In a first for the Franklin County School District, staffers from both the Franklin County Schools and the Apalachicola Bay Charter School came together last week to share in a banquet to honor their top teachers and school-related employees of the year.

Sponsored by the Franklin County Education Foundation, the banquet at the high school cafeteria May 28 was called “Soaring to New Heights,” and was emceed by the school’s two assistant principals, Elizabeth Kirvin, from the ABC School, and Nathan West, from the Franklin County Schools.

Following a welcome from Elinor Mount-Simmons, chair of the education foundation, and a former district teacher of the year, Superintendent Traci Moses offered greetings.

Dolores Croom, the district’s school-related employee of the year in 2014-15, then introduced the honorees, who included:

Anna Keil, ABC’s middle school teacher of the year, who teaches science, and is now in her eight year at the school
Brittani Millender, the district’s school-related employee of the year, who assists with FCS fourth graders, now in her fifth year at the school
David Cochrane, FCS middle and high school teacher of the year and the district teacher of the year, who teaches math, now in his fourth year with the district
Karen Ward, ABC’s elementary teacher of the year, who is now in her 22nd year with the district
Katrina Ham, FCS elementary school teacher of the year, who teaches third grade, and is now in her 15th year with the district
Kathy Varnes, Michelle Chambers and Rosie Rowland, all three ABC’s school related employees of the year. Varnes, a 15-year district employee, assist with middle school math and language arts; Chambers, now in her 12th year, assists with physical education, performing arts and character education; and Rowland, now in her 10th year, works in the cafeteria

After a performance by Pam Nobles Dancers, FCS Principal Michael Sneed praised all the staff, stressing “a partnership with the ABC School.”

School board members Stacy Kirvin, Pam Marshall and Fonda Davis were all on hand as well. “We will do everything we can to support you guys,” said Kirvin, who chairs the school board. “And do everything we can to give our kids the best education.

“Every single person is a teacher,” he said. “You all do so much for our students, and you don’t hear thank you enough.”

Following a dinner of Cuban cuisine, catered by Debra Fletcher’s culinary arts students, the audience enjoyed a Power Point presentation of each of the honorees. Angeline Stanley offered a tribute in song.

Missy Cumbie then offered gifts to the teachers on behalf of the Delta Kappa Gamma teacher fraternal organization. In addition, members of the education foundation presented gifts to all the honorees, as did each of the two schools.

In his remarks, District Teacher of the Year David Cochrane, who will move on to the state completion, praised the efforts of his fellow teachers, at both FCS and ABC.

In an interview afterwards, Millender, the district’s school elated employee of the year, related that after securing her GED, went to work at the Boys and Girls Club in Carrabelle, and then later the Nest after school program. “I found out that I had a passion, and it was working with children,” she said.

She moved on to work as a health aide. “Throughout the years I felt that I could possibly go on to better myself by becoming a paraprofessional, where I could dig a little deeper and be able to actually assist teachers and see how a classroom is managed and how each child learns,” Millender said.

She now works as a fourth grade paraprofessional, working in small group settings that give each child a better understanding of each subject. “I also assist in many different areas mainly elementary, whereever I am needed,” Millender said. “I am a team player and whatever I can do to help our school I’m all in. I love doing what I do and I’m very proud to be part of the Seahawk family.

“One day soon when the time is right, I hope to further my career and go on with my passion and get my degree in elementary education,” she said. “Everything is all in God’s timing.”