C.R. Anderson Middle School teacher Mike Agostinelli found himself atop a 55-foot-long float in the 2014 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year’s Day. Agostinelli was selected to ride the Farmers Insurance “Thank a Million Teachers” float after his $2,500 grant proposal collected the most votes in the state during a pilot program Farmers Insurance launched in October.

“An overwhelming feeling … humbled, proud,” Agostinelli said, describing his reaction to winning the contest. He said at first he was nervous about appearing on national television in front of nearly 53 million viewers, but was soon caught up in the energy of the crowd and was just “proud.”

“It’s fun to be part of something so genuine,” he added.

Randy Rice, national manager of educational programs for Farmers Insurance said Farmers Insurance invited Montana and Nevada teachers to submit proposals for $2,500 grants to their pilot “Thank a Million Teachers” program in October. A month later, 172 proposals from Montana teachers were posted online at www.thankamillionteachers.com.

The general public was invited to visit the website to thank teachers for doing what they do, and vote on proposals. In Montana, the top 10 proposals would be awarded $2,500. Montana proposals received a total of 56,223 votes with Agostinelli raking in 2,891 votes, winning the top spot by only 17 votes.

Agostinelli, who teaches sixth-grade computer applications and health classes, said his proposal is “all about recognizing students’ greatness.”

He will use the money to create video loops of six students each week throughout the school year to show on the middle school’s closed circuit television station, showing daily on televisions throughout the school.

Agostinelli said members of the eighth-grade leadership team will collect footage of students participating in school events, as well as community activities, like ballet, robotics club, volunteering or “doing their thing,” as he put it.

He hopes the program will become “one of the cool things that happen to you when you are a student at C.R.” he said.

Agostinelli has been a teacher for 13 years, with five of those years at C.R. Anderson.

Agostinelli and Bridget Thompson, the winning teacher from Dayton, Nev., were surprised in early December by an invitation to the parade with all expenses paid and tickets to the Rose Bowl Game: Michigan State vs. Stanford.

Rice said the overwhelming response to the pilot program prompted a national launch at the Tournament of Roses Parade. The national campaign will include all states and Farmers Insurance has committed to granting $1 million to teachers in 2014.

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