“Once a Painter, always a Painter” is the mantra teacher Sarah Ann Painter often uses with her fifth-graders at Eisenhower Elementary School in Clearwater. That motto underscores the lasting connection she has with students – and her passion for the job that led recently to being honored as 2022 Florida Teacher of the Year.
“A great teacher in front of every student is absolutely essential,” stated Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. “Sarah Ann’s passion and enthusiasm for learning inspires not only the students in her classroom, but also her colleagues and peers throughout the district. I look forward to working with Sarah Ann throughout the coming year.”
Painter was singled out at the presentation ceremony July 22 in Orlando for collaborations with fellow fifth-grade teachers in the Pinellas County Schools district and the culture of “joy” she instilled in class. She will now serve as an ambassador, representing the Florida Department of Education and teachers through the state.
As winner of the PCS Teacher of the Year honors in January, Painter wrote: “I tell (my students) on the first day of school that my last name will forever be attached to them and that with that comes a reputation to uphold. Painters are resilient. Painters are kind. Painters are resilient, kind and persistent.”
She embodied the resilience of her fellow teachers to handle the many challenges posed by COVID-19 in 2020. She stressed the positives of that challenge in accepting the award. “For me, it’s a better understanding of my district’s digital platform, a new way to connect with students and families, a new awareness of mental health, more time with family and friends, and a new perspective from which to teach from,” Painter said.
Added Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego: “Sarah Painter is the epitome of a teacher leader. Her message of finding joy has resonated deeply with her students, families and colleagues and her mantra of ‘we can do hard things’ set the tone for her school community. Her success in the classroom is a reflection of the excellence she expects from herself and her students, as well as the compassion and heart she brings to everything she does.”