With 52 schools and nearly 4,800 teachers, competition to win the Teacher of the Year award in the Sarasota County (Florida) School District is tremendous.
In February, National Louis University alum William “BJ” Ivey was named one of three finalists, and at an April 5 school district banquet, he topped the competition to become Teacher of the Year for 2017-18.
“I know all the teachers here are going to leave motivated, and encouraged, to try to inspire new young men and women that we have the opportunity to reach every day,” Ivey said after accepting the award.
Ivey earned his Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Curriculum and Instruction from NLU in Tampa, Florida in 2007. He returned to earn his Educational Specialist (Ed.S) in Administration and Supervision and Educational Leadership in 2010.
“NLU definitely took my teaching to another level,” Ivey said in an interview after the awards ceremony. “It prepared me for multiple facets of teaching, from working with students individually, to working with them as a group, to building lesson plans, doing content mapping, and generally learning a lot of strategies and skills.”
While studying for his master’s degree, he credited NLU instructor Anne Sullivan, Ph.D., with giving him the skills to look back on his teaching and reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and what methods teachers can use to reach individual students.
He felt his Ed.S. studies centered on communication on many levels, and he had particular praise for NLU’s Stu Carrier, Ph.D. “He was really an excellent teacher of communication,” Ivey recalled. “I use that in class, and I also use that in my basketball coaching.”
Those communication skills come out in the form of giving students calendars of what will be happening in class at any given time, a schedule of after-school tutoring availabilities and a list of the things students can do to excel in class.
Ivey has taught at Riverview High School in Sarasota for 11 years. His subjects have included social studies, International Baccalaureate World History Honors and Advanced Placement Psychology.
This isn’t his first time at the podium to receive an award, either. He was named Florida Association of Basketball Coaches Class 8A Coach of the Year in 2016. He has served as the head coach for both the girls and boys basketball teams during his time at Riverview, as well as the Nike Team Florida basketball coach.
During the program, Dick Steinman, professional development specialist for the district and selection committee member, noted Ivey “is not just a basketball coach, but a life coach.”
Accepting the award, the Sarasota native said of his students, “I pray every day to have a positive impact on these kids.” He added that, while honored to be named Teacher of the Year, “I really don’t even believe I’m the best teacher in my own home. That would be my wife, Samantha, who teaches fifth-grade math and science at Lakewood Elementary.”
Ivey also talked about the influence of his mother, Jo Ivey, who attended the celebration. A retired district teacher who coached cheerleading and taught Spanish at Riverview, Jo Ivey was a past Teacher of the Year at that school and was National Cheerleading Coach of the Year.
As “Teacher of the Year,” Ivey will represent Sarasota County at the Florida Department of Education-Macy’s “Teacher of the Year” program, and will be the public face of the district at various teaching events next year. He will receive a $2,500 cash award from the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.
Sarasota County is located two counties south of Hillsborough County, in which NLU’s Tampa venue is located.