Outstanding educators in Hillsborough County get surprise visit from superintendent

Hillsborough County Public Schools is one of the state's largest school systems. With more than 200,000 students and 25,000 staff, there's a lot of talent to consider when it's time to name teacher of the year.

This year, Superintendent of Schools Addison Davis surprised 13 educators with the news that they are among 700 finalists for the district's top awards: Teacher of the Year, Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year and Instructional Support Employee of the Year.

When Davis told 5th grade math and science teacher Nicolette Barone she was a finalist, she asked Davis if he would video chat with her mom to share the news.

"We're here to recognize your daughter as a top five finalist for Teacher of the Year in Hillsborough County," Davis said as the classroom at Oak Park Elementary broke out in applause.

"I love what I do. I work in areas where my students don’t have a lot of support and I love to be that person with them," Barone said, holding back tears. It's been something I've wanted to win forever, so to be recognized doing what I love to do, especially with my students, is an incredible honor."

Forrest Hills Elementary teacher Josette Daley said being nominated is a deeply personal honor.

"After my parents died, I came to the United States and a teacher had an impact on my life, so I decided I wanted to do this for other children," Daley said. 

A winner from each category will be named at the Hillsborough County Public Schools Excellence in Education awards in January.