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Christine Palmer, an art teacher at Triangle Elementary School in Mount Dora, was recognized for her dedication to her students and her hard work bringing quality art education into the Mount Dora school.

Triangle Elementary School’s Christine Palmer was named Lake County’s 2021 Teacher of the Year Thursday night at an awards banquet hosted by the Education Foundation of Lake County in the Venetian Center.

Palmer, an art teacher known by her students and coworkers for tirelessly working to bring a quality arts education to students at the Mount Dora school, was overjoyed by her win. But she said something else inspired her Thursday evening.

“I think I’m more moved by the celebration of public education tonight,” she said. “Obviously, winning a car is amazing, because, honestly, we could have used a new car, however I’m more overwhelmed about just the joy of us celebrating education.”

Her principal, Marlene Straughan, said Palmer was extremely deserving of the award.

“Christine is probably one of the hardest working educators I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with,” Straughan said. “She epitomizes what it means to be a dedicated, caring teacher. She loves what she does and it shines on her every day.”

In winning the award, Palmer was given a free three-year lease on a 2020 Hyundai Sonata from Jenkins Hyundai. Jenkins representatives touted the vehicle, which came packed with add-ons, as an upgrade to the Elantra initially offered.

Palmer also received a number of other gifts from sponsors of the event, including, as has become a tradition, a chair from Bushnell’s Ernie Morris Enterprises for her classroom.

The other teacher of the year finalists, Doreen Elder of Groveland Elementary and Sarah Foster of Pine Ridge, weren’t left out of the celebration.

Each of the finalists received a few gifts from event sponsors and were recognized by their peers at the banquet.

And earlier in the day, all three finalists were treated to a spa day at Leesburg’s Renew Day Spa.

The evening’s proceedings included a dinner celebrating the finalists alongside the rest of the 48 teachers of the year representing each school in the county.

Sheriff Peyton Grinnell served as the master of ceremonies, introducing speakers including district officials like Superintendent Diane Kornegay as well as last year’s Lake County Teacher of the Year, Kamille Chapman.

Chapman’s remarks, in which she acknowledged the efforts of her fellow teachers in the room, led into the award itself, which was officially handed off by Jake Stein, who won Principal of the Year in 2018.

Palmer’s victory will see her eligible for the statewide title of Florida’s Teacher of the Year, which is announced in July.

The evening ended with the crowd, and Palmer’s table in particular, erupting into cheers and applause.

Palmer’s last statement to the crowd before the guests dispersed was to thank her own eighth-grade teacher Mrs. Shropshire: “She refused to give up on me.”

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