COLLIER COUNTY — Naomi Rothring's advanced placement English class burst into applause Thursday morning as Champions For Learning representatives surprised her with a Teacher of Distinction award.
One student thought she should share the wealth.
"A's for everyone!" said Willliam Thornton, a Naples High senior, raising his arms and drawing laughter from others in the room.
Students and teachers across the county took part in similar scenes that played out Thursday as Champions For Learning members fanned out to surprise 31 award recipients. The teachers were selected from a pool of 60 nominees and will advance as finalists for the Golden Apple award.
Teachers at the elementary, middle and high school level received the award, which came with a $500 check and a certificate.
At Poinciana Elementary, the third graders in teacher Lisa Trupiano's classroom cheered after Champions For Learning board of directors member George Walters presented the teacher with her certificate.
"I'm tearing up!" Trupiano said before doing a quick dance.
She said it felt "really great" to earn the award.
"I was born and raised here, so the fact I'm a teacher of distinction here, it's like, 'Yeah!'" Trupiano said.
To be named a Teacher of Distinction, teachers are required to submit a profile form and be observed by the Golden Apple Core Committee. Scores on profiles and observations are used to choose the winners.
Kristin Merrill, a fourth grade teachers at Poinciana who was also named a Teacher of Distinction on Thursday, praised the program.
"It's nice that there are people in the community who appreciate what you do," Merrill said.
Six of the 31 teachers will be selected as Golden Apple winners in a process that includes classroom observation and interviews with a community-based committee.
Golden Apple teachers and Teachers of Distinction will be honored at the Golden Apple Celebration of Teachers on May 10 hosted by the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club.