Volusia Names Frank Garaitonandia 2022 Teacher of the Year!
Citrus Grove Elementary School art teacher Frank Garaitonandia, a Cuban immigrant who believes, "there is no greater creative act than sparking a child's mind," is this year's Volusia County Schools Teacher of the Year.
Mr. Garaitonandia was selected from 71 nominees representing schools countywide and was one of five finalists for the district award. He will now represent Volusia in the state Teacher of the Year program.
The Volusia Teacher of the Year celebration, held yesterday in the Ocean Center Arena, was a socially distanced event attended by honorees and friends of public education. It was presented by AdventHealth, official healthcare champion of Volusia County Schools, and co-hosted by FUTURES Foundation and Volusia County Schools.
Mr. Garaitonandia succeeds Holly Hill School fifth-grade teacher Josie Ruth Stumpf, who was Volusia County's 2021 Teacher of the Year. A graduate of the University of Florida, Mr. Garaitonandia was an exhibiting professional artist before becoming a teacher 16 years ago. He started at Citrus Grove in 2014. His family fled Cuba for political freedom when he was 8 years old, and they lived in Costa Rica for four years before migrating again, to Florida. Teachers welcomed and nurtured him along the way as the only constant in a sea of change, he said.
"Giving children a voice is my life mission," Mr. Garaitonandia said. "It is those students with a language barrier, academic difficulties, or a discipline problem who most need the arts. The act of self-expression and self-discovery materializes a path toward their futures. It is those students who inspire me to be there for them, the ones who cannot see their next steps."
The other TOTY finalists who received special recognition at the ceremony were:
Joe Biggs, kindergarten teacher, R.J. Longstreet Elementary
Megan Martens, kindergarten teacher, Sweetwater Elementary
Adrienne Palmer, ESE teacher, Deltona High
Joey Powell, director of bands, Silver Sands Middle
Special awards were also announced for three teachers who represent Volusia County Schools' three guiding principles. Superintendent Dr. Carmen Balgobin presented the awards along with a $150 check from FUTURES to:
Guiding Principle #1, Dedication to Increased Student Achievement - Dr. Zena J. Ramsey, math intervention teacher, Edith I. Starke Elementary
Guiding Principle #2, Commitment to Finding Solutions to Problems - Jim Lowenstein, digital video technology teacher, DeLand High (note: Lowenstein was unable to attend and will receive the award at a later date)
Guiding Principle #3, Mutual Respect and Positive Relationships with all Stakeholders - Marianne Dolce, media specialist, Sunrise Elementary
Also recognized during the ceremony was Robyn Trosan, School Way Café manager at Tomoka Elementary, who won the 2020 Superintendent Outstanding Achievement Award (SOAA). She was presented a beautiful SOAA ring courtesy of Josten's. The non-school based SOAA recipient, DeLand Student Transportation bus assistant and trainer Nellie May Evans was unable to attend and will be presented her ring in a separate ceremony.
Major sponsors of the Teacher of the Year celebration include:
Presenting Sponsor - AdventHealth
Vehicle Sponsor - Daytona Kia; Daytona Mitsubishi; and Diamond Motors & Marine
Platinum Sponsor - Space Coast Credit Union
Gold Sponsors - Florida Prepaid College Plans; Rhodes + Brito Architects; and Volusia United Educators (VUE)
Silver Sponsors - BRPH Architects Engineers, Inc.; Florida Credit Union; H.J. High Construction Company; Dr. Robert and Candace Lankford; Mainstreet Community Bank of Florida; and Publix Super Markets Charities
Bronze Sponsors - CenterState Bank; CPH, Inc.; William and Linda Cuthbert; Intracoastal Bank; Leonard's Studios; PDK East Central Florida Chapter 1345; Susan and Carl Persis; Dr. Rosaria and Paul Upchurch; Volusia Association of School Administrators (VASA); Volusia County Council of PTAs (VCCPTAs); Volusia County Sheriff's Office; and Arthur and Ida Wright
FUTURES Regent's Club Members - Alexis Lenssen, CFP of Lenssen Wealth Management Group at Ameriprise Financial; Cobb Cole; Duke Energy; Florida Health Care Plans; Florida Power & Light Company; Launch Credit Union; and Rue & Ziffra
FUTURES Chancellor's Club Members - Brown & Brown Insurance; Hyatt and Cici Brown; Coloni Family Foundation; Foundation Risk Partners; Giles Electric Company; LPGA; and Sam and Barbara Willett
Major in-kind sponsors - Dean Stewart Photography; Nina B. Hollis Institute at Stetson University; Simply Roses; Stonewood Grill & Tavern; and Wishworks Media
Dozens of businesses and organizations in Volusia County also contributed donations of goods and services to Volusia's Teacher of the Year program.
A huge thank you to our sponsors and FUTURES club members who make this event possible!
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