Jeremy Ridgeo has been one of the top teachers for years in Lee County, yet never was considered for the Golden Apple for one simple reason:
He never applied.
This year, he did and has been named a finalist for the Lee County teachers’ equivalent to the Oscars.
Ridgeo is in his 17th year of teaching. His first five years were spent in Syracuse, N.Y. teaching eighth- and ninth-grade English.
He moved to Florida after going to the Teach near the Beach job fair and had his choice between North and Fort Myers.
“I enjoyed my time with Kim Lunger, who was principal at the time, and decided to take the English teaching position at North,” Ridgeo said
Ridgeo taught English at North for several years. He was the volleyball coach at North for six years and at Bishop Verot for four before deciding that coaching was taking too much time away from his new family.
Meanwhile, Ridgeo was always getting nominated, but never went through the actual application process.
“I didn’t know what it was so I didn’t go through the process. Why didn’t I do it? It was youth and I didn’t know any better,” Ridgeo said. “Looking back, I ask myself why I didn’t go through with it. It’s an honor to be nominated and someone took the time to do it. In retrospect, I should have taken the time.”
Ridgeo told a friend three years ago that if he was ever nominated again, he would apply. But he would have to wait a while.
Ridgeo was asked to take over as AICE and Arts coordinator, which took him out of the classroom for a year, which he didn’t like.
Ridgeo was asked to pilot the AICE level perspectives class four years ago, where students learn about modern issues and current events from climate change to social media to terrorism. He has taught the class ever since.
There are six themes in his class; political, economics, ethics, culture, science and technology, and environment.
It is this class where Ridgeo said he really shines, and it was here where he got nominated again, and went through the process.
“The reality is what I do now is significantly better than what I did as a young man. And to be nominated for this class is more important to me, because of the topics we have to cover and how their personal views on these issues and how to solve them,” Ridgeo said.
Ridgeo said he would have been happy as Teacher of Distinction. He learned he was a finalist at the school district while doing a podcast when his phone went crazy with text messages congratulating him.
“I had a feeling that what we were doing in the classroom the last few years were really important and this was a validation of that,” Ridgeo said. “To win it would be incredible.”
After Ridgeo came on at North, there were some changes in principal’s office before Debbie Diggs took over in 2016 and brought stability. She said she couldn’t imagine running an AICE program without him.
“He’s a phenom. Not only is he a teacher, but he touches the lives and academics for hundreds of kids,” Diggs said. “His impact is very broad here.”