The Surprise Patrol visited Mann Middle School to recognize Nicci Dewsbury as a Hillsborough Education Foundation’s 2021 Teacher of the Year finalist.

Mann Middle School’s media center got a little rowdier when the Surprise Patrol made up of representatives from Hillsborough Education Foundation (HEF), Hillsborough County Public Schools, presenting sponsor Suncoast Credit Union, Caspers Company McDonald’s Restaurants and Amscot, walked in with cowbells ringing earlier this month.

The group was there to reveal that the school’s media specialist, Nicolette ‘Nicci’ Dewsbury, is one of five finalists for HEF’s Excellence in Education Awards.

Dewsbury, who has been a media specialist for 12 years—four years at Jennings Middle and eight years at Mann—wasn’t expecting the visitors. “I was very surprised and a little overwhelmed at being named a finalist,” she said.

Dewsbury said it’s a group effort, the entire Mann staff, that makes excellence possible. “I’ve been very lucky in my career to be surrounded by an amazing team,” she said.

Reading Resource Teacher Nina Scaglione has worked with Dewsbury for more than 10 years, implementing programs that encourage literacy, from family nights and other activities during the school year to making sure students have books to read in the summer. Scaglione said the honor is well deserved.

“She works not only with teachers but parents and students as well,” she said.

Principal Dante Jones said Dewsbury’s “rock star” status is no longer a secret. “She builds lifelong lovers of literacy every day,” he said.

Each day, more than 24,000 teachers and staff in Hillsborough County make a difference in students’ lives. More than 200 schools nominated educators for the award. The winners will be named on January 21, 2021 at HEF’s 2021 Excellence in Education Awards. The theme for the virtual event is Mask-a-rade.

In addition to Dewsbury, finalists include Audra Kondash (kindergarten teacher at Witter Elementary), Katie Stallings (second grade teacher at MacFarlane Park Elementary), Laura Meehan (music specialist at Caminiti Exceptional Center) and Adetola Shokunbi (third grade teacher at Belmont Elementary).

Win or lose, Dewsbury is just happy to be a finalist. “I’m happy to be recognized for my contribution to the work we do,” she said. “We as a staff work together to make students achieve greater success.”

For more information about HEF’s Excellence in Education Awards, visit

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Michelle Caceres
MIchelle Caceres has been writing for the Osprey Observer for seventeen years. She enjoys writing human interest pieces about inspiring members of the community who are working to better our community. She lives in FishHawk Ranch with her husband and recently became an empty-nester. When not writing, Michelle is serving her church community, reading and enjoying Florida's weather.