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A young woman with long blond hair sat in an out-of-the-way conference room at King High School in Tampa, eyes darting back and forth to the clock on the wall, nervously twirling her necklace.
Casey Graham is a teacher at Mort Elementary. She received a phone call an hour before, telling her to get to King High School immediately because something big was about to happen.
Her husband, Dr. Dakeyan Graham, Director of Instrumental Studies at King, was about to get the news that he’s a finalist for STATE teacher of the year.
King’s principal, Arlene Castelli, wanted Casey to be part of the surprise, so she made the phone call with the strict instructions that Casey was not to tell a soul—ESPECIALLY not her husband!
For Casey, the clock was moving very slowly.
Crowded into the conference room with her was Jacob Oliva, state Chancellor for the Division of Public Schools, Superintendent Jeff Eakins, School Board Chair Tamara Shamburger, and a lot of camera crews!
They were all waiting for the clock to strike 12:55pm. That’s when the bell would ring, Dr. Graham’s class would begin, and the surprise patrol could do its job!
When the time arrived, Mr. Oliva led the pack to the very back of the school, and into Dr. Graham’s band room, carrying a bunch of balloons and a gigantic banner.
Dr. Graham’s face lit up and his students started jumping up and down around him. The gravity of what was happening seemed to hit everyone at once.
Our Hillsborough County Teacher of the Year is among the top five educators in the entire state!
There was cheering and clapping and smiles all around!
Dr. Graham and the other finalists will now travel to Tallahassee and meet with committee members who will get to know them and decide which of them should be Florida’s teacher of the year.
That person will be named during a gala in Orlando on July 18.
But there’s plenty of time to prepare for that.
This is a day of celebration.
After the presentation of the trophy, a handshake from Superintendent Eakins, and A LOT of picture taking—Dr. Graham spotted his wife in the crowd.
He pulled her in for a big hug, and they held each other tight.
“I am so proud of him,” Casey said.
It’s a sentiment that’s echoed by many—his school, his district and his community.
Congratulations Dr. Graham, we're intensely proud of you and all you do for our students!
Watch more of the surprise patrol HERE