OKEECHOBEE — Longtime Okeechobee Community Theater (OCT) directors Ron and Jacque Hayes were recognized by the Okeechobee County School Board on July 24.
The couple officially retired in June after 40 years at the OCT. Ron was a charter member of the OCT when it was founded in 1979 and took over completely the following year. His wife, Jacque, joined him as a member of the OCT soon after she moved to Okeechobee.
Before awarding them a certificate, Okeechobee Superintendent of Schools Ken Kenworthy said the district has had a wonderful working relationship with both Ron and Jacque and those following in their footsteps would have big shoes to fill.
“We’re humbled and honored to receive this,” said Ron shortly after receiving the certificate. “Around 367 different people have been on stage throughout the years. I can’t even count the hundreds that have worked behind the scenes. Many of those people have become lifelong friends, some even family. Six couples met while working at the theater over the years. It’s been a joy.”
Many of what Ron dubbed “the next generation of the theater” were in attendance at the school board meeting to show their support.
A committee was formed at the OCT to keep things running after Ron and Jacque made the decision to retire. Kara DePasquale will now serve as the OCT’s business director, Jane Kaufman will serve as the theatre’s marketing director, while James and John Garner will take on the role of directors. Rounding out the committee are Joseph Maricinek, Laurie Garner and Mike White.
The school board also recognized Osceola Middle School Math teacher Sonya Smith for being one of three state finalists for the 2019 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
This award is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government specifically for K-12 science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or computer science teaching. The award recognizes those teachers have both deep content knowledge of the subjects they teach and the ability to motivate and enable students to be successful in those areas.
The awards were established by Congress in 1983. Each year the president may recognize up to 108 exemplary teachers.
“We’re very proud of her for what she’s been able to do,” said Mr. Kenworthy. “We’re absolutely pleased and very fortunate to have Sonya working in our school district.”
Award recipients are typically announced by the president of the United States approximately 18 months after the state finalist selection. Recipients of the award are given a certificate signed by the president, an expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., to attend a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.