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School applauds its star, a teacher full of inspiration

After her big night, teacher Robin Ladd arrives to her big day at school. It is filled with cheers, hugs and gifts.

By DONNA WINCHESTER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 9, 2003

SEMINOLE -- Running on under an hour of sleep, the teacher of the year got a stretch limo ride to class Friday morning at Seminole High School.

Scores of students, teachers and parents jammed the sidewalk and jostled for position before sunrise to greet her. Just after 7:30, the cry went up: "Here she comes! Here she comes!"

The white limo rounded the corner into the car circle, hugged the curb and slowed to a stop in front of the school.

The crowd cheered. The band played. Camera flashes popped.

Out stepped Robin Ladd. "I feel like Miss America," she said, waving to the crowd and clutching a bouquet of pink roses. "This is incredible."

She smiled for the cameras and reached to clasp outstretched hands as the crowd chanted, "We love Ladd! We love Ladd!"

The outpouring was the continuation of a celebration that had begun the night before at Tropicana Field, where the Seminole High mathematics teacher was named Pinellas County's educator of the year. Selected from a nomination field of 118 teachers, Ladd scored highest in the category of inspiring students to performance at higher levels. She will represent the district in the state teacher of the year competition in March.

After a scant hour's rest -- she was too excited to sleep -- Ladd was ready when a limousine chartered by the district picked her up for the quarter-mile ride to school. Accompanied by her husband, Ron, and their 11-year-old son, she asked the driver to detour to Einstein's for coffee and bagels to make sure they wouldn't arrive at school ahead of the students.

After posing for pictures in front of the limo, she stepped into the throng. Andrea Vazquez, a student in Ladd's third-period precalculus class, handed her a bouquet of wildflowers. Joe Fady, a student who had been in her precalculus and algebra II classes, offered her a plate of cappuccino chocolate chip muffins his mother had baked.

Ladd stopped to speak to them and scores of others. Members of the Seminole High School Warhawk Band escorted her down A wing to the door of her classroom, where her first-period liberal arts mathematics students were lined up to greet her with hugs and handshakes.

After the students took their seats, she made her first announcement as teacher of the year: No test today. The students cheered.

The excitement continued throughout the day. Ladd's classroom filled up with flowers. Entire classes stopped by to congratulate her.

Principal Robert Misenti said he wouldn't have expected anything less.

"Robin represents good teaching," he said. "The quote "Good teaching is forever and the teacher is immortal' came to my mind when she won. That's what she represents within the halls of Seminole High School and the Pinellas County school system."

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