Pride aglow as schools recognize their best Peers honor Theresa Ryan, Christina Barfield

LECANTO — The school district’s brightest teachers and support staff beamed Thursday night as their colleagues and bosses gathered to honor their outsized contributions to student success during the year past.

From among 20 nominees, Theresa Ryan was chosen as Citrus County’s Teacher of the Year at the district’s annual Galaxy of Stars gala, co-hosted by the Citrus County Education Foundation. Ryan is a third-grade teacher at Citrus Springs Elementary School.

“I love what I do — I hope it shows,” Ryan said. “I work with the best people in the world who guide me — thank you. I’m humbled and privileged.”

Christina Barfield, an ESE paraprofessional at Crystal River Primary School, was named School-Related Employee of the Year from a pool of 27 contenders.

Barfield tearfully thanked the district and her colleagues.

Shaunda Burdette, executive director of CCEF, opened the evening with her appreciation for the community and district — and most of all, for those who make it great.

“Congratulations on being selected by your peers and for representing your school and the entire Citrus County district,” Burdette said.

Mike Geddes, district director of instructional technology, blessed the honorees while Superintendent Sandra “Sam” Himmel expressed her gratitude for their hard work.

“It’s not about us. It’s about the kids; it’s the relationships you build every single day,” Himmel said of the dedication shown by the district’s teachers. “I know you come to work with a heart to give to kids — and we will never forget what you do.”

Afterward, Scott Hebert, the 1999 Florida Teacher of the Year, and Amy Crowell, the district’s director of research and accountability, introduced the honorees and emceed most of the celebration.

School board member Doug Dodd concluded the evening by reminding the honorees that award or no, their tireless dedication will continue to be invaluable.

“It’s not just the hard work that got you here — it’s a great attitude and positive outlook,” Dodd said. “Remember, you will always be a teacher or school-related employee of the year — it does not end tonight.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Julie Gorham at 352-563-3236 or

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