Brandon Shining Light Teacher Award

Christian Business Connections is proud to award the Second Annual Shining Light Teacher Award to Maria Hoffmann of Saint Stephen Catholic School.

This award recognizes Christian teachers and educators in the Brandon area for excellence in raising young minds to be future leaders in our community.

Six finalists from three local Christian schools have been selected. The award recognizes Christian Leadership, commitment to educational excellence and the impact that teachers make in student’s lives. The award presentation will be at St. Stephen Catholic Church.

The theme verse for this award is found in Titus 2:7-8.

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. Titus 2:7-8

2018  Shining Light Award Winner

Saint Stephen Catholic SchoolMaria Hoffmann, Saint Stephen Catholic School

Teaches: Grade 1 (Math, Science, Social Studies an Religion)

Why Nominated: School is never boring for students in Maria’s class. Her hands-on discovery approach to learning inspires all. This year many of us have visited her class plant clinic where dying plants get diagnosed and treats. Her faith and joy for teaching shows in all that she does.

Community Involvement:

  • Works with 4 H, has students participate in the state fair and is a moderator
  • Has led Children’s liturgy groups at church,
  • Trained and assists with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
  • Runs Summer Camps at School

Years of Service to the School: 16 years

2018  Shining Light Award Finalists

Barbara Perkins

Barbara Perkins, Bell Shoals Baptist Academy

Teaches: Kindergarten

Why Nominated: Barbara has given her entire career to Bell Shoals Baptist Academy. She is an amazing teacher with many wonderful teaching qualities. She excels at working with children to teach them to read

Community Involvement: Actively involved in the church and church nursery. Dedicated grandmother to her children.

Years of Service to the School: Approximately 40 years

Christy Peters 3rd Grade Teacher at Bell Shoals Baptist AcademyChristy Peters, Bell Shoals Baptist Academy

Teaches: Grade 3

Why Nominated: Christy is an excellent classroom teacher who always goes above and beyond to serve her students, colleges, administration & parents in any way she can. She is often asked to help with projects and always says yes if she can contribute

Community Involvement:

  • Chapel board
  • Renewals support
  • PTF board – teacher liaison
  • Yearbook maker

Years of Service to the School: 16 years



Tammy Perkins Teacher at Bell Shoals Baptist AcademyTammy Perkins, Bell Shoals Baptist Academy

Teaches: 5th Grade Currently (Language Arts, Grammar, Literature, and Bible)

Why Nominated & Community Involvement:

Mrs. Perkins is an exceptional teacher who is more than deserving of this prestigious award.

Her commitment to her students and to the school more than exceeds the level of expectations than one could imagine. Her instruction within the classroom meets the educational needs of every student at every level, and within every learning style. She is able to take a lesson and bring it to life, gaining the attention of each student resulting in total engagement.

This level of commitment extends beyond the classroom into the community. This year, fifth grade studied the holocaust unit. With the backing of administration, Mrs. Perkins single handedly brought this unit of study to life when she had holocaust survivor Marion Blumenthal come and speak with not only fifth grade, but the entire school. Along with it, a fifth grade community service project was then tied to this event with Compassion House, where everyone brought in shoes for the homeless. This was to represent the millions of shoes that were taken from the Jews shortly before they were put to death.

Her professional experience extends to working along with AEP, Brandon Reading Clinic, Lead Teacher for Language Arts, ACSI Writing Committee Chairman, Author’s Museum Chairman, Speech Committee Co-Chairman, and after school Art Club leader as well. It is quite evident that her level of commitment to her students shine both within and outside of the classroom.

On a personal level, Mrs. Perkins has become family to both me and my son. I often turn to her for personal and motherly advice as my own mother is very ill. She tutors my son and helps him in his areas of need, often attending conferences with me to ensure that he is getting the help he needs and asking the questions I may not think to ask due to her knowledge in primary education. She extends this type of love with her own students, always guiding them in the way of the Lord.

I can think of no other recipient better qualified for this award. She has honored the Lord and this school with her passion and commitment as an educator, embodying the very essence of the Shining Light Teacher Award.

