This story was originally published in the third edition of The Lion’s Tale (January 31st, 2022).
Cherie Brinkman has been Oviedo High School’s (OHS) resident biology teacher for the past nine years. Now in 2022, she is in the running for the title of Seminole County’s Teacher of the Year.
Brinkman was first one of many contenders for OHS’s teacher of the year, and moved on in the running for the county-wide award, where she is now in the top three.
“I went from the twelve, down to the now three of us,” Brinkman said. “Now after this step, they’ll announce for the three of us the actual teacher of the year for all of Seminole County.”
Brinkman has won at the high school level, and will now be up against the elementary and middle school teachers in order to win the title.
Winning Teacher of the Year is a huge achievement for teachers, and Brinkman is the second teacher at OHS to win the title, after research teacher William Furiosi won in 2021 .
“It’s definitely an honor and a privilege, there’s so many wonderful teachers in our county and our school,” Brinkman said.
However, Brinkman feels that overall the award celebrates everyone in teaching positions, rather than the sole individual who receives the title.
“I don’t think that teaching is an individual award because we all help each other out and are kind of the sum of all the great parts of everybody,” Brinkman said. “It’s nice to be a part of something that celebrates teaching in such a positive way because it’s a really difficult job, so it means a lot that it’s for all of us.”
Prior to teaching, Brinkman worked in a lab, and always wanted to become either a teacher or a scientist.
“Teaching is actually my second career, I did work in a lab first, and I guess I never considered that I could take my two loves and combine them into one,” Brinkman said.
Brinkman’s passion for both teaching and science is evident in her classroom. Junior Naman Doad was in Brinkman’s biology class from 2019-2020, and felt that Brinkman’s enthusiasm for the subject accelerated her learning.
“Mrs. Brinkman made sure to engage everyone in her class and it made me excited, coming into it everyday,” Doad said. “She was always super cheerful and positive in her lessons, and made the learning easy with lots of diagrams and examples.”
Similarly, senior Cassidy Conte, one of Brinkman’s former students, began her love for biology in Brinkman’s class.
“Mrs. Brinkman helped develop my love for biological sciences, which I will be pursuing in college,” Conte said. “She would talk about what she had worked on prior to teaching, specifically things she had worked on in labs.”
Having a teacher who was not only highly experienced in her area, but equally passionate as well, made for a more involved classroom according to both Doad and Conte.
“I think her success and achievement of becoming both school and district teacher of the year, especially after Furiosi in past years, shows that teachers with certain levels of involvement in students and their classes will always connect and educate the best; both of them engaged their students mentally and kept things professional, but weren’t unkind or unfriendly while they taught,” Doad said.
Engaging the class and connecting with students is a vital tool for understanding difficult concepts, and the results show through Brinkman’s success.
“I think this means the importance of forming connections with your students beyond just the material on a page, relating it back to the real world truly helps us grasp concepts better,” Conte said.
For Brinkman, winning Teacher of the Year means she’s found her true passion and purpose in teaching.
“It means that I found the right fit for me, and to be able to share my love for science with my students and be able to teach and help them, winning that award means that I found the right fit for me,” Brinkman said. “I’m just thankful that I get to do what I love to do everyday.”