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Three Polk County Educators Receive Governor’s Shine Awards

April 14, 2016

Three teachers from Polk County Public Schools were among a group of educators that received Shine Awards from Governor Rick Scott.

The Shine Award is presented to teachers and administrators in Florida who make significant contributions to the field of education. The following Polk County teachers were honored in late March during a presentation in Tallahassee:

SGM Cynthia Downing, U.S. Army – Downing teaches JROTC at Lake Gibson High and is an adjunct professor at Southeastern University. She provides reading assistance to career and technical students and also teaches a college level leadership course at her high school.

SGT Leon O’Connell, U.S. Army – O’Connell teaches physical education at Sleepy Hill Elementary. He organizes school-wide activities for students and staff, serves as advisor to his school’s Kiwanis K-kids Club, and leads the school-wide gardening project.

LTC Shawn Phelps, U.S. Army – Phelps teaches JROTC at Haines City High. He oversees the JROTC curriculum -- including course work on leadership, civics, geography, global awareness, and U.S. history. Last year, ten of the 36 graduating seniors joined the military after high school. Phelps previously served 26 years in the United States Army.

Gov. Scott said: “I am proud to honor Florida’s incredible teachers who work every day to help students accomplish their goals and get a great education in our state. I especially want to thank the Florida teachers who have previously served in the military. The sacrifices they have made to keep Florida families safe and defend freedom across the world gives our students the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”

Shine Award Winners

PHOTO: Cynthia Downing, sixth from left; Leon O’Connell, third from right; Shawn Phelps, second from left.