Old Northeast Resident Makes Teacher of the Year Finals

A headshot photo of a woman in a black sweater and blue spotted shirt smiling at the camera.

There are almost 7,000 public school teachers in Pinellas County. Each year just 10 are named finalists for Teacher of the Year. That’s .001% of teachers in the county, and this year, one of them is Old Northeast resident Dana Ingebretsen, or “Ms. Ingey” to her students. Originally from Port Charlotte, Ingebretsen has spent her entire 13-year career teaching science at Boca Ciega High School in Gulfport.

While some teachers might change roles a few times before finding their niche, Ingebretsen found a home right away as a young teacher at “Bogie.” As she honed her craft early in her career, she took the opportunity to build relationships with student leaders as a student government advisor. Now, as a veteran biology teacher, she’s active in the school’s Professional Learning Community for the science department, where she and her colleagues come together to share lesson ideas and support each other. 

Ingebretsen’s first focus is bringing science to life for her students. When asked how her students would describe her classroom style, she said, “I think they know that I can joke around and have fun, but they also know I get down to business. We have standards to cover and they know I’m doing my job.” She balances her lessons with lecture notes, collaborative work, and lab activities like microscope exercises and dissections.

A photo of a woman teaching at the front of a classroom with a projector board.
Ingebretsen breaks down a lesson for her students.

Teaching a state-tested course like biology can be challenging. Ingebretsen has lots of material to cover, but also wants to challenge her students in a way that engages them. Still, she says, teachers always wish they had more time. “In the real world, science is about experimentation, testing things over and over again. In the classroom, we often have time to do an experiment once and we have to move on.” 

Regardless of the testing load, and sometimes challenging social landscape that today’s teachers face, Ingebretsen is focused on her role. She has 180 freshman and juniors spread between six classes. “Teaching the same biology class for 13 years, I’ve learned which subjects need more time for students to grasp and which ones tend to come easier,” she says. “And I know when a student isn’t connecting and needs encouragement – and also when not to push.”

Ingebretsen also takes time outside of class to mentor five young women through the Take Stock in Children program. “I try to give my students tips and tricks to stay organized so they can become more independent and succeed in college and in their career.” Being accessible is satisfying when former students reach out to her for letters of recommendation or show up at alumni events. 

A photo of a family with small children smiling for the camera inside a school.
Dana Ingebretsen, center, with husband Josh, mother-in-law Joanne, sister Kate, niece Isla (in stroller), and her two sons, Donovan and Jameson.

Dedication like this is a big part of what made Ms. Ingey a finalist for Teacher of the Year, a highly selective process that started when her principal, Jennifer Gil, chose her as Boca Ciega High School’s nominee. A total of 131 nominees across the county were reviewed by a committee. The 10 finalists then participated in a series of interviews and appeared before a panel of district personnel. The winner was named on February 8, and while Ingebretsen didn’t take home the top honor – that went to Dr. Adam Zele, a math teacher at Azalea Middle School – she’s no less of a standout in our school system. 

When she’s not teaching, you’re likely to find Ingebretsen and her family enjoying local sports or a day at the beach. Her husband Josh, a St. Pete native and Lakewood High graduate, is a construction materials salesman who used to work for the Tampa Bay Rays. They have two young boys, ages 5 and 3. They met at the University of Florida, where she was studying biology, and still make regular trips up to Gainesville to watch Gator football, basketball, and gymnastics. The boys are just getting into baseball at Northeast Little League. 

Classroom style, consistency, and a desire to connect with her students are the things that make Dana Ingebretsen an exceptional teacher. It’s important for schools to have reliable cornerstones like Ms. Ingey on their faculty – and for teachers to be recognized for their excellence. Principals, parents, and students know that Bogie’s got biology covered by one of the best.