Three Farragut teachers earned the Barrett Foundation Mathematics and Science Teacher Award

Pictured left to right: Sari Deitche, Jenn Barrett, Brian Barrett, Carolyn VanArsdale, Rebecca Blake, Tom McGlinn

Each year, our teachers have the opportunity to enter a contest to win the Barrett Family Foundation Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teacher Award which is a $10,000 tax-free cash gift. The winners are selected based on recommendation letters from the school head, a colleague, a student, their resume and personal letter, and a 3-5 minute video.

We are proud that this 2019-20 school year three of our Upper School teachers received the award: Rebecca Blake (science teacher), Sari Deitche (science teacher, science upper school department head, and the second-time winner from 2014-15), and Carolyn VanArsdale (engineering teacher).

Our faculty members represented three out of the twelve winners and our school represented one out of 49 schools from four counties who had teachers submit entries.

When we asked Barrett Foundation executive director and trustee, Brian Barrett, what makes teachers stand out to the foundation, he said, “We look for passionate, innovative educators who have the unique ability to connect with their students.”

About the Award

The Barrett Family Foundation Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teacher Award was created in 2013 as a vehicle to award outstanding math and science high school teachers from private and public schools in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Sarasota counties. Through this award, The Barrett Family Foundation proudly honors outstanding high school teachers who share their energy and enthusiasm for science or mathematics through creative and innovative methods. In total, The Barrett Family Foundation has awarded $270,000 to local high school math and science teachers and $30,000 to local high school’s math and science departments.

From the Winners

An excerpt from their submission and the video they created.

Sari Deitche

“It was probably that trip to Brookfield Zoo when I was about seven years old that made me want to become a Marine Biologist. I was called out of the audience to stand next to the zoo trainer and help feed the dolphin during the dolphin show. The dolphins performed everything I asked them to do. My heart was full and my mind was set as to what I wanted to do when I grew up. My science “nerdiness and geekiness” as my students lovingly tease me, has not gone away. I can be found standing on tables dropping eggs into buckets to test different hypotheses. Or you may find me walking around with a bearded dragon on my shoulder during class. I love walking into the classroom each day and teaching science. Our students today will be our leaders tomorrow.  They need to be inspired, excited, and interested.  Students need to think outside the box and intrinsically be motivated to better themselves and those around them.  We need inventors, doers, thinkers, planners, and so on. This is the type of atmosphere I try to create in my classroom.”

Watch her video

Carolyn VanArsdale

“I have always loved creativity and innovation. I guess it was teachers who believed in me that made me want to do the same for other students. I tell students every day to “be your exceptional you”. Each day you can be a little better than the last resulting in a positive life trajectory. I try very hard to practice what I preach. I am real with my students. I share my experiences with them. I encourage them to be honest with themselves. I reinforce to my students how much they deserve the very best and how they have to work hard for it. One can say, I see the silver lining in every situation. I look at every bump in the road as a reflection of how to overcome and prevail. That is what ultimately I want for my students is the courage to try, and the resilience to prevail and overcome all that life has for them. I am overwhelmingly thankful every day I get to share my love of learning with our future. I am so proud of my students each day as they imagine, explore, innovate, take risks and prevail.”

Watch her video

Rebecca Blake

“My curiosity of the ocean began when I first watched The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. Seeing the underwater world in color was all it took for me, I was hooked. I knew I wanted to learn as much as I could about the ocean and its inhabitants, and thankfully my parents supported my passion along the way. Also, it was my high school Biology teacher who further fueled my desire to pursue a career in science. Before becoming a teacher, I gained experience in fisheries research and then moved onto large marine mammal science. Both fields naturally gave way to educating others, and I enthusiastically shared my knowledge with whoever would listen. Now, I do the same for my students. I get to teach my kids about the amazing and exciting world of science, and when I see them discover things – and those lightbulbs go off when they figure something out for themselves – it is extremely powerful, it is my fuel. I don’t teach opinions or beliefs, I simply present data and have students draw conclusions. If a student can support, with empirical evidence, an alternative explanation we (as a class) will discuss, critique, and scrutinize the theory. This is good science and a mindset I hope that they carry with them throughout their life. I understand that not all of my students want to become a scientist, however, science is a part of life and is a part of society. If I can get them to understand how science works and apply the foundational concepts to their lives, then I’ve done my job.”

Watch her video


Past Farragut Winners

Other Admiral Farragut Academy teachers who have won in the past include:

  • Jessica Kolodetsky, Upper School Mathematics (2018-19)
  • Joshua Moore, Upper School Mathematics (2018-19)
  • Tonya Singleton, Upper School Scuba (2018-19)
  • Stephen Mikell, Upper School Physics (2017-18)
  • Amy Smith, Upper School Mathematics (2017-18)
  • Rob Ewing, Upper School Aviation (2016-17)
  • Sari Deitche, Upper School Science (2014-15)
  • Thomas Ma, Upper School Mathematics (2013-14)