Teachers Dee Dee Bitter, Jason Lancy, and Faith Gilliland were surprised on Jan. 9 when they were tapped as the three finalists for Teacher of the Year by Lake County Schools Superintendent Diane Kornegay, members of the school board, and officials with the Educational Foundation of Lake County.
Each finalist was given a bouquet of flowers as the announcement was made in their respective classrooms in front of their students. The teachers also learned they are in the running to win a new Nissan Sentra car from Jenkins Nissan.
Dee Dee is a fourth-grade teacher at Seminole Springs Elementary School in Eustis, and she has been teaching for 29 years. Jason brings 10 years’ experience teaching eighth-grade math at Windy Hill Middle School in Clermont, and Faith has been an educator for 13 years and she teaches 9th to 12th grade math at East Ridge High School in Clermont.
“I’m shocked and I’m honored,” Dee Dee said as tears streamed down her face.
“I feel like I’m on cloud nine. I would teach for free. I would do this just because I love it so much, and I appreciate this so much. The honor is amazing. I will do my best to represent this school and these children.”
Faith said she loves teaching and she adores her students. “I’ve always wanted to make a difference in their lives and I care about them. Of course the math is very important, but to me their lives are more important. I try to treat them the way I want my own children to be treated,” she said. “Being named a finalist is a huge surprise. It’s very exciting and just amazing.”
Jason said he immediately knew it was not an ordinary school day once he saw “the superintendent, flowers, and entourage” come into his classroom. He was all smiles checking out the new car that will be awarded to the finalist chosen as Lake County’s Teacher of the Year.
The winner will be revealed Feb. 10 at Lake Receptions in Mount Dora.