By Tamas Mondovics

Clarion Council and the Florida Charter School Alliance announced the winners of the 2013 New American Hero initiative, a teacher recognition program, earlier this month.

While each of the 44 winners won $1,000, and included teachers from participating schools in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Illinois, and Indiana who have been nominated by fellow teachers, administrators and parents within the school two of them, Henderson Hammock Charter School fourth-grade teacher, Christopher Symons, and Winthrop Charter School middle school teacher, Christine Gile-Woodard, are both from Hillsborough County.

Symons has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and historical studies and has two years of teaching experience, while Gile-Woodard, with eight years of teaching experience under her belt, has a master’s degree in educational leadership and bachelor’s degrees in communication media and educational technology.

As winners, the teachers are now eligible to win the annual New American Hero of the Year $5,000 grand prize.

According to executive director of the Clarion Council, David Alba, among the New American Hero winners, 41 of the teachers were from tuition-free, not-for-profit public charter schools that offer a choice for communities, parents, students and professionals that foster educational excellence in America.

“The American soldier is the hero on the foreign front, but right here in the United States, fighting the battle for the character of our country’s next generation of leaders; it’s the high performing teacher that is the New American Hero!” Alba said.

The New American Hero program is in its second year of implementation and is currently in 41 charter schools and three turnaround public schools in five states. It is supported in its entirety by gifts from individuals, businesses and foundations.

To learn more about the New American Hero program and how to participate or for a complete list of winners, visit


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