Dr. Dakeyan Graham, who attended Valrico-area elementary and middle schools, was named the 2020 Florida State Teacher of the Year last month.

Dr. Dakeyan Graham has another title to add to his name this month. Graham, who spent many years in the Valrico area attending local schools, was selected as the 2020 Florida State Teacher of the Year at an awards ceremony in Orlando in late July.

The event was the end of a long road for Graham, a band, orchestra and music theory teacher at King High School who found out that he was nominated for Hillsborough County Teacher of the Year in December, an honor that he won in January.

Florida’s 74 school districts sent their winners to the State Teacher of the Year Program committee and five finalists were chosen based on their student gains, community involvement, teacher leadership and instructional practices.

Graham, whose parents still live in the Bloomingdale home where he grew up, was honored to have been chosen as one of the finalists and even more honored by being named the Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education, the statewide Teacher of the Year.

“I was able to learn so much through the process and had the honor of meeting and getting to know an amazing group of educators and legislators,” said Graham, who spent time with many representatives from the Florida Department of Education in panels and one-on-one meetings during the final interviews.

A student at Lithia Springs Elementary for third through fifth grade, Graham also attended Burns and Rodgers Middle Schools and graduated from King High School, where he will return to teaching after taking a year of leave to fulfill his role as Teacher of the Year. He also received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education from the University of Florida and a PhD from the University of South Florida, but credits his success to the foundation he received at local area schools.

“If it weren’t for Hillsborough County Public Schools, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” he said. “That education, that foundation, that learning, that passion for education and passion to remain a student of life all came from my journey through Hillsborough County.”

In his new role as Teacher of the Year, Graham will travel the state, speaking at schools and with legislators about the needs of his profession. He also has trips planned for Washington DC and California to meet with the Teachers of the Year from other states.

“My biggest goal for the year is to promote a greater understanding of collective equity and the importance of working for students and teachers,” said Graham. “I hope to inspire action while bringing awareness to the issues our state faces in education.”

To learn more about the Florida State Teacher of the Year process, visit www.floridateacherslead.org.

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Assignment Editor Kate Quesada started working at the Osprey Observer in 2004 after graduating from the University of South Florida with a masters degree in Mass Communications. Since then, she has held various positions at the paper and has been working as the assignment editor since January 2020. She lives in Lithia with her husband Mike and sons Dylan and Max and stays active in the community on school PTA boards and volunteering with local organizations.