Thousands of teacher nominations pour into the Foundation for Lee County Schools each year from students, parents, other teachers and more.
The Foundation names only six as Golden Apple winners.
This year, three are teachers in West Zone schools.
Honorees include Laura Reed, Pre-K teacher at Dr. Carrie D. Robinson Littleton Elementary; Kim Smith, fourth grade teacher at North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts; and Billy Lansberry from North Fort Myers High School.
This is the third in a three part series highlighting those special teachers.
On March 14, The Breeze featured Reed; on March 21, Smith, and now in this issue, Lansberry.
In his office, you can find a card with birthday wishes from students. The words "you are an inspiration" jump out.
That is the sentiment of students, facility and administration alike on the North Fort Myers High School campus.
"The Foundation hit this choice spot on with Billy," said North Fort Myers High School Principal Kimberly Lunger. "He was the perfect selection. With him it is not just about the curriculum, it's about life lessons. It's about behavior and always about what is the right decision."
A Golden Apple winner herself, she added "I am very proud he will be representing North Fort Myers High at the Golden Apple Awards."
Lansberry works with JROTC students schoolwide. His title is senior army instructor.
"My actual rank is commander sergeant major. To me the big thing about ROTC is, because we have three instructors and how the curriculum is structured, is that we get one-on-one time with each student."
He said he hopes that this distinction will allow him to help communicate what JROTC really means to students, or cadets, as they are known. It's not a program to prepare them for the military, a common public misconception, he said, but rather, a life skills building process.
"The skills they learn are mostly leadership, planning, goal setting, setting habits, and they also have classroom etiquette and first aid. These are skills that will help them be successful at whatever they do."
Specific parts of the program build different skills.
"That's what the curriculum is built around. For example our drill team shows them how to lead others and how to follow."
He has been teaching at North Fort Myers for six years.
"This is the only place I've ever taught."
When Lansberry started at NFM High there were 2,500 students in the school and 80 cadets. Since then, new schools have opened, yet out of the now approximately 1,600 students, there are 300 cadets.
Lansberry's background includes 23 years in the military; he's a retired Army Airborne Ranger.
He said he knew getting the Golden Apple would be a tough process involving a long application, interview and review procedure.
"Yet I was so impressed with the professionalism and dedication of the Foundation, I felt I really had to press on," he said.
He said he was surprised when school, foundation, faculty, administration and more paid an unannounced visit at his school.
"My family had more confidence than I did if I could win, because I knew the process was so stringent."
His JROTC unit works with numerous community organizations and businesses, including the VFW Post 10127 on Pondella Road and the Fraternal Order of Eagles in North Fort Myers, also on Pondella Road.
They are also tied to the Skyline Club, Boston Red Sox charities and the business LeeSar.
"From all of these, they get to see volunteers who are successes in our community and get to ask, 'How did you do that?'
"This is a tight-knit community, that has really taken pride in the sponsorship of the students," he said.
That, in his opinion, is why three teachers from North Fort Myers schools have won the coveted Golden Apple.
He will join them all at the April dinner that honors these top Lee County teachers.