Tarpon Springs High School band director Kevin Ford, Pinellas County’s 2014 Outstanding Educator of the Year, left school $5,500 richer Monday after learning he is a finalist for the 2015 Florida Department of Education-Macy’s Teacher of the Year award.
Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart, Macy’s Kelle Razaki, school Principal Clint Herbic and Ford’s students surprised the teacher Monday morning with a $5,000 check from the Macy’s Foundation and a $500 Macy’s gift card. The high school received $1,000 from the foundation.
Ford, founder of the high school’s nationally recognized Leadership Conservatory for the Arts, is one of five teachers chosen from 67 across Florida to compete for the title of Teacher of the Year, which will be announced in July.
For the 26th year, Macy’s will give all nominees an additional $750 in personal cash and a $250 grant for their school at the awards gala. The winner will be named the Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education and tour the state speaking on education for one year. The winner also receives a $10,000 grant and an all expense paid trip for four to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
The parade will be nothing new to Ford, who coached the Tarpon Springs High Marching Band that earned a spot in the parade last November. Under Ford, who has taught in Pinellas for 20 years, Tarpon Springs bands and ensembles have performed at Carnegie Hall, Boston Symphony Hall, the Lincoln Center and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
The Tarpon Springs Marching Band is a six-time Bands of America AA and AAA Division National Champion, and 25-time Bands of America Florida and Atlanta Regional Champions. In 2010, the band received the international John Philip Sousa Sudler Shield Award, which recognizes “marching bands of world class excellence.”
Ford, a member of the Music Educators National Conference, the Florida Bandmasters Association and Phi Kappa Psi Honor Society, holds a number of accolades himself.
He was named the Tarpon Springs Community Teacher of the Year in 1996 and 1997, as well as the Tarpon Springs High School Teacher of the Year in 1997. Ford was also the artistic designer for the opening ceremonies of the 2002 FIFA World Cup in South Korea.
In 2005 and 2008, Ford was the honorary director for the Bands of America Tournament of Roses Honor Band, and in 2009 was one of seven educators selected for the Music Educators National Conference Blue Ribbon Panel in Washington, D.C., which awarded him the Music Educators Excellence Award in 2010.
The city of Tarpon Springs issued a proclamation declaring Sept. 22, 2012, “Kevin Ford Day” for his contributions to the school and its students.
“Mr. Ford is the epitome of a master teacher. The creative and energetic learning environment he provides for his students instills a passion in them to be successful,” schools Superintendent Michael A. Grego said in a release. “We are thrilled that the Florida Department of Education has recognized Mr. Ford’s unsurpassed dedication to excellence in education with this prestigious honor.”