2014 Teacher of the Year Finalists

Meet our five 2014 Duval County Teacher of the Year Finalists

Amanda Dyal

Jessica von Eiff

Iris B. Caro

Carol L. Wright

Joseph Frencl

 

Amanda Dyal

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Teacher of the Year

Southside Middle School

8th Grade Intensive Math, Pre-Algebra

 

Education

BA, Truman State University

 

Highlights

  • Certification in Math 6-12, Middle Grades Math 5-9 and Elementary Education K-6

  • ESOL Endorsement

In journalism school, Ms. Dyal's favorite articles were always about education.  After researching and writing about a program for educators at the local community college, Ms. Dyal decided to pursue a career as a math teacher.  

Ms. Dyal found the work challenging and it wasn't until she engaged her students as active participants in their learning that she began to see success.  She is constantly asking her children "why?" She asks them to explain their answers and provides opportunities for her students to engage in meaningful conversations about math concepts. Ms. Dyal understands that students who have an attainable goal will work hard for it.

She incorporates technology in her instruction on a daily basis using PowerPoint, interactive math manipulatives and video and audio clips. She encourages active participation and when a student successfully finishes their work early, they become helpers who explain concepts to their peers who may be struggling.  This provides enrichment for the helpers and remediation for those who need additional support.

In 2012 Ms. Dyal was invited to take part in a pilot program called the Newcomers' Program designed for students in their first two years in the United States.  In her first class, Ms. Dyal had a student from Africa who had never been to school and didn't understand any English and a student from Italy who had limited English skills but was two years ahead of his American peers in math.  She worked hard to build relationships with each of her students.  In learning more about each of them individually, Ms. Dyal was able to devise plans for instruction.  Ms. Dyal describes this school year as her favorite of the six she has been teaching.

"Ms. Dyal is a highly engaged and thoughtful individual who brings a desire to improve herself as well as those around her."

Zeina Khanachet

Principal

 

Jessica von Eiff

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Teacher of the Year

Westview K - 8

4th - 8th Grade Participatory Learning Academics (PLA)

 

Education

Bachelor of Arts in Special Education, University of Florida

Associate in Arts, Florida Community College at Jacksonville

 

Highlights

  • Best Buddies Co-sponsor

  • DTU Teacher Representative

  • Student Government, Executive Board Sponsor

  • Miss Ed White Co-director

  • Bowling Assistant Coach, Gateway and District Conference Champs

For the first ten years of her teaching career, Ms. von Eiff taught in a Special Education classroom with "normal" high school students.  The students were not very different from their peers. In 2010 she moved to Westview K - 8 and in 2011 was asked to teach in a class of Participatory Level Academic (PLA) students.

A PLA classroom is different from all other classrooms. Ms. von Eiff is responsible for meeting all the needs of her students throughout the day.  She is not only a teacher, but a nurturer, cab driver, caretaker, cook, advisor and friend.  Her students' success cannot always be measured by a test, although ultimately, Ms. von Eiff's goal is for her students to become confident learners. She works hard to stimulate their curiosity and to facilitate communication. She describes one of her greatest accomplishments was teaching a child to make her own breakfast. It took the entire year for the student to master this skill, but the look on her father's face was priceless and his daughter, who cannot speak, was proud of her accomplishment.

Ms. von Eiff ensures that every feat, no matter how small or great, is celebrated and rewarded.  She teaches her students to face each hurdle with determination and confidence.  Ms. von Eiff remains focused on her purpose and describes herself as driven by the following quote from Kate Bornstein; "Let's stop 'tolerating' or 'accepting' difference, as if we're so much better for not being different in the first place.  Instead, let's celebrate difference in this world because it takes lots of guts to be different."

"Through her enthusiasm, hard work, and careful planning, Ms. von Eiff's students excel in all academic areas.  Her dedication provides her students with the opportunity to experience and achieve their personal best."

