MANATEE -- The Manatee School District recognized its top performers with a car give-away and a cash prize at the EdVantage Education Awards ceremony Wednesday at Manatee Technical Institute.
Zadda Bazzy, the music teacher at Oneco Elementary, was named Educator of the Year. Gettel Toyota made the grand prize grander by presenting Bazzy with a 2013 Toyota Prius.
Todd Persinger, the head custodian at Anna Maria Elementary, was named the Support Employee of the Year. The Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union presented him with a $5,000 savings account.
The evening was a time to call attention to their dedication to the community and the influence they have on students.
It was also the first official appearance of incoming Superindentent Rick Mills, who praised the educators in attendance. "I am here today because of a teacher," said Mills, who is in the process of moving from Minnesota. "Their encouragement and support put me on the path of success."
Under Bazzy's direction, Oneco Elementary students have been chosen for the All-State Chorus, and ensembles from Oneco Elementary have been asked to perform at district and state levels.
Bazzy is currently the Project STAGE mentor teacher for Oneco Elementary, and she encourages her students to keep journals about their lessons in music arts. At the district level, she serves on both the Music Leadership Team and the Manatee Core Curriculum Design Team.
She has been involved in the creation of the Performing Fine Arts Assessment of Florida, a standardized music assessment.
Anna Maria Elementary Principal David Marshall praised Persinger. "Todd extends himself beyond basic required duties," he said. "He is a shining example of an em
ployee that loves his job and everyone around him."
Persinger enjoys taking the time to interact with students at a personal level. He is also involved with the school's annual Thanksgiving lunch. Cafeteria staff said that Persinger is always willing to grab a hair net and help serve. He also is known for dressing up every year for Halloween.
Deborah Miele, a math teacher at King Middle, Carrie Rainwater, an eighth-grade science teacher at Nolan Middle School and Jason Schiessel, a theater arts teacher at Southeast High School, were finalists for the educator of the year award and received a plaque, an Apple product, and a $1,000 Nova Southeastern scholarship.
Sandy Heaton, the senior secretary at Wakeland Elementary, Diana Popovice, registrar at Mills Elementary and Joni Wallace Brightbill, secretary III at the maintenance and operations department, were finalists for the support employee of the year award and received a plaque and an Apple product.
Prior to the awards ceremony, interim superintendent David Gayler visited each finalist for educator of the year and support employee of the year in their classrooms and offices.
The ceremony included a video presentation that honored each finalist.
Summer Smith of Bay News 9 was the master of ceremonies. Attendees enjoyed a dessert reception with refreshments prepared by MTI culinary students. There was also a VIP reception hosted by Fawley Bryant and the Beck Group.
The Manatee High School Singers and the Lee Middle School Dancers performed and represented the art programs in Manatee County schools.
"The talent of educators never ceases to amaze me," Mills said.