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Derrick Brooks visited Sheehy Elementary on Thursday with a bundle of gifts and a piece of wonderful news for Michelle Stone: She has been named the NFL Fan Teacher of the Year

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Former Sheehy Elementary student L'Asia Maxwell (left) nominated Michelle Stone (right) for NFL Fan Teacher of the Year, and LB Derrick Brooks delivered the good news

Early on the morning of Thursday, January 12, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks arrived at Sheehy Elementary School in Tampa bearing gifts of balloons, flowers, an autographed jersey, a lei and a letter from the NFL.

The day's honoree? Michelle Stone, currently the resource coordinator at Sheehy and the 2005 NFL Fan Teacher of the Year.

The NFL has recognized a Teacher of the Year for several years, and it still does, but those winners are from among of group of educators nominated by NFL players. Players use the program to call attention to teachers who had an impact on their childhood development.

This year, the league implemented an additional Fan Teacher of the Year Award, where anyone from across the country could nominate an educator who has touched his or her life. Stone was selected as the NFL Fan Teacher of the Year from more than 1,500 nominations nationwide.

L'Asia Maxwell, currently a seventh-grade student at Stewart Middle School in Tampa, was a member of Stone's fifth-grade classroom two years ago. When Maxwell heard the NFL was taking nominations for Teacher of the Year through its JoinTheTeam.com web site, she knew instantly she wanted to nominate the teacher who has been such a positive influence on her life.

In part of her nomination to the NFL, Maxwell wrote:

"Miss Stone has been a major influence on me. She has taught me that I can do anything. I think I will remember how I wouldn't be where I am if it was not for my fifth-grade teacher Miss Stone….before Miss Stone I never even considered college. I think I will remember how she told me I can be the first person in my family to get a college degree. I will remember that Miss Stone is the best thing that has happened in my life."

Maxwell credits Stone for the positive changes in her academic performance and behavior. Even two years after Maxwell was a student in Stone's classroom, Stone continues to act as a mentor and regularly checks on Maxwell's grades.

"I decided I should do something for her," said Maxwell. "This is something she deserves for helping me out, so I should pay her back."

As the NFL Fan Teacher of the Year, Stone receives a $500 award, and Maxwell's classroom gets an NFL-style Super Bowl party the week of Super Bowl XL. Stone gets a trip for two to the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl in Honolulu next month courtesy of the NFL where she will be recognized in a pregame ceremony before the February 12 game.

Brooks, Stone's favorite player, surprised the Teacher of the Year with the goodies he brought with him on Thursday. Stone entered the classroom to see Brooks and Maxwell both standing there, ready to deliver the goods and the good news.

"Derrick Brooks!" cried Stone, immediately recognizing her favorite player. Maxwell informed Stone that she had been nominated for the NFL Fan Teacher of the Year, and Brooks let her know that she had won. Brooks placed the lei around Stone's neck and told her she would be joining him in Hawaii at the Pro Bowl.

A shocked Stone directed her first question to Carolyn Hill, Sheehy's principal: "Can I take off of work, Ms. Hill?"

"L'Asia was in my class two years ago, and we kind of developed a bond," Stone said. "I'm just trying to expose her to a better life so she will know what's out there."

Stone plans to take her mother with her to Hawaii on what will be a first trip to the tropical destination for both.

As a gift to the school for having the Teacher of the Year, the NFL will present Sheehy Elementary with $5,000. Hill was especially pleased to learn of this prize, because she has been saving school funds to purchase a marquee for the front of the school. With the $5,000 from the NFL, the marquee is now almost completely funded.

"It's nice to see the hard work of such good people influencing our young people," said Brooks. "Out of all the cities in the NFL, Tampa has the NFL Teacher of the Year. That's something that we as a city can be proud of."

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