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Polk County Public Schools is making surprise visits to campuses throughout the county to celebrate each of our finalists for Teacher and School-Related Employee of the Year.

Today, we honor our finalists from District 1:

  • Tracy Single — Teacher of the Year finalist, LEA facilitator, Scott Lake Elementary in Lakeland
  • Betty Goldwire — School-Related Employee finalist, ESE paraeducator, Southwest Middle in Lakeland

Brief profiles of these two finalists can be found below (see italics). Photos from today’s surprise patrol can be found on our Facebook page.

Surprise patrols will continue in the coming weeks as we reveal the finalists from each of our seven districts. The overall winners will be announced in January during a special award ceremony and banquet.

The Polk Education Foundation and the district’s Department of Public Relations & Strategic Partnerships collaborate to present this annual event.

The event — now called the Inspire Awards — will also recognize our Principal and Assistant Principal of the Year.

Last year’s event was a scaled-down affair due to the pandemic.

This year’s plans call for a return to a traditional banquet, as well as inviting all teacher and school-related employee honorees, and other special guests. However, these plans are subject to change as we continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on the community.

The Inspire Awards will take place on Jan. 20, 2022, at 5:30 p.m. at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.

During the event, nominees will be recognized with video tributes and receive sponsored gifts. The Teacher of the Year and School-Related Employee of the Year will receive a cash prize generously donated by MIDFLORIDA Credit Union.

Platinum sponsors for the event include Lakeland Automall and MIDFLORIDA Credit Union.

Finalist Profiles, District 1

Tracy Single — LEA facilitator, Scott Lake Elementary, District 1 finalist for Teacher of the Year

Single has devoted nearly 30 years of her life educating students with disabilities. She has previously served as a classroom teacher, resource teacher and inclusion teacher.

For the past eight years, she has worked as Scott Lake’s Local Education Agency (LEA) facilitator. In this role, she works with parents and teachers to develop and implement individual education plans (IEPs) for students with disabilities. Together, they create meaningful goals for students that build their academic, social and independent functioning skills.

A few years ago, Single organized her school’s first Special Olympics event. Fifth-graders were invited to serve as helpers; many filled out applications to participate.

“Having the general education students participate in this leadership role by assisting our students with special needs was heartwarming,” Single said. “This event became so inclusive that every year, students were asking when the applications were going to be handed out.”

Principal Tangela Durham said the annual event creates positive bonds between students and puts smiles on their faces. “Our special needs students felt like kings and queens thanks to our Teacher of the Year,” she said.

Betty Goldwire — ESE paraeducator, Southwest Middle, District 1 finalist for School-Related Employee of the Year

Goldwire has worked with PCPS for 40 years and spent 15 years working at Southwest Middle.

Sybille Oldham-Jackson, Southwest’s principal, describes Goldwire as a dedicated staff member who provides whatever support students need to be successful in the classroom.

Goldwire routinely helps with small group instruction, works one-on-one with struggling readers, assists students with physical disabilities, and collaborates with teachers to determine strategies and resources to benefit students’ learning.

“Over the years, she has served in multiple capacities as a paraeducator, but no matter the placement, she always seeks to help her students become the best they can be,” Oldham-Jackson said.

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