Christie Bassett ’07 Named Florida Teacher of the Year

Jul 10, 2014

by Cary McMullen | Publications editor
If asked why she is a teacher, Christie Bassett ’07 says it’s the “aha” moments.

“When you look in a student’s face when they’re struggling to master something and there’s that ‘aha’ moment when that light bulb comes on and you know you’ve ignited that – that’s why I teach. When you’re a teacher, you see those light bulbs go off every day,” she says.

In a measure of her dedication to the profession of teaching and to the preparation she received at Florida Southern College, Bassett was named 2014 Florida Teacher of the Year at a ceremony in Orlando on July 10. She is now in the running for National Teacher of the Year honors.

She was chosen over four other finalists, who in turn were chosen from more than 180,000 public school teachers by a Department of Education-appointed selection committee consisting of teachers, principals, parents and the business community.

The Teacher of the Year award comes with the title of Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education, and she will spend the next year touring the state and beyond to talk about Florida’s educational opportunities and challenges.

“I’m in a little bit of shock,” Bassett told The Ledger of Lakeland the day after the ceremony. “I feel like I’m on cloud nine.”

Bassett, who is an art teacher and chair of the art department at Highlands Grove Elementary School in Lakeland, was named Polk County Teacher of the Year in February, which put her in the running for the state honors.

Bassett was chosen in part for the way her art lessons incorporate other disciplines as well, illustrating poetry and prose, employing math and geometry in students’ drawings, and writing critiques of their own and others’ artworks. Outside the classroom, Bassett runs Helping Heroes, a mentor program for at-risk students, and volunteers at the George W. Harris Youth Center.

The award includes a $10,000 grant funded by the Macy’s Foundation, and she will be included in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.

At FSC, Bassett studied art education, taking classes in both the art and education departments, and says that her degree prepared her well for her teaching career.

“My education classes showed me how to infuse academics into the art classroom. It made me a better educator. Florida Southern ensured that I had a solid foundation in both art and education,” she says.

Bassett found that her internships at local elementary schools were crucial in shaping her career direction.

“My senior year, I started out the internship as the assistant to the art teacher, and by the end of the semester, I was the art teacher. I spent months practicing what I was going to do as a career,” she says.

Dr. Tracey Tedder, Dean of the School of Education at FSC, said, “We’re extremely proud of Christie as a teacher and of her outstanding accomplishments. It’s a further demonstration of her commitment to teaching. She’s an excellent role model, and I’m sure she will continue making a difference in her occupation.”

Bassett is the second FSC alum to earn a state teacher of the year award, following Paula Leftwich ’95.

At the end of her year as a goodwill ambassador for education, Bassett says she will return to classroom teaching.

“I most definitely see myself going back to the classroom. I feel I have the best job there is,” she says.