Years of Service to the School: 14 years


Livingstone Academy, FloridaAmy Caldwell, Livingstone Academy

Teaches: K-intellectual disabilities, all subjects including bible and life skills

Why Nominated: Exceptional leadership and teaching skills, classroom management, She leads by example and shows integrity in all things. She is a great role model for her students and fellow teachers.

Community Involvement:

  • Small group church leader for special needs age 14 and up.
  • Volunteer for “Night to Shine” (Special needs prom)
  • Volunteer for Royal Family Kids Camp (Foster Kids)
  • Volunteer at Church Vacation Bible School and Fall Fest

Extra & Co-Curricular academy involvement:

  • After school reading tutor
  • In rotation to teach chapel monthly

Years of Service to the School: 2 years



Saint Stephen Catholic SchoolJulianne Gonzalez, Saint Stephen Catholic School

Teaches: K-8 Art and 8th Grade Religion

Why Nominated:

Julianne shares her faith and commitment to the mission of our school with our students and the community. There is not enough room to talk about her talents and gifts.

Many Modern women struggle daily with challenges and responsibilities for wearing several hats, and Julianne Gonzalez is certainly one of them but she has elected to fully embrace her many God given roles. Julianne worked as a teacher and an Assistant Principal for Saint Stephen Catholic School (SSCS) for six years and then took some time away from SSCS in order to spend more time with her daughters. In 2016, she returned to St. Stephen as an art teacher and religion and middle school coordinator. The SSCS principal, Linda Umoh, acknowledges that Julianne’s vision for the school and her presence among the school staff is a blessing shared by all. One of her greatest achievements last year, was the success of Interfaith Day, when Muslim, Jewish and Catholic 8th graders came together in friendship and understanding.


A fellow teacher and friend, Gina Robles admires how Julianne develops meaningful relationships with students. Gina recalls the students’ excitement when Julianne got married. The church was filled with students who wanted to witness the marriage ceremony of their special mentor and teacher.

Reflecting on the gifts that make up the rich balance of family, work and self, Julianne smiles and speaks lovingly and with gratitude about her husband, her parents, her students, time shared with friends playing softball and her true passion, which is creating art through digital collages. And of course, her affection for her two beautiful daughters, Zoe and Raven is readily apparent. One can visibly notice her joy as she speaks proudly about them and how friends admire the good manners and behavior of her daughters but wastes no time giving credit to her husband and her parents for their guidance and help with the girls. I often find myself sitting within eye view of Julianne, her mom and her daughters during Sunday Mass, and it is wonderful to see the special bond and tender interaction between three generations. Truly a blessing.

Julianne attributes any happiness and success to God, and does not hesitate to say, “I turn to God when I am stressed. He can fix everything, always.” She also openly offers an affirmation of her faith and her love for the Catholic tradition. Raised in a practicing Catholic home and schooled by the Franciscan and Dominican nuns, Julianne continues to practice “faith in action” and strongly believes in the power of prayer. While attending school, she participated in World Youth Day in Australia and helped restore homes in Mexico. Her faith in action continues with her Eucharistic Ministry work, instructing 8th grade SSCS students preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation, attending retreats with students and supporting teachers with the religion curriculum and faith-based activities. Her goal is to evangelize her faith to her friends and find innovative ways to infuse more Catholic tradition into the school art projects. Julianne views Catholic Education as an opportunity to encourage young people to reduce their sense of self and increase their awareness of God.

When speaking with Julianne, I find her inner peace to be contagious. There is a calming presence about being with her, and she speaks her faith without saying a word – something more of us could aspire to. A modern woman, soundly grounded in Catholic tradition, Julianne Gonzalez is a true blessing for the community of St. Stephen.

Community Involvement:

  • Conducts service projects with students at My Warriors Place in Ruskin
  • Organizes a day for 8th graders from local Hebrew & Muslim schools to meet with students at St. Stephen
  • Works cooperatively with A Simpler Place Farm for her gardening club
  • Plans and organizes school liturgies

Extra & Co-Curricular academy involvement:

  • Gardening Club
  • Personal Fitness
  • Weaving

Years of Service to the School: 7 years


Read about last year’s winner Read: Shining Light Award 2017