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The five finalists for State Teacher of the Year walked onto the stage, hand in hand. Dr. Dakeyan Graham, from King High School in Hillsborough County, was in the center.
This was the moment everyone was waiting for.
Florida’s Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran slowly read the name of the winner.
“The winner of the 2020 Teacher of the Year...,” Corcoran paused for dramatic effect. “Doctor Dakeyan Graham!”
The entire ballroom erupted in screams, streamers fell from the ceiling and Dr. Graham was enveloped in a huge hug by his fellow finalists.
“It was really like the word, WHAT!” Dr. Graham said later, when asked what went through his head as his name was called. “Like who? Me! Out of all of them? I was overwhelmed with emotion. I’m not a crier but my eyes definitely teared up.”
Dr. Graham has had an incredible eight months. It started December 7, 2018 when the Surprise Patrol walked into his band room at King High School and announced he was a finalist for Hillsborough County Teacher of the Year.
In January, he won that honor.
A couple months later, the Surprise Patrol struck again. This time it was on the STATE level! Once again, a group waving banners trounced onto King High’s campus with the news that Dr. Graham is a state finalist!
That brings us to this night. July 18, at a ballroom in Orlando. With every Florida district represented by its teacher of the year.
Once again, Dr. Graham rose above the rest.
Once again, Dr. Graham is the very definition of modesty.
As a graduate of King High School, he credits his success to the educators he had as a student in Hillsborough County Public Schools—and the educators he’s worked with during his tenure at King High.
“If it weren’t for Hillsborough County Public Schools, I wouldn’t be where I am today. That education, that foundation, that learning, that passion for education, and passion to remain a student of life ALL came from my journey through Hillsborough County.”
As for this upcoming year, Dr. Graham is on a mission. He knows the weight of the responsibility that comes with being Florida’s Teacher of the Year. He will travel the state, speak to schools and talk with legislators about the needs of his profession.
“I’m looking forward to this opportunity to really shoulder the responsibilities of being the voice of our profession,” he said confidently. “What are the things we need in order to do our jobs better so we can illicit more positive change into our students?”
As for King High, Dr. Graham hopes this honor gives his school and his community a sense of pride.
“We have been looking for an opportunity to lift the culture, something to bring back that pride. This might be it. That one of our own, someone from that school, from that area, from that community—who came up through that school and has pride in that school, is bringing the positivity back to King High.”
To watch Dr. Graham's thank-you speech - https://www.facebook.com/HillsboroughSch/videos/1663491960478280/