The supporters with Nicholas Leduc cutout heads on sticks would not be disappointed.
On Wednesday night at the Manatee County School District’s Excellence in Education Awards ceremony, all of the teachers and support staff nominated for the annual award had fans in the audience. But only Leduc, a fourth-grade teacher, had a contingent of men, women and most importantly, children, waving his face on sticks in support of their man from Braden River Elementary.
So when Leduc was announced as the Educator of the Year, Leduc’s face was everywhere in the packed atrium at Manatee Technical College.
“You got the wrong guy,” Leduc said repeatedly throughout his speech as he highlighted the many worthy colleagues, mentors and family members who had helped him — from his very first principal who hired him while standing outside a Marshall’s dressing room, to his mother, who while dying of cancer told him if he ever was nominated for teacher of the year, he had better accept it.
Joining Leduc as the highest honored employee in the school district was Michael Brackman, an ESOL aide at Johnson Middle School.
Known for his humor, his enthusiasm and his style, Brackman stepped to the stage in red suede Armanis to accept the award for Support Employee of the Year. And he promptly thanked his fashion consultant, eliciting laughs from the crowd.
Brackman said he grew up without a mother and father, so he knows how important other adults are in children’s life.
“You have to show kids you care, and you have to be genuine with it,” Brackman said. “Just show them you care. They can sense that.”
On International Women’s Day, in a field dominated by females but often seeking strong males, Manatee County’s two highest honorees of the year were both men.
“We are so excited that two males won support employee of the year and teacher of the year," Superintendent Diana Greene said.
Leduc and Brackman both received $5,000 from SunCoast Credit Union, $1,000 from the Macy’s Foundation ($250 of which will be donated to the winner’s school) and will advance to state-level competition.
Joseph Baker, a sixth-grade social studies at Buffalo Creek Middle School; Josephine Johnson, a kindergarten teacher at Tara Elementary School; and Courtney Walker, a second-grade teacher at Bashaw Elementary School were also finalists for top educator. Alfonso Cruz, an ESOL aide at Lee Middle School; Valerie Olmstead-Dugan, a computer information specialist for food and nutrition at the Matzke Complex; and Jennifer Polson, the senior school secretary at Wakeland Elementary School were also nominated for top support employee.
Educator of the Year finalists
Joseph Baker, sixth-grade social studies, Buffalo Creek Middle School
Josephine Johnson, kindergarten, Tara Elementary School
Nicholas Leduc, fourth-grade teacher, Braden River Elementary School
Courtney Walker, second-grade teacher, Bashaw Elementary School
Support Employee of the Year finalists
Michael Brackman, ESOL aide, Johnson Middle School
Alfonso Cruz, ESOL aide, Lee Middle School
Valerie Olmstead-Dugan, computer information specialist —food and nutrition, Matzke Complex
Jennifer Polson, senior school secretary, Wakeland Elementary School