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Two North teachers Golden Apple finalists

January 30, 2019
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Two North Fort Myers teachers are among 30 Lee County educators selected as finalists for the 32nd annual Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Program.

Katherine Callard, a second-grade teacher at Dr. Carrie D. Robinson Littleton Elementary School, and Kaleigh Stewart, a Language Arts teacher at North Fort Myers High School, have been named finalists this year.

They were surprised in their classrooms last week, surrounded by students, administrators, fellow educators and staff members from the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, which organizes the event.

For Callard, in her 16th year at the school, it is the fourth time she has been named a finalist. As a second-grade teacher, she is teaches a the full gamut of skills, reading, writing and arithmetic, as well as science and social studies.

"It's a very exciting time and a little nerve-wracking trying to do your best with them trying to observe, but it's such an honor," Callard said, who was nominated by her students. "No matter what happens, I always cherish the days of being a finalist."

Callard started her career in New York as a special education teacher and committee member before moving to Florida in 2001.

She is the founder of the Ladies Club, a group for girls from third to fifth grade who deal with academic, social or behavioral challenges.

"We meet every other week and do community service and role play and we have community leaders guest speak," Callard said. "We try to be a positive part of their life."

Stewart, a ninth-grade language arts teacher was shocked when she learned she had been nominated and became a finalist for the first time.

"This is something I've dreamed about when I started teaching, so I'm baffled I have this opportunity and I'm really thankful," Stewart said. "Actually winning this award is something I can't really get my head around. I thought something like this would be much further off."

Stewart was born and raised near Philadelphia and grew up attending their schools. Once she graduated, she said she wanted an adventure. She sent resumes all over the country and was hired here in Florida.

Stewart taught in Hendry County for four years before coming to North two years ago, where she has tried to build relationships with the students and create a family atmosphere.

"I tell them on the first day, you may not know each other yet, but by the end of the year, you'll be a family," Stewart said. "Going about things that way, if you can get them to buy in, they're more apt to grasp any content you teach."

The Foundation's Golden Apple Selection Committee, made up of community and business leaders, reviewed and ranked applications to select the 30 finalists.

Many teachers get nominated. After that, it is up to the teacher to submit a qualification essay to be considered.

"These finalists are dedicated professionals who are representative of all the excellent teachers in the Lee County School District who we entrust with the responsibility of educating our greatest community asset, our students," said Marshall T. Bower, president & CEO of The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, in a statement.

The 30 finalists will now be visited by all 12 Golden Apple Selection Committee members. The visits will be unannounced.

After these classroom visits, each finalist also will be interviewed over a two-day period at the foundation's office.

Meanwhile, The Foundation on Monday released its Teachers of Distinction. These are teachers who ranked high in the selection process for the Golden Apple and they round out the top 101 recognized applicants.

North Fort Myers Teachers of Distinction honorees are Lindsey Maxwell and Kristen Santiago, Bayshore Elementary; Sherri Donnell, Dr. Carrie D. Robinson Elementary; Jessica Comtois, J. Colin English Elementary; Cheryl Nichols, North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts; Taylor Ashby, Sally Kilic, Ashley Monastra, North Fort Myers High School; Vicki Campbell, Tiffany Danielson, Casey Foley, Barbara Matos, Tropic Isles Elementary.

All of these educators, Golden Apple finalists and Teachers of Distinction recipients, will be invited to attend the Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Banquet and the Golden Apple Social where they will be formally recognized with the Golden Apple winners.



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