ST. PETERSBURG — The Tarpon Springs High School Jazz Band was without its director Tuesday night for the musical interludes during the Pinellas Education Foundation’s annual Evening of Excellence, but the performance went off without a sour note.
It’s a good thing, too, because band director Kevin Ford was named the 2013-14 Outstanding Educator of the Year by the school district and the Pinellas Education Foundation. Ford is director of the high school’s Leadership Conservatory for the Arts.
Ford was selected from 10 finalists and 80 nominations from across the school district. He now will compete for Florida’s Teacher of the Year.
The top-teacher honor is well deserved, said piccolo section leader and band president Sheridan Markham. She said it takes a special kind of person to corral more than 200 high school band students through the streets of New York City and convince each one to show up for 18 months of grueling, after-hours rehearsals for their performance in November’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“He’s just a never-ending supply of motivation,” the high school senior said. “He’s absolutely transformed each of our lives.”
Ford’s life has been decorated with numerous achievements, from serving on the Music Educators National Conference Blue Ribbon Panel in Washington, D.C., to being hired as the artistic designer for the Opening Ceremonies for the 2002 FIFA World Cup Soccer Games in Daejeon Metropolitan City, South Korea. The city of Tarpon Springs even dedicated a day in Ford’s honor for his contributions to the school and its students.
Ford said his greatest achievement is helping each of his students develop into adults with strong character.
“It’s just so incredible to have my students here performing tonight, I just can’t wait to get back to work tomorrow,” Ford said. “I just feel so blessed to teach in a school district where we’re a value-based curriculum, where we’re passionate about developing our students into becoming passionate about serving others.”
Stephanie Martanovic, a seventh-grade Civics teacher at Safety Harbor Middle School, was named the Outstanding Educator People’s Choice/fan favorite based on votes from students, parents and the community.
Other award winners announced Tuesday include:
• Hall of Honor inductee: Robert McIntyre, founder DITEK Corporation in Largo.
• Business Partners of the Year, Elementary: Nielsen Company.
• Business Partners of the Year, Secondary: Franklin Templeton.
• Business Partners of the Year, District: Kiwanis Club of St. Petersburg.