Standing in the hallway outside, Ashley Summerlin predicted last Friday that his wife’s classroom would soon fill with tears.
No one was willing to take the bet and, it turns out, with good reason.
With shock melting into emotion as her daughter, Elle, carried in a bouquet of golden roses to break up a class in session, Lindsay Summerlin accepted the recognition of Gulf County Teacher of the Year.
By sheer coincidence Summerlin was instructing the exact class at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School that she was teaching while being reviewed earlier last week by a panel of three out-of-county administrators.
“This is the same class and they said if I didn’t win they were going to be mad,” Summerlin said with a laugh, before pointing to her student.
“They make me a better teacher. And Gulf County has been so supportive.”
The Summerlins arrived in Gulf County early last year from Georgia, her husband accepting the job as head baseball coach for the Tiger Sharks.
Lindsay was on an administrative track at her elementary school at the time.
“I was scared,” she acknowledged. “I took a leap of faith.
“I came from an elementary school. For you to think I’m good (teaching) this age,” she added with touch of wonderment.
Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton noted that the Summerlins’ leap of faith was taken without even a perception that in a matter of months Gulf County, and the school system, would be turned upside down by Hurricane Michael.
The Summerlins’ home, however, did not sustain as severe damage as many and in turn became something of a haven for many neighbors and school district personnel, Norton added.
“She’s a good one,” Norton said, noting Summerlin’s entry via her district win into the competition for Florida Teacher of the Year.
“On the merits of post-Michael alone she’d be my teacher of the year.”
That connection to people apparently carries over to the classroom, as expressed by the panel who reviewed her teaching.
They lauded and took special note of the bond Summerlin had with her students, said Lori Price, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction.
“I don’t think I am that great as a teacher, but I truly know how to build relationships with my students,” Summerlin said.
Summerlin won $500 for being selected Teacher of the Year at her school and another $500 from the district for winning district honors.
Site-selected Teachers of the Year included Cameron Totman at Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School, Victoria Holmes at Wewahitchka Elementary and Elizabeth “Liz” Lentz at Port St. Joe Elementary School.
A team of two Bay County administrators and one Calhoun County administrators observed all four in the classroom last Tuesday.
Summerlin will receive an invite to convention this spring in Orlando where the Florida Teacher of the Year will be named.