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© St. Petersburg Times, published February 12, 2001

Good hair gets attention

Florida Teacher of the Year Joe Balchunas addressed a gathering of educators and guests at the Citrus County Education Foundation Dinner and Awards Ceremony last week. The first piece of advice he gave to Citrus County teachers was relayed from one of his fourth-grade students.

"It's very, very important, says Mr. B, to have good hair," the students have quoted Balchunas as saying.

Balchunas explained later that, really, he just uses that admonition as an attention getter.

UH . . . WHO'S PLAYING? During that same event, Balchunas said he was going to give the teachers some advice, but they might want to be careful about taking it, as he apparently gave some questionable advice to a woman he sat next to on an airplane recently.

Balchunas and the woman were flying from Dallas to Tampa. He was heading home and she was heading to the Super Bowl. She said she was going to bet on the game and asked him who was going to win. The Giants, he replied.

"She's out $25," he said. "I know nothing about football."

WOULD YOU REPEAT THAT, PLEASE? I DIDN'T QUITE GET IT: When School Board Chairwoman Patience Nave stood up to deliver the closing remarks at the Teacher of the Year event, she first addressed Balchunas. Nave has an easygoing Southern drawl, while Balchunas hails from the Bronx.

"I didn't come from the Bronx," she warned him, "so you'll have to listen slowly."

BUMPER STICKERS WE LIKE: 1,000 Points of Light and we got the dim one.

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