By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- The Night of the Stars shone brighter when, in front of his friends and coworkers, Harry Belafonte Williams was announced the St. Lucie County Teacher of the Year for 2014.
The celebration of the achievement included recognition for Outstanding First-Year Teacher, School-related Employee of the Year and Distinguished Minority Educator.
Mr. Williams, a ninth-grade team leader, department chairman at Fort Pierce Central High School, has also been the head coach of a number of sports at the school, including football, wrestling and track. He has worked for the school district for 32 years, and received the award of Distinguished Minority Educator in 2012.
He moved to Fort Pierce in 1965, and was part of the first graduating class to attend and graduate from Fort Pierce Central High School. After serving in the Marines, he returned to the area to become a teacher.
He showed a glimpse of his teaching skills when he revealed he assigned a student to write his acceptance speech.
"I committed my life to the students," he said.
Mr. Williams was in the middle of an algebra lesson when he was surprised with balloons and an entourage of people congratulating him on his finalist status.
"He epitomized Fort Pierce High School," said Todd Smith, principal. "He is a true representation of this school."
Now, in addition to his teaching duties, Mr. Williams will sit on the district's board of education foundation in the honorary Teacher of the Year seat, as well as become involved on committees where his expertise can be used.
Since the Teacher of Year title is a state competition, Mr. Williams will move on to regional competition, which will take place in about a month.
"The most influential people in my life besides my parents were my educators," he said in an interview. "It made me always want to give back."
The recognition program is sponsored by the St. Lucie County Education Foundation and the school board, the teacher of the year award specifically is sponsored by the Morganti Group.
He was selected as a finalist on Jan. 24, along with Loryn Black, a first-grade teacher at Fairlawn Elementary and Lt. Colonel Joseph J. Cavallaro, the Air force JROTC senior instructor at Treasure Coast High School.
Also selected at the event was the 2013 School-related Employee of the Year. That designation went to Eric Henik, the Palm Pointe Educational Research School at Tradition plant manager. He has been in that position since the school opened five years ago. He will also move on to regional competition. His award was sponsored by the St. Lucie Educational Foundation.
Other winners of the evening included Amanda Hayes, the second-grade teacher at Samuel S. Gaines Academy, was announced as the 2013 Outstanding First Year Teacher, and Roderick Johnson, ninth-grade dean from Fort Pierce Central High School, was awarded the 2013 Distinguished Minority Educator of the Year designation.