Reward for a call to teach

A Dixie Hollins math teacher is named Pinellas' 2007 Outstanding Educator.

Published February 14, 2007


The very first name on her very first roll call as a high school teacher stood proudly by Tuesday evening as Sheryl Brock was named Pinellas County's 2007 Outstanding Educator.

"That kid right there was my very first high school student," said Brock, looking at Pinellas County curriculum superintendent Harry Brown, who watched onstage as Brock clutched a bouquet of red and white flowers. "That's going to make me cry."

Brock, 53, who works at Dixie M. Hollins High School, was named the county's top teacher at a gala at Tropicana Field hosted by the Pinellas Education Foundation.

"I'm elated," said Brock, who edged out five finalists from five different categories to receive the honor.

A true product of the Pinellas County school system, Brock attended Tyrone Elementary and is a 1971 graduate of Dixie Hollins.

"Teaching is a calling," she said in a recorded video clip shown to an estimated crowd of 800 people. "If you're called to it, you come at it with passion."

Her career began in August 1974 at Bauder Elementary. One year later, she returned to Dixie Hollins as a math teacher, although she's choosy about the terminology.

"I teach students, not math," she said.

She left the high school in 1979 to supervise projects for the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, a federal program aimed at training the unemployed.

She later taught mathematics at the Pinellas Vocational Technical Institute, Lakewood High School and Boca Ciega High School, where she also chaired the mathematics department.

In 1990, she left the profession to pursue a law degree at Stetson University College of Law.

Three years and a juris doctorate later, she opened her own family law practice in St. Petersburg.

However, because "family law practice is not family-friendly at all," she closed its doors and hoped to find another job in education.

She came full circle, landing at Dixie Hollins, where she currently teaches math and journalism.

"They couldn't have picked a better person," said Mike Bohnet, Dixie Hollins principal. "I think the world of her."

In recognition, she will receive an Apple desktop computer, a commemorative ring and a three-day cruise for two to the Bahamas, with $2,000 in getaway money provided by the foundation.

Today, Brock will be chauffeured to work in a limousine, flanked by students and teachers that nominated her for the award. Ever the precise math teacher, Brock said she lives "three minutes and two traffic lights" from the school.

"I hope they know I get to work at 6 o'clock in the morning."

Casey Cora can be reached at 727 580-1542 or at ccora@sptimes.com.

Fast Facts:

Inspiring students to performance at higher levels

- Janice Demers, Ozona Elementary

- Molly Nazaruk, Cross Bayou Elementary

- Tracie Russo, Carwise Middle

Commitment to children and families

- Joanne Heinz, Pinellas Park High

- Carollaine Robinson, Lakewood Elementary

Ambassador of the profession

- Louise Boyd, Bay Point Middle

- Kaye Marudas, Sutherland Elementary

- Jason Wood, Lakeview Fundamental


Educator finalists

Committed to improving the profession

- Sara Carroll, Morgan Fitzgerald Middle

- Victoria Hagedorn, Walsingham Elementary

- Jeannine Pursley, East Lake High School

Creativity and innovation

- Betsy Balmer, Pasadena Fundamental

- Cynthia Thompson, Morgan Fitzgerald Middle

- Julia Woodka, Curtis Fundamental