Precious T. Symonette was doing what she does best just moments before news crews and the state’s top education official came bursting into her classroom at Miami Norland Senior High.
The creative writing teacher was comforting an anxious student as the class geared up to take a tough standardized test, even crying along with the young girl.
The tears quickly gave way to excited cheers as Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced that Symonette is one of only five finalists who will compete for Florida Teacher of the Year in Orlando this July.
“I need to call my mom,” Symonette said.
A 10-year veteran of the classroom, Symonette beat out 20,000 Miami-Dade teachers in January to win Miami-Dade Teacher of the Year. In intimate settings that make her students feel at ease, she encourages them to “write yourself into existence.”
“The kids, as you can see, love her, and they love to express themselves. She allows them to do it in a creative way,” said school board member Wilbert “Tee” Holloway.
Symonette and the rest of the state finalists win $15,000 from the Florida Department of Education and Macy’s, along with a $500 Macy’s gift card.