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Sarasota teacher a finalist for Macy's Teacher of the Year

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SARASOTA COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

A Sarasota county teacher received a big surprise on Wednesday- one that proves her hard work and dedication is paying off.

When you walk into Katrin Rudge's classroom, you can certainly tell there are lessons that you just can't teach from a book. Aquariums with all sorts of fish line up against the walls.

"I learn best by doing things hands on," said Rudge.

She's a Marine Science teacher at Riverview High. She brings the gulf right into her classroom, and also brings her classroom to the gulf- leading field trips to the beach.

Rudge said, "I would like to feel that it doesn't matter what you teach, it's the way that you teach and then you spark the kids and gather their interest."

She's tried the real world. Rudge spent years as a researcher and even taught at a community college. But now she's fully devoted to inspiring young minds at Riverview High. She also spends a lot of her valuable free time caring for the fish in her aquariums.

So it should come as no surprise that when she was told someone broke into her outdoor lab, she rushed with a sheriff's deputy to check it out. But once she stepped inside, she was greeted by cameras and Macy's officials.

A Macy representative happily shook her hand and said, "Congratulations You are a finalist for the 2014 Florida Department of Education/Macy's Teacher of the Year!!"

Then confetti rained down on the crowd.

Rudge is one of five finalists for the top honor. She was selected by her peers for her dedication to teaching.

Riverview High School principal Linda Nook said, "[Rudge is] a one of a kind teacher. I have wonderful teachers here at Riverview but she really takes it beyond the classroom."

Rudge was given a $5,000 check and a $500 Macy's gift card. A $1,000 check was also presented to the school.

But Rudge feels this recognition is equally rewarding to her.

"It gives me verification that what I'm doing is good for kids, it's the right direction," said Rudge.

There's certainly a lesson here- hard work rarely goes unnoticed.

Rudge said she will use the money to pay for a trip to Mexico to swim with whale sharks. The winner of the 2014 Macy's/ Florida Dept. of Education Teacher of the Year award will be announced on July 11th.

The winner will get a $10,000 grant by the Macy's Foundation and an all-expense paid trip to New York.

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