Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium was pleased to recognize a room of over 220 local science and elementary teachers from Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties at its inaugural Toast to Teachers appreciation event on Friday, Oct. 6.

“Over nearly 70 years Mote has grown into a global powerhouse of diverse marine research programs, but a vital part of Mote’s mission is STEM Education. We believe that only through engagement with experiential learning opportunities can people truly understand the impact of marine science and our connections to the oceans,” said Mote’s President and CEO, Dr. Crosby in his comments to the teachers and their guests. “Tonight is about giving thanks to you for helping our next generation develop and embrace a thirst for learning about science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and unraveling the mysteries of nature and love of discovery.”

Teachers spent the night gathered in Mote’s beautiful Courtyard and enjoyed complimentary cuisine, cocktails, dancing, raffle items, and entertainment, all generously donated by local businesses and community members. At the conclusion of his comments, Dr. Crosby asked all assembled to join him when he said, “I offer a signature toast to our teachers for their passionate dedication and vital service of instilling discipline of critical thinking and other skills essential for our next generation to navigate across an ocean of discovery.”

Mote’s Education Department provides STEM education through a wide variety of on-campus, regional outreach, and virtual education programs. Mote Education currently serves over 10,000 students through its community engagement with underserved and underrepresented youth. In total, Mote Education serves over 35,000 participants annually.

Donations were also raised to benefit Mote Education with a total of $60,000 raised for the ‘Toast to Teachers’ Education fund, which provides local counties with access to Mote’s Education programs.

“Accessible, quality STEM education – for all – is at the forefront of Mote’s mission,” said Aly Busse, Mote’s Associate Vice President for Education. “The most important part of Toast To Teachers is giving these educators the appreciation and recognition they deserve. It is our goal to use the ‘Toast to Teachers’ Education fund to continue to give back to our teachers, to give them the access, tools, and resources to share with their classes. This fund will help us increase Mote’s commitment to accessible STEM education, which will be expanded through the new Mote Science Education Aquarium.”

Guests also heard the latest updates on the new Mote Science Education Aquarium (Mote SEA) and the science education programs that will be available once construction is completed.

Mote SEA will provide informal science education and enhanced levels of ocean literacy to much larger and more diverse populations from around the world. Notably, Mote SEA will serve as a regional hub for expanding marine science and technology education and inspiration to every K-12 student in our community—Oceans for All.

The new science-focused facility will provide informal science education to a larger, more diverse audience, including 70,000 students from Sarasota and Manatee County schools – free of charge.

“Mote SEA will also feature interactive labs and hands-on classrooms that will be accessible to every school in this region, including no-cost opportunities, so that each child has the chance to discover marine science and technology, first-hand,” said Dr. Crosby. “This new facility is for our teachers. It is for our children. It is for the next generation of marine science leaders. Strategically collaborating with schools and community groups where needs are the greatest, Mote will continue to educate children who might not otherwise have access to aquariums and marine science education.”

If you are interested in supporting Mote Education, please contact Andria Piekarz at