverview High School.

B.J., who is also the head basketball coach, is a graduate of Riverview High and has extensive knowledge of his school community. His administrator states “B.J. epitomizes our Riverview motto: “Unity, Teamwork and Support”. He is respected by families, teachers, students, and the neighborhood at large.

Mr. Ivey feels that it is his job as an educator to encourage, inspire, and motivate his students. He strives to show genuine interest in his students, really listens and hears them, and then tries to relate their concerns and experiences to what he is teaching.

His success as a teacher is evident in the number of students taking his AP Psychology course and passing the high-stakes test. He began teaching the course in 2013 with less than 50 students. His class enrollment has increased to over 200 students and an additional instructor had to be added. His students’ scores have exceeded the national pass rates for the last several years.

B.J. tries to model & encourage his students to give their best effort, develop a strong work ethic, have an attitude of gratitude, and to focus on the things in life that they can control.

What do these three educators have in common? They are passionate, dedicated and committed to their students and their work. Each of these incredible educators works to ensure our students are prepared to meet the challenges and successes of the 21st century.

Congratulations to each of our Teachers of the Year! Wishing you and all teachers the very best for the 2017-18 school year!

January 9, 2017

“Shout Out” to Khea Davis, language arts teaching standout!

Our first “Shout Out” of 2017 is Teacher of the Year Khea Davis!

Davis, who teaches language arts at Booker High, hasn’t let up a bit since being named Sarasota’s Teacher of the Year in March. She helped Booker High earn its way to the top 4 percent of Florida schools in language arts and reading test improvement this past fall. Booker was 19th out of the state’s 453 high schools in its Florida Standards Assessment language arts/reading scores.

Davis’ key role is as teacher, but she contributes to language arts education at Booker High in many other ways, too. She is the faculty sponsor of the Black History Club, serves as a mentor to new teachers, and is a member of the school’s Literacy Leaders Team.

Booker High’s standout test performance is even more impressive considering that 70 percent of the school’s freshman enter the school with reading levels below the standards for their grade level.

Davis brings a nurturing style to her classroom, calling her students her “honies” and “babies,” ensuring each students feels “loved,” and drawing all to participate.

“Ms. Davis is an inspiration to us all. She is smart, passionate and fun,” says Patricia Gardner, president of the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association. “You can’t beat that anywhere!”

Khea is pictured above with former Schools Supt. Lori White during her Teacher of the Year announcement, and to the right delivering a speech as the district’s top teacher.


November 15, 2016

“Shout Out” to Gail Foreman, top-notch teacher!

Reaching ever higher might best describe the teaching career of Gail Foreman, the latest recipient of a “Shout Out!” from Pat Gardner, president of the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association.

All of Gail’s seven roles at Booker High School involve helping students reach as high as they can in one way or another — whether it be through their GPAs, fundraising, peer relations, or exceptional student education.

Here are the many roles Gail fulfills at Booker High:
• coordinates Booker High’s Student Government Association. This involves guiding an executive board of student officers in leading all four high school grade levels and their sponsors.
• serves on Booker High’s Renaissance team, which celebrates students who earn 3.0 or higher GPAs. As part of this role, Gail stays after school every Friday afternoon.
• oversees Booker’s Student Activities calendar and fundraising
• was named Sarasota County’s 2013 “Exceptional Student Educator of the Year”
• served as Booker High’s ESE department chair for 5 years
• sponsors the school’s Coexistence Club that guides visitors to the district’s annual Embracing Our Differences exhibit
• teaches Psychology, U.S. History and Criminal Justice

“Thank you for recognizing Gail. She is an amazing asset to BHS,” says Darby Larkin, assistant principal at Booker High. “A super committed person … Above all of her dedication to extra-curriculars on our campus, Gail is an outstanding educator.“

Gail is pictured above with Joanne Fischer, member services rep, and Pat Gardner, president of the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association.

August 1, 2016

“Shout Out” to Cyd Quinn, teacher mentor extraordinaire!
When Cyd Quinn offers her years of experience to new teachers on Aug. 12, she will be totally in her element.

“I am passionate about education, and my goal has always been to be a support of some kind to our teachers,” says Quinn, who worked with another teacher to create Sarasota public schools’ lauded “SCIP,” which provides intense education to new staffers. “And I’m a very good listener. I’m good at helping teachers help themselves.”

Quinn’s leadership in mentoring new teachers has earned her a “Shout Out” from Patricia Gardner, president of SC/TA, who is among the greatest cheerleaders for Quinn and her “Preparing For the First Days of School” workshop coming Aug. 12th.

For a full day, Quinn will help new teachers find the best practices for things like how to get organized right away, how to ensure their needs are being met at the school where they are teaching, and how to establish the safe, secure and trusting environment that makes classrooms so successful.

“There are so many questions that need answers when you’re a new teacher,” Quinn says. “I’m here for them.”

To register for Cyd Quinn’s class, email cyd.quinn@sarasotacountyschools.net or call her at 941-922-9022.

