Hillsborough's teacher of the year from Spoto High
She's the writing resource teacher at Spoto High School and an Advanced Placement literature teacher. She's the student government sponsor and the chair of the English department.
Now, Cassie Mattison has another title to add to the list – teacher of the year in Hillsborough County.
The 31-year-old Mattison, a product of the Hillsborough County School District and a teacher for nine years, was named the top teacher Thursday night at the David A. Straz Center for the Performing Arts.
“I never thought this would happen,” Mattison said to the crowd of educators after receiving the award. “I would not be standing where I am today if it wasn't for educators like you,” she said to the packed house.
In her youth, her parents were going through a divorce and school helped her, she said.
“It was my safe place,” Mattison said. “I could feel comfortable. I could be myself. It saved me.”
When she was in junior high school, Mattison tutored her peers as well as students who were in elementary school.
During her senior year of high school, after she finished a presentation in her Advanced Placement English class, her teacher called her to the back of the class and whispered a message:
“Great work,” he said. “Now go get a master's and come back and teach this class one day.”
It wasn't until her junior year of college, however, that she finally gave in to the wishes of students she was tutoring. They told her they would not leave her alone until she changed her major.
“I quickly realized there was much more to teaching than just reading and writing,” Mattison says. “Teachers have the ability to change the lives of kids in ways that no one else can.”
Teaching runs in her family.
Her husband is a teacher at Spoto. Her brother is a teacher at Freedom High. Three of her cousins and several aunts and uncles are teachers as well.
Mattison was chosen as the top teacher from seven finalists named by the Hillsborough Education Foundation.
Other top teacher candidates were Kyla Bailey, Lanier Elementary; Dakeyan “Dre” Graham, King High; Kathy Hill, Mitchell Elementary; Brian Nanns, Williams Middle Magnet; Krysta Porteus, Young Middle Magnet; and Sharon Smith, Claywell Elementary.
The name of the winner usually is kept secret until the ceremony, but the official program was mistakenly released a day early by the Tampa Bay Times, a sponsor of the contest, as an insert in Thursday's paper, foundation officials said.
Mattison said she got wind that she was the winner after seeing a posting on her Facebook page. She got a copy of the newspaper's insert that showed her as the winner. Overwhelmed, she immediately called her husband, she said.
In other awards, secretary Maryann Bordonaro of Essrig Elementary was named instructional support employee of the year and fifth-grade teacher Socorrito Claudio of Wimauma Elementary was named the Ida S. Baker diversity educator of the year.
Bordonaro said she was stunned when she learned she won.
“”We are behind-the-scenes people,” Bordonaro said. “We do our thing in the background. To be recognized is an incredible feeling.”
Claudio was born in the Bronx and raised by her adoptive parents. She said she's pleased she's been able to give back and hopes the award can help inspire her students to persevere.
“It's like surreal,” Claudio said. “I've never thought in a thousand years I'd be here.”
Reporter Jose Patino Girona contributed to this report.