Head of their class
EAST MANATEE -- By coincidence, Mary Anne Maginot's sixth-grade math class missed a test as members of the Manatee County School District "prize patrol" stormed the classroom Friday to congratulate Maginot, one of eight district employees named a finalist for Employee of the Year.
The annual district Excellence in Education Awards honors the top Educator of the Year and the top Support Employee of the Year.
Between Thursday and Friday morning, a parade of district officials, family members and Marty the Marauder surprised employees who made it to the finalist stage of the competition. Four educators and four support employees now have to hold out until March to find out if they've been given the top honor.
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Maginot's class was just preparing for a math test when taken by surprise. Superintendent Diana Greene gave Maginot a superintendent's coin of excellence, but the honoree had a question before she would agree to partake in a photo session for the district.
"Can I just get them started on their test first?"
Her answer, from students and adults in the room, was a resounding no.
"We are on a schedule," she said, before giving up and posing for photos.
A teacher for more than 25 years, Maginot often stays up until midnight or 1 a.m. grading papers and working on projects, said husband, Jim Maginot, who was on hand. He got the call Thursday to make sure he could drop by the school for the surprise.
"I'm very proud of her," he said. "She always thinks of others first. She thinks of the kids."
A common thread between all finalists is they put others before themselves. Tina Lundy, a support staff finalist and project assistant for capital projects, has a "heart of gold," according to Jane Dreger, director of capital projects.
"She has risen to every challenge we've put in front of her," Dreger said. "She just really gives back."
Lundy was surprised Friday during a project assistants meeting at the Matzke Complex, where she works. She said she heard some commotion in the hallway, but just assumed builders or construction workers had some into the office.
"I thought maybe they were just coming in to say good morning," she said. "It's very exciting. It's overwhelming."
Born and raised in Manatee County -- "Go Seminoles," the 1984 Southeast High School graduate said -- she really feels a strong connection to helping the school district succeed, she said. She's worked in the district for the last 28 years.
"I just wanted to be a part of making the community be successful, for my children as well as other children, and just being part of a great district with lots of really wonderful people," she said.
The prize patrol part of the program rolled out about five years ago, Manatee Education Foundation Executive Director Mary Glass said. The Excellence in Education awards are sponsored by the school district, the foundation, Suncoast Credit Union, Bright House Networks and the Pittsburgh Pirates, which is how Marty the Marauder got involved.
After two full mornings of surprises and good wishes, Greene said she felt motivated to get to work.
"This makes me want to work harder," she said. "This is an opportunity to shine a light on the hard work and the incredible passion our employees have."
The final awards ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 2, at at Manatee Technical College's main campus on State Road 70.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter@MeghinDelaney.