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January 17, 2006

Jennifer Fennell or
Cathy Schroeder
(850) 245-0413

2006 Florida Teacher of the Year Chosen as National Finalist
National Teacher of the Year to be selected from state winners

ORLANDO — Education Commissioner John L. Winn and State Board of Education Chairman Phil Handy today announced that Sam Bennett, the 2006 Florida Department of Education/Macy's Teacher of the Year, has been selected as a 2006 National Teacher of the Year finalist. Bennett is a fifth grade teacher at Garner Elementary School in Winter Haven.

"I am extremely proud that Sam has been chosen as a 2006 National Teacher of the Year finalist," said Commissioner Winn. "He represents thousands of outstanding Florida teachers who help students achieve at the highest levels possible. On behalf of all Florida educators, I congratulate him on the nomination."

Florida has had two previous National Teachers of the Year – Tracey L. Bailey, a Biology and Science teacher from Satellite High School in Brevard County in 1993 and Barbara Goleman, a Language Arts teacher from Miami-Jackson High School in Miami-Dade County in 1969. The last time a national finalist was named from Florida was in 2002 when Henry L. Brown, III, a mathematics teacher at Hallandale Adult Community Center Alternative High School in Broward County, was nominated.

"On behalf of the State Board of Education, I congratulate Sam Bennett on his nomination as a finalist for the 2006 National Teacher of the Year," said Chairman Handy. "With Florida's critical need for teachers, Mr. Bennett is a splendid ambassador for the education profession."

The 2006 National Teacher of the Year will be introduced to the nation by President George W. Bush in April. The winner is chosen from among the state Teachers of the Year by a national selection committee representing national educational organizations. Florida has had seven finalists since the program began in 1952.

"I am honored to be nominated for the 2006 National Teacher of the Year," said Bennett. "It is a tribute to the exceptional teachers throughout the state who work so hard every day to bring the light of knowledge to their students."

The National Teacher of the Year is released from classroom duties during the year of recognition to travel nationally and internationally as a spokesperson for the teaching profession. The program is the oldest, most prestigious national honors program that focuses public attention on the excellence of teaching. The National Teacher of the Year Program, presented by the ING Foundation, is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers and is sponsored by Scholastic, Inc.

For more information about the 2006 National Teacher of the Year Program, please visit