2016 Florida Teacher of the Year
Upon entering Diane’s classroom, the red bar swinging from the ceiling just beyond the doorway is the first thing everyone notices, especially students. Each day, students leap from the floor to tap a hand on the bar, smiles beaming when contact is made. While the term, “Raise the Bar” has been used in education for many years, it is Diane’s ability to remind the students of this goal daily that sets her apart from others. While the bar is a constant reminder of high expectations, it is how she transitions this concept into the realm of learning that creates a positive culture and challenges her students to reach higher.
Surprisingly, Diane did not begin her career in the field of education. After success in the business world, she left to start a family. When the opportunity surfaced, she returned to college and embarked on a journey to pursue her true passion—teaching. For the last 17 years, she has pushed herself to excellence and committed herself to each student’s success. She has realized that classroom content does not always hold the most value in her students’ lives. Instead, it is the ability to “light a fire so students crave the pursuit of knowledge, thus preparing them to be lifelong learners.“
Diane understands that for true learning to blossom, the classroom climate must be one of respect and encouragement. She cultivates an environment where students, from the first day they enter her classroom, know they have a safe space to voice their thoughts. This mutual respect between Diane and her students enables her to challenge them while equipping them with skills to explore beyond the classroom.
Diane attributes much of her success to collaborative efforts across the learning community. From colleagues to parent-teacher connections, she believes everyone is enriched when utilizing all strengths in a community. The transparency within her classroom encourages other colleagues, parents, and community partners to support each other, which moves student achievement forward.
Diane is now an Instructional Mentor for Hillsborough County School District.