ST. PETERSBURG — The Tarpon Springs High School Jazz Band was without its director Tuesday night for the musical interludes during the Pinellas Education Foundation’s annual Evening of Excellence, but the performance went off without a sour note.
It’s a good thing, too, because school band director Kevin Ford was named the 2013-14 Outstanding Educator of the Year by the school district and the Pinellas Education Foundation.
After two rounds of judging and an interview process with Superintendent Michael Grego and his cabinet, Ford was selected from 10 finalists and 80 nominations from across the school district. He now will compete for Florida’s Teacher of the Year.
In addition his role as band director, Ford was founder of the Leadership Conservatory for the Arts at the high school.
The top-teacher honor is well deserved, said piccolo section leader and band president Sheridan Markham. It takes a special kind of person to corral more than 200 high school band students through the streets of New York City and convince each one to show up for 18 months of grueling, after-hours rehearsals for their performance in November’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, she said.
The group of jazz band members that hooped and hollered at the announcement from the at the Mahaffey Theater’s orchestra pit was proof of Ford’s bond with his students.
“He’s just a never-ending supply of motivation,” the high school senior said. “He’s absolutely transformed each of our lives.”
Ford’s life has been decorated with numerous achievements, from serving on the Music Educators National Conference Blue Ribbon Panel in Washington, D.C. to being hired as the artistic designer for the Opening Ceremonies for the 2002 FIFA World Cup Soccer Games in Daejeon Metropolitan City, South Korea. The City of Tarpon Springs even dedicated a day in Ford’s honor for his contributions to the school and its students.
However Ford, a drummer himself, said his greatest achievement is helping each of his students develop into adults with strong character.
“It’s just so increadible to have my students here performing tonight, I just can’t wait to get back to work tomorrow,” Ford said. “I just feel so blessed to teach in a school district where we’re a value-based curriculum, where we’re passionate about developing our students into becoming passionate about serving others.”
Ford has been nominated as an Outstanding Educator of the Year in the past, was the Tarpon Springs Community Teacher of the Year in 1996 and 1997 and was the Tarpon Springs Teacher of the Year in 1997. He was an honorary director for the 2005 and 2008 Bands of America Tournament of Roses Honor Band.
Stephanie Martanovic, a seventh-grade Civics teacher at Safety Harbor Middle School, was named the Outstanding Educator People’s Choice/fan favorite based on votes from students, parents and the community.
Other Outstanding Educator of the Year finalists were:
• Sarah Borchardt, a fifth-grade gifted, ESOL and inclusion teacher at Starkey Elementary School in Seminole.
• Susan Carney, a Kindergarten teacher at Ozona Elementary School in Palm Harbor.
• Melissa Colgan, a Supported Varying Exceptionalities (SVE) teacher at Largo Middle School.
• Diana Harper, a fourth-grade teacher at Dunedin Elementary School.
• Tracey Raecek, an Algebra teacher at Osceola Fundamental High School in Seminole.
• Monica Taylor, a media specialist at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg.
• Gisela Torres, a Spanish teacher for the International Baccalaureate program at St. Petersburg High School.
• Robert Sinibaldi, an adapted Physical Education teacher for students with special needs at Walsingham Elementary School in Largo.
Other award winners announced Tuesday include:
•Hall of Honor inductee: Robert McIntyre, founder DITEK Corporation in Largo
•Business Partners of the Year, Elementary: Nielsen Company
•Business Partners of the Year, Secondary: Franklin Templeton
•Business Partners of the Year, District: Kiwanis Club of St. Petersburg