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    Gold stars handed out to some top teachers

    Seventeen Seminole area standouts are recognized Thursday at a Tribute to Teachers breakfast.

    By JULIANNE WU

    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 25, 2001


    SEMINOLE -- Seventeen Seminole area teachers got gold stars for excellence Thursday at a Tribute to Teachers breakfast at Seminole Middle School.

    "One of the things that makes Seminole so special is its schools and its teachers," said emcee Jim Olliver, provost of the Seminole campus of St. Petersburg Junior College.

    Nominations for the Tribute to Teachers breakfast, sponsored by the Greater Seminole Area Chamber of Commerce, were submitted by area public and private schools. The teachers wrote brief recaps of their philosophies, followed by comments from their principals.

    At the breakfast, each teacher received a plaque and a gold star paperweight.

    "The education system has changed, but children remain the same," said honoree Delores Austin of Madeira Beach Elementary School after the breakfast.

    Her principal, Donna Arnott, said of Mrs. Austin: "I know I can always depend on her. . . . She is a quiet leader, but truly the backbone of our school."

    Mrs. Austin, 55, of Seminole, has been a teacher 33 years -- one in Atlanta and 32 at Madeira Elementary School. She teaches a second/third-grade combination class.

    Her husband, Jerry Austin, coaches football at Northeast High School in St. Petersburg, a job he has held 35 years. The Austins' two sons: Jay, 29, and Shawn, 27, attended Bauder Elementary and Seminole Middle schools before joining their dad at Northeast High.

    "Madeira Beach Elementary School certainly seems like home to me," said Mrs. Austin. "It is a great place. I have been there with nine different principals."

    Other principals were equally enthusiastic about their teacher nominees.

    For instance, Bauder Elementary principal Jan Johnston said of science teacher Dale Jenrette: "Dale is directly responsible for turning kids onto science. He's our own Bill Nye (the "Science Guy' of television fame)."

    Seminole High principal Richard Duncan praised marine science teacher Heather Judkins.

    "In an age where students are turned off or bored, Heather makes learning fun," Duncan said. "The world is her classroom . . . from taking the kids fishing to turning the Seminole (High) pool into the Mississippi River."

    He was referring to Judkins' project in February, which pitted 32 students against each other in corrugated cardboard boats. They put Archimedes' principle of buoyancy to the test. The project also included navigation, oceanography, physics, mathematics, science, reading and writing and teamwork.

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