Sarasota County teachers of the year get surprise visit

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SARASOTA COUNTY - On Thursday, the Sarasota County School Board took the annual “Teacher Tribute Tour”, surprising the top teachers for elementary, middle and high school.

The 3 teachers say they were shocked, but their students say they weren't surprised in the least that their teacher was named the best in the district.

First stop on the tour was Riverview High School.

“She knows how to deal with us, and that's pretty hard to do with high schoolers,” says one student.

Katrin Rudge is Sarasota County schools High School Teacher of the Year, and her student's say she definitely deserves this recognition. “She goes above and beyond everything and she'll take her personal time to do stuff for us.”

Rudge says while it's an honor to be recognized, teaching is her passion. “I said it would take me at least 10 years to feel comfortable with teaching and I would say it's still every day you try your best and you try to change what you're doing and make it exciting and interesting to the students. It never gets boring.”

Next stop was Brookside Middle School, and this surprise went off without a hitch. “I'm actually in a state of shock! I wasn't expecting this! I thought we were just going to be hearing about our different homework helpers!”

Rita Zywica's students say she's the best science teacher they've ever had, and it's obvious why. “I really try to become an important person in my kids' lives. I try to get to know them all, I try to let them know my classroom is a safe spot and we can have fun while we're learning, but I do truly care about these kids and want the best for them,” says Zywica.

For the final stop on the teacher tribute tour, we visited Amy Mazner at Alta Vista Elementary. “Flabbergasted! I did not expect it.”

Mazner teaches P.E., and she credits all of her students for inspiring her to be the best teacher of the year. “Seeing that the kids love to come to P.E., even though we have discipline and structure here, to see that they thrive when you give them challenging things to do every day. I'm a kid at heart as well, and if you keep it mixed up, and challenge them every day, they'll answer that.”

The overall teacher of the year will be announced at a reception in March, but until next year the tour ends here.

The teacher of the year program is co-produced by the Sarasota County School District and the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. Each finalist will received a cash award from the Education Foundation, gift baskets, and scholarships from Nova Southeastern University and the Nortre Dame Club of Greater Sarasota.