Good things are happening all the time with our teacher and classified employee members! Watch this page for a steady stream of “good news” from the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association. Uplifting reports from our teachers, members, and classrooms.


March 10, 2016

Congratulations to our 2016 ROAD-E-O Winners!
The 2016 Transportation Department School Bus ROAD-E-O was held on Saturday, February 27, 2016.  Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association is proud to, once again, support this event by awarding prizes to members who placed in the top three spots in the Veteran, Rookie and Attendant categories.  Members awarded were:
John Sullivan, 2nd place, awarded $100.00
Theresa Kerrigan, 3rd place, awarded $75.00
Yuriy Bogash, 1st place, awarded $150.00
Michelle Stebbins, 3rd place, awarded $75.00
Catherine Tunstall, 1st place, awarded $150.00
Mary Linn, 2nd place, awarded $100.00
Brenda Behn, 3rd place, awarded $75.00

March 1, 2016

2nd Annual VHS Bowls of Hope – Benefiting All Faith’s Food Bank – March 11, 2016

Bowls of HopeTalk about a triple whammy: students in visual arts, performing arts AND culinary arts at Venice High School are joining efforts to support the 2nd Annual VHS Bowls of Hope, to benefit All Faiths Food Bank!

This event is a collaboration between Interact Follies and VHS culinary students. Select a bowl made by VHS students, enjoy your meal and then take your ticket over to VPAC for a discounted price for VHS Follies!

One bowl – $25.00 * Two Bowls – $45.00 * Three Bowls – $60.00 * Four Bowls- $75.00
Cost for just a bowl or just the meal is $15.00

For more information: http://www.veniceperformingartscenter.com/event/f4312c65968e31ab5c453d047485cba1

October 29, 2015

JumpStart “Read for the Record” was a whale of a success at Gulf Gate Elementary Oct. 22 — thanks to a devoted Gulf Gate staff and volunteers from Mote Marine Laboratories!

deborah beck 2ALL Gulf Gate students participated in the nationwide “Read for the Record” event by reading “Norman Not Norman,” a great book about friendship and cooperating with others. The kids and staff wore red to commemorate the day, which featured “Fish Wishes”, crafting aquarium, word puzzles highlighting vocabulary, and other activities related to the book.

Principal Robin Magac read “Norman Not Norman” aloud to the entire school through its new television station. Angel Rodriguez, a member of the Sarasota Classified Teachers Association, accompanied her by playing “Norman.” Mote Marine provided the finishing touches by bringing on-campus their wonderful touch tank, aquarium, displays, and volunteers. See more photos.

October 16, 2015

Teachers group takes dress donation drive year-round

“Cinderella’s Closet” is starting its annual call for dresses three months earlier this year, in October instead of January.

The Closet is also preparing to expand to a year-round program providing “dressy” dresses to teens for all kinds of school dances – not just Prom in the spring, but also Homecoming in the fall, and holiday dances.

“We realized, when we were approached by a nonprofit school this fall, that girls are in need are all year round,” said Pat Gardner, president of the Sarasota Classified Teachers Association, which sponsors the annual dress donation and giveaway program. Read more.

October 14, 2015

SC/TA member Greg Benson named Nationwide Math Hero

Greg Benson

Booker Middle School’s Greg Benson – whose teaching style includes spray-painting large-scale drawings of entire houses onto soccer fields — is among only 25 teachers chosen nationwide as a Raytheon Corp. “Math Hero” for bringing “innovative and transformative” approaches to math teaching.

“I try to make it interesting,” says Benson, in his third year at Booker. ”And I try to pre-empt the question of ‘How am I going to use this in real life?’ “

Benson and Booker Middle School received $5,000 total for the award, given each year to only 25 of the nation’s standout math and science teachers, chosen through a multi-stage competitive process.

September 28, 2015

“Cinderella’s Dress Closet” by the SCTA helped out about 30 teenage girls from the Friends of Joshua House Foundation, Inc in Tampa this past Sunday!

The teens needed dresses for Homecoming; our fearless leaders Christine Mayer and Patricia Gardner made a special weekend trip to “bring the dream alive.” Thank you, generous dress donors, for joining with the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association on this charitable effort! 

June 8, 2015

SC/TA awards $3,000 in scholarships

Six students throughout Sarasota County received $500 scholarships from the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association. Read More.

April 6, 2015

Pastore honored as nation’s best special ed teacher

The Council for Exceptional Children has awarded SC/TA member Helen Pastore the 2015 Clarissa Hug Award, which names her the country’s top special education teacher. Read More.

March 31, 2015

SC/TA funds bus trip for North Port students to The Closet

An estimated 50 students from the south county city were able to partake of free prom dresses and accessories, courtesy of a bus funded by the SC/TA. Read More.

March 20, 2015

SCTA holds prom dress giveaway for fifth straight year

Generous community members donated a record 1,500-plus prom dresses and accessories to “The Closet,” an annual prom dress giveaway project coordinated by Chris Mayer, vice president of the SC/TA. Read More.