The three teachers selected as finalists in this year’s Alachua County Teacher Recognition Program have 60 years of combined experience in the education field.
Lilliemarie Gore, Richard Thomas and Karen Kearney were chosen from among the district’s 36 teachers of the year honorees that represent elementary, middle and high school teachers in the districtwide program. The winner will represent Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) in the Florida Teacher of the Year program, according to an ACPS release sent on Thursday.
The three finalists and their fellow honorees will all be recognized at the 31st Annual Robert W. Hughes Alachua County Teacher Recognition Program celebration to be held at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 26 at Trinity United Methodist Church (4000 NW 53rd Ave.) and is being hosted by The Education Foundation. The program is named after the former Alachua County Public Schools superintendent who established the program.
Gore has been the behavior resource teacher at Sidney Lanier School for nearly two years. Before becoming a staff member at Lanier, she taught at the Duval Fine Arts Academy and Williams, Idylwild and Wiles elementary schools. She has been a safety patrol sponsor, school advisory council member and coordinator for the 21st Century after-school program.
Gore says she enjoys being able to devote individual attention to students who struggle and seeing them prosper.
“I want to encourage them, inspire them, and set a good example for them,” she said. “I want them to know that they are amazing, that they can do anything and that they should never give up.”
Thomas is the dean at Kanapaha Middle School. Before his current role, he worked as a sixth-grade math and science teacher at Alachua Elementary. Thomas is committed to helping students make progress and letting them know that there are people who support them.
“I want them to know that it’s OK to make mistakes. We all do,” he said. “But we learn from them, we grow from them, and they help us to be the best we can be.”
Kearney has been teaching at Buchholz High School for 21 years. She’s taught anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry and physical science. She also participated as a PTSA member, wellness coordinator, teacher mentor, department chair, assistant wrestling coach and sponsor for several school clubs.
Kearney says she wants her students to be engaged learners for the rest of their lives.
“It sounds like a cliché, but that light bulb moment is wonderful,” she said. “I tell them all the time that hearing ‘Ah, I get this!’ is everything to me. That’s why I teach, it’s music to my ears.”
All honorees will receive a cash award and gifts donated by local businesses and individuals, including primary sponsors Cox, Florida Credit Union and SWI Photographers. The district Teacher of the Year will be announced at the end of Robert W. Hughes Alachua County Teacher Recognition Program.
The event will be live-streamed by clicking here.