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Pinellas Educator Sarah Ann Painter Named Florida Teacher Of The Year

Sarah Painter holding a bouquet
Pinellas County School District
Sarah Ann Painter, a fifth-grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School in Clearwater, was named the 2022 Florida Teacher of the Year.

The fifth-grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School in Clearwater was cited for her "passion and enthusiasm for learning."

A Pinellas County educator has been named the 2022 Florida Teacher of the Year.

The Florida Department of Education on Thursday awarded Sarah Ann Painter, a fifth-grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School in Clearwater.

During the presentation in Orlando, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran cited what he called her "passion and enthusiasm for learning."

“We are honored to recognize Sarah Ann Painter for being selected as the 2022 Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year,” Corcoran said in a news release. “A great teacher in front of every student is absolutely essential. Sarah Ann’s passion and enthusiasm for learning inspires not only the students in her classroom, but also her colleagues and peers throughout the district. I look forward to working with Sarah Ann throughout the coming year.”

Painter, a University of Florida graduate, was credited for organizing common planning and collaborations with other fifth-grade teachers throughout the district and for generating a culture of "joy."

Painter acknowledged the challenges that the coronavirus pandemic presented this past school year.

But instead of focusing on the negatives, she pointed to some positives while accepting the award.

For me, it's a better understanding of my district's digital platform, a new way to connect with students and families, a new awareness of mental health, more time with family and friends, and a new perspective from which to teach from," Painter said.

“Sarah Painter is the epitome of a teacher leader,” Pinellas County Superintendent Michael A. Grego said in the release. “Her message of finding joy has resonated deeply with her students, families and colleagues and her mantra of ‘we can do hard things’ set the tone for her school community.

"Her success in the classroom is a reflection of the excellence she expects from herself and her students, as well as the compassion and heart she brings to everything she does. She is a remarkable ambassador for teachers and the entire education profession.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis cited Painter's efforts during a challenging 2020-21 school year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“She represents the thousands of Florida educators who made the 2020-2021 school year a success," DeSantis said in the release. "Because of their commitment and dedication, Florida was the first state in the nation to open all our schools for in-person instruction. Every student deserves a great teacher and Sarah Ann is the ultimate representative of Florida’s national reputation as The Education State.”

Painter will spend the next year as the Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education, working with other teachers from around the state and recruiting future instructors.

She will also receive a $20,000 bonus and a two-year Florida Prepaid College scholarship to present to a student of her choice.

Painter was chosen among five finalists, and nearly 185,000 public school teachers across the state.

One other teacher from the greater Tampa Bay region was named a finalist — Kari Johnson, a kindergarten teacher at Fruitville Elementary School in Sarasota County.

The four other finalists will receive $15,000 from the Florida Department of Education.

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