Bucs QB Brad Johnson, left, would be a teacher if not for his career in football
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Brad Johnson may be an intelligent football player, but to call him a 'student of the game' sells Johnson short. A graduate of Florida State University and the president of his high school senior class, Johnson has always valued education in every sense of the word. It was fitting, then, that the Bucs' passer was chosen to help honor Hillsborough County Public School teachers for their new and innovative programs.
On Monday, Johnson was the guest speaker for the Making Visions Possible Awards Banquet at Raymond James Stadium. The MVP program, which is a partnership between the Buccaneers and Verizon Wireless, is an effort to reward creative educators within the school system and stimulate further program development by providing monetary support to help programs grow.
The Buccaneers donated a total of $8,500 to the three finalists, while Verizon Wireless provided a free cell phone with usage for one year to each of the 17 finalists.
The event began with Brad Johnson and Dr. Earl Lennard, the Superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools, greeting the assembled group of educators. Johnson then welcomed the crowd of educators by explaining his personal commitment to education.
"Education is something that is important to my entire family," said Johnson afterward. "Both my parents were teachers and if I had never played in the NFL, I would have been a teacher myself. I went to Florida State and earned my degree and if football wouldn't have worked out I would have been in the public school system just like them."
Johnson also helped announce the night's three top award winners.
The second runner-up prize went to Cheryl Faber of Jefferson High School. Faber received $1,000 to go towards the funding of her program, which focuses on the development of multimedia student portfolios that demonstrate their business and technical skills.
The first runner-up prize was presented to the tandem Dale Hueber and Denise Shawver of East Bay High School. Hueber and Shawver earned $2,500 for their school to continue a program that is designed to create meaningful dialogue between high school students and senior citizens through group forums.
After the runners-up were announced, Gloria Chamberlain and Rebecca McBride of Durant High School were named the first prize winners for their program targeting literacy and increased awareness of social issues, such as rape, bullying, AIDS and drug and alcohol abuse. McBride, who is in her 18th year of teaching and eighth in the Hillsborough County Public School system, was excited about winning the $5,000 first prize.
"I was very surprised and very happy when they called our names," said McBride. "We put a lot of hard work into this program and it's nice to have the funding to continue the program."
McBride also commented on the work of the Buccaneers and Verizon Wireless in the Hillsborough County Public School System. "It really is so important to get the community involved," said McBride. "Our students are going to be the workers and the people that buy the tickets in the future and to have the support of our local businesses is a big bonus."
Dr. Lennard agreed.
"When you have companies and organizations like Verizon Wireless and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming forward and saying that Making Visions Possible is important, then it becomes even more important to the communities and the schools," said Dr. Lennard. "The personal commitment that people like Brad Johnson have to education in this community is also important extremely important. Their support is what makes programs like this possible."
While Johnson was appreciative of the praise from the Superintendent, he was even more impressed with the MVP program.
"I think this program is awesome," said Johnson. "It's not only bringing awareness to education, but to the teachers. It shows them that they are really appreciated. Plus, the programs they have are really working and that not just the students are proud of what they do."
Johnson's final comments summed up the day's events perfectly.
"No matter what happens to you on the playing field or in life," he said, "your education is something that no one can ever take away from you."
The Seventeen Finalists for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Making Visions Possible Award presented by Verizon Wireless were: