Hyde Park Cheers Check Presentation

As our Inaugural Cheers to PUBLic Service program comes to a close, we would like to take a moment to thank all 307 teachers that were nominated for these awards.  Your stories are touching, encouraging, and honest representations of the heart and soul it takes to be a teacher.  We are truly blessed to have so many legendary educators in our Hillsborough and Pasco County Schools – Thank you for all that you do for our youth, and the community!

Although incredibly difficult, alongside our Pillar Partners we have selected twenty stand-out teachers that will receive $1000 each as winners of our first annual Cheers to PUBlic Service awards.  Our first check presentation took place Monday, May 21st at our Irish 31 Hyde Park location, where we recognized five ROCKSTAR South Tampa teachers, and rewarded them with $1,000 each PLUS $1,000 to their schools from The Junior League of Tampa, tickets to an upcoming Bucs game from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and a Weekend Excursion in a brand new Cadillac Escalade from Ed Morse Cadillac of Brandon!

Please read on to learn a little more about our 2018 South Tampa winners:
LARA WARD – Lomax Magnet Elementary School
Lara has been teaching for 22 years, and has taught 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades, as well as college classes at the University of Tampa.  Lara currently teaches 5th grade at Lomax Elementary, and when asked what she planned to do with her $1,000 check, she told us that it had already been spent on Robotics Summer Camp for a special student that otherwise would not have been able to attend.  The fact that Lara had already gifted her Cheers to PUBlic Service award to a student, not only touched our hearts, but proved without a doubt that Lara deserved to win not only our Cheers award, but also a Weekend Excursion in a brand new Cadillac Escalade from Ed Morse Cadillac of Brandon!  When asked what inspired her to become a teacher, Lara said simply, “It’s all that I ever wanted to do!”  She took a few moments to share a story that sticks out as just one example of why she loves being a teacher…A student that she taught in the 4th grade, then impoverished and living in a less than favorable part of downtown Tampa, is now a proud Junior at the University of Maryland on a full football scholarship, and has become a well-rounded, smart, handsome young man with a bright future.  She recalls how herself and another teacher welcomed this student into their homes many years ago, and thanks to a quality education and a lot of love, this young man is flourishing.  Just one small reason why Lara loves teaching…but, one shining example of why we love Lara!  Thank you for all that you do, Lara – Enjoy cruising in style!
MYAICIA WOMACK – Sligh Middle School
Myaicia has been teaching Math for 4 years at the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade levels.  When asked what inspired her to become a teacher, without hesitation she said, “Really great teachers that cared for me when I was in school.”  Growing up, life wasn’t always easy for Myaicia, but the love and support of some very special teachers made all the difference, and she knew that she wanted have a comparable impact on the lives and futures of other children.  Myaicia shared a story from the year she was a student teacher that to her, represents how one person can have a lasting impact on a young person looking for inspiration.  She was preparing for graduation, and having picked up her cap and gown on the way to school, she decided to hang them in her classroom until school hours were over.  One of her students, who happened to be part of a gang at the time, had never seen a cap and gown before and asked to try it on.  Once on, the student promised Myaicia that he would graduate from High School, and with great pride she shares that next week he will.  According to Myaicia, this is the perfect example of how a relationship, or a meaningful interaction, can truly change someone’s trajectory, and how being a teacher means trying to make a difference…one student at a time.  When asked what she will do with her $1,000 Cheers to PUBlic Service award, she said she plans to spend half to complete her Masters in Leadership at UT, and the other half to implement flexible seating in her classroom.  Myaicia’s story is a touching example of how life has a way of paying it forward, and we are so thankful for the extra love and compassion she shows the pre-teens of our community!
MEREDITH MULLEN – Lockhart Elementary Magnet School
Meredith has been teaching for six years.  She has taught 4th grade, as well as Writing Resource, and is currently Lockhart’s Magnet Lead.  One of the things she cherishes most about her career are the relationships and lasting bonds that form between her and her students.  Meredith shared how not only does she have the privilege of being a part of the lives of her current students, but in many cases, former students keep in touch and sometimes even have her husband for a coach many years later.  Meredith’s inspiration for becoming a teacher may not be typical, but it is certainly one most of us can relate to…Meredith was inspired by a horrible teacher that she had in the 4th grade.  She told us she went home crying daily due to how horrid she was, and it was then that she vowed to become a teacher so no other kids would ever have to feel that way – at least not under her watch.  Meredith’s passion for education is evident, and her love for her students shines through as she tells us a good portion of her $1000 check will be invested back in the school (with maybe a little bit spent on a nice bag for herself).  You deserve it, Meredith!  Thank you for all that you do for your kids and your school!
RYAN MORTON – Pepin Academies
Ryan Morton has taught everything from Elementary to High School, and is currently in his 8th year at Pepin Academies – a public charter schools that serves students with specific learning and learning related disabilities.  Ryan comes from a family of educators – mother, brothers, sisters, and extended family members – and views that as not only the inspiration for his career path, but also a great source of pride.  If his passion and commitment to his students is not evident in the programs he has spearheaded at Pepin, the story he shared from his first day at the Academies is a beautiful example of the admiration he has for the kids in his care.  Day one at Pepin, after Ryan first introduced himself to his students, a kid bee-lined up to him from the back of the class and asked, “What type of vacuum do you have?”  Ryan admitted that he did not know, at which point the student began firing off questions in an attempt to figure it out – “What color is it?”, “Is it canister or filter?”, etc., etc.  Finally, the student announced, “You have a Dirt Devil Vibe 400″ to which Ryan replied, “I do?”  Sure enough, when Ryan returned home that evening he checked his closet, and confirmed that he did indeed have a Dirt Devil Vibe 400.  Ryan loves teaching – especially at Pepin Academies – because every day he is reminded of how brilliant and unique these kids are, and he considers it his privilege to teach them how to use their unique abilities in the real world.  Having worked in summer camps since Middle School, Ryan shared that he plans to use the $1,000 as seed money to start a summer camp for kids with learning disabilities alongside his brother, who also happens to be a Pepin Academies teacher.  Best of luck with your summer camp, Ryan!  Thank you for helping these kids flourish by letting their brilliance shine!
ALLYSON COOPER – Roland Park
Allyson has been teaching for 5 years.  She has taught 5th and 6th grade, as well as the gifted kiddos in 1st and 2nd grade.  Although Allyson started out studying Psychology, she soon realized that her love for children, accompanied by the joy she experienced when working with kids, could lend itself well to a career in education.  Not surprisingly, teaching was a great fit.  We loved the way she invests extra time and effort to come up with fun and engaging ways to teach her kids through real-life experiences – Visiting the planetarium to “see” the solar system, nature preserve, Metropolitan Ministries to give to those in need during the holidays, and the Microsoft store to play an online math game against Jameis Winston – just to name a few.  If you ask Allyson what her favorite part of her job is, she will tell you the relationship she has with her students, and the genuine love they have for one another.  She recollects her first few months of teaching when the students would greet her out of obligation, and remembers when obligation turned to genuine excitement and how great it felt to have been accepted, welcomed, and her adoration reciprocated.  Her students even threw her a surprise birthday party last year!  When asked what she will do with her $1000 check, Allyson told us she plans to use it on summer travel, with Seattle first on her list of stops.  Enjoy your summer, Allyson!  You deserve it!
Congratulations, Winners!  You truly embody the I.R.I.S.H. that we feel define the best of the best, and we hope you spend this prize on whatever brings you joy!