SEBASTIAN — It probably shouldn't have been a surprise when Barbara Ann Preziosi was chosen Teacher of the Year by her peers at Sebastian Elementary School.
After all, Preziosi "belongs" in school, somewhere, somehow. But there was a time when the 37-year-old Preziosi wasn't sure where she was going and how she would get there.
So, after getting her associate's degree at Broward Community College, Preziosi took a year off from school to do some soul searching.
"I just didn't know what I wanted to do," Preziosi explained the other day, almost 15 years later. "I had always enjoyed going to school. I was that little nerdy student. Every day my desk was empty because I'd take all of my books home in my tote bag. I must have went through dozens of tote bags, but for some reason I always felt I had to have all my books with me. And I'm still doing that today.
"But at that time (after graduating from BCC with a two-year degree), I just wasn't sure what I wanted so I got a job in a day-care center working with pre-kindergarten children. I guess I felt the day care center was one way to keep going to school. It was fun to work with these kids that age; you could see the light bulbs go on when they caught on to something. I called them 'ah-ha' moments."
Soon enough, after working at the day-care center for a few months, Preziosi had one of those ah-ha moments herself.
"That's when I decided I wanted to be a teacher," she said.
Two years later, 1991 to be exact, Preziosi received her bachelor's degree in education at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and went to work teaching third grade at Coconut Creek Elementary.
Preziosi spent six years at Coconut Creek, moving up to fourth grade after a couple of years as a third-grade teacher.
"But back then," she acknowledged, "I really don't know what kind of a teacher I was. I knew I had so much to learn and then I came up here after a few years and filled in at Sebastian Elementary during a spring break and I just loved the atmosphere here, the staff, the students. I thought then that this was where I wanted to be."
And soon enough, after six years at Coconut Creek, Sebastian Elementary Principal Pat Donovan had an opening and hired Preziosi as one of the school's fourth-grade teachers.
"At the time, it was the best thing that ever happened to me," Preziosi said.
Now, however, six years later and after being named Teacher of the Year at Sebastian Elementary, it will have to be second best, at least for a few moments.
"It was a total surprise, a BIG surprise. People put you in anonymously but one day there was an announcement to go to the TV lab and Mrs. Donovan began reading the nominations and I heard my name and it really hit me. I was stunned, surprised. It's an honor because of whom I work with and being recognized by them is such a huge pat on the back.
"Because of the people I work with here, the teaching staff, Mrs. Donovan, I feel I've grown so much as a teacher, learning from all of them. They opened me up to new ideas in teaching, new ways in so many areas, being so much more flexible. It's just incredible. In six years at Coconut Creek, I didn't come close to learning teaching the way I have here. It's a world of difference . . . mainly because of the exceptional staff we have here. They made me who I am, as a teacher. I couldn't have done it without them. That's my totally honest feeling.
"I think, too, Mrs. Donovan promotes this camaraderie and working together so well it has helped me grow so very much that I can't imagine where I'd be as a teacher had I not come here. It was the best decision I ever made."
Preziosi, who is engaged to Thomas Jobe of Sebastian, said there's a lot more to teaching than she realized when she first got into it, but the atmosphere at Sebastian Elementary, she admitted, has worked wonders for her.
"It is so fun to work here. When I wake up in the morning, I know something new and exciting could happen today. When that doesn't happen, I know I will have stayed in teaching too long, but I don't ever see that happening. I learn new things every day, from the kids and from teaching and from the other staff members.
"Basically, teaching is who I am, I feel. It's fun. Yes, sometimes it does take up too much of my time, but I never minded that and never will. If I ever do, it will be time to quit and I don't ever see that happening. You do have to find time for the family, for yourself. But teaching does definitely define who I am. I am a teacher. It is not a 9 to 5 job. If I ever think it is then I know it will be time to quit. But I don't think that will ever happen to me."
Most certainly, to hear Preziosi tell it, not in the next couple decades, at least.
Barbara Ann Preziosi worked as a fourth-grade teacher at Sebastian Elementary School for six years.
Permission to post article was obtained from Terry Galvin.