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Palm Harbor Middle School Teacher Is Educator of the Year

Vanessa Ko | Pinellas Schools | Educator of the Year

She has taught in the Pinellas County School System for 12 years.

PINELLAS COUNTY -Vanessa Ko, a mathematics teacher at Palm Harbor Middle School, was named Pinellas County Schools’ 2017 Outstanding Educator.

The award was presented Tuesday (Jan. 31) during the Evening of Excellence at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. The Evening of Excellence is sponsored by the Pinellas Education Foundation.

Ko began her career with Pinellas County Schools 12 years ago. In addition to teaching math, she is also a Advancement Via Individual Determination program (AVID) teacher and an AVID Site Team co-coordinator at Palm Harbor Middle. Ko was the chairperson of the Math Department for about five years. She sponsored the school’s Math Club where students practiced for competitions and tutored other students on campus.

“I love my students and it’s thrilling to help them learn grit, perseverance and problem solving skills through mathematics and AVID,” Ko said. “Together, we engage in productive struggles and celebrate growth. I’m honored to be in a profession where my job description includes potentially changing trajectories of young people’s lives for the better.”

Ko will be entered into the state Teacher of the Year competition sponsored by the Florida Department of Education. As Outstanding Educator of the Year, Vanessa will receive cash and prizes valued at $10,000 to include a vacation for two and a $2,000 cash award from the Pinellas Education Foundation.

The nine other finalists for Outstanding Educator were also recognized Tuesday night.:

William Black, a fifth-grade teacher at Anona Elementary School
Alison Blanco, a mathematics teacher at Osceola Middle School
Karen Cangemi, a reading/literacy coach at High Point Elementary School
Kali Kopka, a kindergarten teacher at Leila Davis Elementary School
Angela Pitts, a kindergarten teacher at Azalea Elementary School
Brandon Rader, a social studies teacher at St. Petersburg High School
David Reid, a curriculum technology specialist at East Lake Middle School Academy
Zanetta Robinson, a language arts teacher at Thurgood Marshall Fundamental School
Michelle Zajac, a third grade teacher at Curlew Creek Elementary School

In addition to naming the Outstanding Educator, Karen Cangemi, the reading and literature coach at High Point Elementary, was given the Outstanding Educator Fan Favorite Award. This award category was voted on by students, parents and the community via the Pinellas Education Foundation’s Facebook page. Nearly 5,000 votes were cast for Fan Favorite this year.

“Each of the finalists honored embody the characteristics of a great educator. These teachers are passionate about their work and convey that enthusiasm to their students, peers and administrators,” said Michael A. Grego, superintendent of Pinellas County Schools.

The Business Partners of the Year were also announced and honored during the evening. These businesses give of their resources, time and money to many schools and education initiatives. Winners for the Business Partner of the Year:

Small Business: Anona Methodist Church
Large Business: Raymond James Financial
District:Clearwater Gas System

Gerald Hogan was inducted into the Hall of Honor. The oldest of 10 siblings, Hogan was taught by his parents that with hard work, he could accomplish anything. He embraced entrepreneurship and has been involved in many worldwide companies such as Turner Broadcasting System and HSN. At TBS as its president, he led the launch of the cable network Turner Network Television. He has also been actively involved with companies such as Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and London Fog as a board member. He was the co-founder of companies such as North Georgia Bank, Decision HR, FirstSource HR and Ovation Technology Co.

For information about Pinellas Schools, go to

Photo of Vanessa Ko courtesy of the Pinellas County School System.

Pinellas Schools | Educator of the Year | Vanessa Ko | Education | TB Reporter

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Palm Harbor Middle School Teacher Is Educator of the Year
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Palm Harbor Middle School Teacher Is Educator of the Year
She has taught in the Pinellas County School System for 12 years.
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TB Reporter
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