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Ashley Lantes of Windy Hill Middle, Dawson Shreiner of Eustis High School, and Cyndee Torgler-Bandy of Cypress Ridge Elementary have been named finalists for Lake County Schools’ 2019-20 Rookie Teacher of the Year.

Superintendent Diane Kornegay, School Board members, and representatives from the Educational Foundation of Lake County and LCEA traveled across the district Tuesday morning (2/19/19) stopping at each of the finalists’ work sites to surprise them with the good news.

The district’s Rookie Teacher of the Year, a title reserved for those who exemplify excellence in the classroom and have three years or less in total teaching experience, will be announced at an awards ceremony at 6 p.m. on March 13 at Lake-Sumter State College’s Leesburg campus. The School Related Employee of the Year, a title that recognizes outstanding education support personnel, will be announced at the Educational Foundation’s Night of Stars, also at the college at 6 p.m. on April 17. Meet the finalists:

Ashley Lantes is a 7th grade science teacher at Windy Hill Middle School. She has been teaching for two years, both of which have been in her current position. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Florida Atlantic University in Exercise Science and Health Promotion. “I grew up as a Lake County student, attending Clermont Elementary, Windy Hill Middle, and finally graduating from East Ridge High,” she wrote in her application packet. “I have always wanted to give back to the school system that helped shape me into the successful adult I am today.” Lantes prides herself on her use of technology to enhance her lessons, a particular benefit to the many students for whom English is not their first language and those who may not have access to the technology at home. “These students are now gaining critical experience and insight which will allow them to success in a future where the ability to properly make use of computing and digital research will be necessary,” she wrote.

Dawson Shreiner is a social studies teacher for students in 9th through 12th grade at Eustis High School, where he also coaches football. He has taught for three years, all of which have been in his current role. He graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College with two bachelor degrees – one in history and one in secondary education, with a concentration in social studies. “Some of my students come from devastating socio-economic circumstances where education is not always a priority,’’ he wrote in his application packet. “For those students, I need to help them understand why it is important to attend school every day and work hard to become self-reliant adults. For my other students… my role is similar to a coach helping them develop their skills.” After noticing students were lacking the skills needed to collect reliable data and compose a formal research paper, Shreiner teamed up with the English Department to create a cross-curricular research unit to guide students. “The shared initiative received a large amount of positive feedback,” he wrote.

Cyndee Torgler-Bandy teaches pre-kindergarten ESE (Exceptional Student Education) students at Cypress Ridge Elementary School. She has two years of teaching experience, both in her current position. A former clinical social worker, Torgler-Bandy earned a master’s degree in psychology from James Madison University and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Georgia. “My decision to become an educator has come late in life and as a second career,” she wrote in her application packet. “I am a life-long learner and this shaped my philosophy as an educator, inspiring me to work to first become a teacher and then work to become a better teacher.” She said that one of the most rewarding parts of teaching young students with special needs is that she can see their progress almost daily. “To the casual observer, a student’s accomplishment may seem small,” she wrote. “However, in our classroom, the smallest things can show substantial progress. A student’s ability to unzip a backpack can be a cause for celebration!”