The surprise patrol didn’t have to travel far to congratulate our latest finalists for the 2022 Polk County Teacher and School-Related Employee of the Year.
Today’s finalists come from schools that are just a short walking distance from each other. Congratulations to:
• Lindsey Hanger — Teacher of the Year finalist, English teacher, Bartow High/International Baccalaureate/Summerlin Academy
• Diana Tinker — School-Related Employee finalist, paraeducator, Floral Avenue Elementary
Brief profiles of these two finalists can be found below.
More surprise patrols will be taking place this month as we travel around Polk County to recognize the finalists from each of the seven districts. The overall winners will be announced at the Inspire Awards, which will take place on Jan. 20, 2022, at 5:30 p.m. at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.
The Polk Education Foundation and the district’s Department of Public Relations & Strategic Partnerships collaborate to present this annual event.
During the event, nominees will be recognized with video tributes and receive sponsored gifts. The Teacher of the Year and School-Related Employee of the Year will receive a cash prize generously donated by MIDFLORIDA Credit Union.
Platinum sponsors for the event include Lakeland Automall and MIDFLORIDA Credit Union.
Finalist Profiles, District 3
Lindsey Hanger — English teacher, Bartow High/International Baccalaureate/Summerlin Academy, District 3 finalist for Teacher of the Year
Hanger is a dedicated teacher who wants her students to care more about learning than grades. She emphasizes the importance of integrity and diligence, while letting students know that a failure will never diminish their value, or her respect for them.
To help students make learning gains, she carefully selects educational materials that are relevant, relatable and thought-provoking. “I fully believe that higher-level thinking questions and engaging texts are vital to creating interest, which then leads to better comprehension,” she said.
Hanger is proud that after a year of her tutelage, students can write a successful first draft within 45 minutes.
“I receive feedback every year from students about how this writing instruction has taken the sting out of their freshman year of college,” she said.
Hanger is a leader at her school. For the last four years, she has taken on various responsibilities as chair of her school’s English department, and serves as a mentor for new teachers.
Diana Tinker — paraeducator, Floral Avenue Elementary, District 3 finalist for School-Related Employee of the Year
Tinker, a PCPS employee for 16 years, has served seven years at Floral Avenue Elementary.
She is rarely ever seen standing still; this paraeducator is always looking for ways to help students and colleagues.
“She is always willing to do whatever is necessary to make our school shine,” said Rebekah Eckman, principal of Floral Avenue.
Tinker leads several initiatives at her school, including programs to provide students with food and clothing. She also uses techniques to help students identify and regulate their emotions.
“Her heart is for those children that are sometimes lost in the shuffle, and the students that are having difficulties in their young lives,” Eckman said. “She listens to them and empathizes with their struggles.”
Tinker also finds creative ways to support students’ academic growth — working with them in small groups to strengthen their skills, as well as finding new and fun literacy activities.
She is always willing to step forward to help students, staff, and their families when a tragedy or difficult situation surfaces.
“If a family ever needs anything, they know she will be the first one to make sacrifices to help them out,” Eckman said.