5 Sarasota teachers given Barancik Foundation’s ‘Ripple Effect’ award


Each morning, Wilkinson Elementary School teacher Jessica Gardner starts her day with her morning news crew, a team of fourth and fifth-graders who present the day’s announcements in a morning-show format. 

On Friday, as Gardner looked on, fifth-grader Francesca Rojas, 11, served as the lead anchor.

Francesca wished happy birthdays, told a joke and transitioned seamlessly to Branden Martin, 10, who gave a detailed weather report that included the UV Index and the current moon phase (Waxing Gibbous).

It was a classic elementary school scene, with the students shooting their hands in the air when Gardner needed a helper to hold a microphone. Ten-year old Makayla Bilyou talked about how her favorite job on the show is reading the lunch menu because “sometimes the lunch is yummy.” 

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While the morning news show isn’t unique to Wilkinson – lots of schools have them – school leaders say Gardner stands apart from her peers, particularly for her commitment to not letting COVID-19 get in the way of the memorable hands-on learning that takes place in the small studio each morning.

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