After being nominated for Teacher of the Year at Seabreeze High School, Dodi Gaines said the honor of being remembered in the history of the school is one thing she was going to take from the experience.
"The [Teacher of the Year] Wall of Fame at Seabreeze has some formidable names on it," Gaines said. "I consider those teachers to be my guides and they are amongst the best I've ever worked with."
And on Dec. 6, her nomination went one step further — Gaines was surprised at school by Superintendent Dr. Carmen Balgobin, district staff and board members, accompanied by a student drumline, who informed her that she was one of the five finalists for Volusia County School District's Teacher of the Year.
Gaines, the Cambridge AICE Coordinator for Seabreeze, majored in biology at Drexel University in Philadelphia. While in school, she volunteered at an after school program and her husband noticed she was really good with children.
"I went back every year," Gaines said. "It was working with those kids that made me decide that I had a lot to offer them."
Her husband suggested she continue her studies to get a teaching certificate, and that's what Gaines did, later graduating with a master's degree in instruction.
As the AICE coordinator, Gaines guides students through the Advanced International Certificate of Education diploma program "with the highest level of academics and character," so that, in addition to the diploma, the student earns college credit and a Bright Futures scholarship.
Prior to becoming the AICE coordinator six years ago, Gaines taught biology and science for 20 years, primarily for gifted or Advanced Placement students.
Her favorite thing about being a teacher, she said, is the relationship she builds with the students.
"It's so amazing to see them grow into kind, smart and mature humans," Gaines said.
Though the profession can be difficult, Gaines said that what keeps her motivated is knowing that a new group of kids will come in every year, and that she has the ability to help make their high school experience a good one.
"Enjoy this while you can," Gaines said. "Adulting comes at you quick."
When not in the classroom, Gaines said she enjoys spending time with her family, whether it be going on trips, attending sporting events or participating in activities together.