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Tampa Bay Times: The Buzz: "Temple Terrace teacher recognized in Gov. Rick Scott's speech"

March 5, 2013

Kathleen McGrory, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Middle school teachers don't often get 15 minutes of fame.

But Elizabeth Heli got hers on Tuesday, when Gov. Rick Scott named her in the annual State of the State Address.

Scott mentioned Heli, an engineering teacher at Greco Middle in Temple Terrace, as he made his pitch to award $2,500 pay raises to educators across the state. The across-the-board increases are one of Scott's top budget priorities this year.

Heli, 32, said she would welcome the extra cash if it were to be approved by the Legislature.

"You never turn down $2,500," she said, musing that she might use the money for a down payment on a new car, or to buy more supplies for her classroom. "You don't go into teaching for the money. But anything would be helpful."

In many ways, Heli represents Scott's idea of a perfect teacher. She left her career as an electrical engineer seven years ago, deciding instead to teach engineering to pre-teens. Outside of the classroom, she runs extracurricular programs to engage girls in subject areas like robotics.

Her shout-out lasted only a moment. But when the governor asked for a round of applause to acknowledge her work, Heli received a standing ovation.

"It's an honor," she said, still a little starstruck after the speech had wrapped up. "There are so many great teachers in the state of Florida. Being picked felt fantastic."

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