PALMETTO -- The sheer joy of teaching overshadowed recent turmoil over pay cuts and budget concerns Wednesday night as the Manatee County school district named its Educator and Support Employees of the year for the first time in more than a decade.
Dameon Headings, a fourth-grade math teacher at Palm View Elementary, and Lori Pick, a technology specialist at Mills Elementary, received the honors with bursting smiles before a crowd of about 500 at the Manatee Convention Center.
Each had the same message for their colleagues at a time when school district employees are suffering from low morale because of pay cuts.
“There are going to be greater times in the future,” said Headings. “We have to persevere through the struggling times because at the end there are going to be great times.”
“Stay positive and keep hoping for the best,” Pick said. “Things turn around and come back, and we’ll make it to the other side.”
Headings said he was inspired to become a teacher by his father, who “laid down the law” and encouraged Headings to work hard at school, even though math -- the subject he would eventually teach -- was hard for him. He said his greatest experience as an educator is enjoying the camaraderie of the other teachers with whom he works. His long-term goal is to become a school principal “so I can mold not only the children but also teachers into greatness.”
Pick said Wednesday’s EdVantage Awards ceremony was among the two highlights of her career, along with earning her bachelor’s degree in elementary education last year. Pick’s job includes maintaining 700 computers, leading 40 students in a television show, and tutoring another 13 every afternoon. She said school district employees should “stay focused on the reason we come to work every day: for the kids and the other people we work with.”
Headings and Pick will advance to the state competition for educator and support employees of the year.
Other finalists for the educator award were Pauline Barnes of Sugg Middle, Jillene Bergeron of Braden River Middle, and Mihija Daniel of Rowlett Elementary. Other finalists for the support award were Cristina Aburto, registrar at Tara Elementary, Linda Campos, registrar at Sea Breeze Elementary, and Angela Inderwiesen, school secretary at Nolan Middle.