Beverly L. Walker

Principal

 

Iris B. Caro

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Teacher of the Year

Central Riverside

Lead Teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Department

 

Education

Master of Education - Special Education and Exceptional Student: Deaf Education Track, University of North Florida

Bachelor of Arts in Education - Special Education, University of North Florida

Associate in Arts, Florida Community College at Jacksonville

 

Highlights

  • Fluent in English, Spanish, ASL

  • Team Player Award 2012

  • Elected member for 2012 - 2013 School Progression Plan Committee

  • Member, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Advisory Committee

The teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (D/HH) students is more than a special education teacher.  Ms. Caro teaches all subjects in a multi-level classroom; she teaches primary and secondary language; she is an interpreter, counselor, advocate and mediator.  Her students come to her classroom missing a critical period of language acquisition due to their hearing loss. Many come without a form of communication or language.  Teaching students the use of a primary language (ASL) with the combination of the acquisition of the secondary language (English) becomes the main objective.

Ms. Caro explains that the factors that impact success for students without hearing loss are the same as those for students with hearing loss; early intervention and parent involvement.  Ms. Caro's instruction is designed for students who often have not communicated at all at home because parents have not learned American Sign Language, the child's only mode of communication.  Once Ms. Caro establishes language, even a moderate level of communication that did not previously exist opens doors for learning. Language acquisition not only improves academic success, but promotes social and developmental growth.  Ms. Caro's ultimate goal is for her students to leave her self-contained classroom and move to a mainstream classroom.

She works to inspire educators to raise the bar for students with hearing loss and to encourage them to maintain high expectations.

Ms. Caro identifies closely with her students as she came to the United States without knowing the language or understanding much of the culture.  Like her students, she was able to learn and grow socially, emotionally, professionally and personally.  It is her desire to be a leader who leaves a legacy of inspiration for students of all levels to believe that we are all born with a unique potential to realize our dreams.

"Ms. Caro has been (our child's) instructor, motivator, advocate and his fan. There are many things that could be said for Ms. Caro as a person as well as a teacher but I will just say she has been a Godsend."

The Mocks

Parents

 

Carol L. Wright

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Teacher of the Year

Mt. Herman Exceptional Center

Teacher - Severe Disabilities and Autism

 

Education

PhD, University of Florida

Med-Special Education, University of North Florida

BAE-Physical Education, University of North Florida

 

Highlights

  • Center for Autism Research and Development: Model Classroom Site

  • Coordinator Special Olympics and Special Olympics District Committee Member

  • Board Certification

  • Numerous In-Service trainings and presentations

Ms. Wright is in her 35th and final year as a public education teacher and feels especially thankful that she is ending her career doing what she loves most, hands-on teaching of students who have significant disabilities.  Her career has been based on a foundation of three principles: every student deserves the best she has to give everyday; all of us, regardless of ability, disability, pay grade or title have a responsibility to participate in, take responsibility for and contribute to life; and everybody needs to "pay it forward."

Ms. Wright designs time in her classroom so that students have as many opportunities as possible to participate in real life functional tasks requiring personal responsibility, recognition that they are part of a larger community of others, problem solving, making choices, all with the goal of discovering their abilities.  All of this work is framed by an attitude of respect for our students as people/adults who have value and who are in need of our help to discover who they are.

When she arrived at Mt. Herman, the principal tasked Ms. Wright with developing a model classroom for the post high school transition program.  Within two months she created a fully functional vocational enterprise program which she continues to expand and develop. Ms. Wright's expertise continues to inform educators at UNF and the Center for Autism Research and Development among others.

Ms. Wright continues to "pay it forward" in her last year of teaching. She sees herself and all teachers as the gatekeepers of the opportunities that public education provides for all our children.  It is her obligation to help her colleagues become better teachers, her students learn something that might improve their life or just make someone else's day a little better.

"I am sad that she is retiring because she is such a great teacher, friend and home away from home parent that loves and cares for not only my daughter but all the kids she teaches."

Regina McClendon

Parent

 

Joseph Frencl

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Teacher of the Year

Atlantic Coast High School

Algebra 2 Honors, Precalculus, AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC

 

Education

MS, Vanderbilt University

BS, Cumberland College

 

Highlights

  • AP Exam reader

  • Mentor teacher

  • Led district-based Professional Learning Community (PLC) for AP Calculus

  • Led and organized district Calculus Boot Camps

  • Recognized by district leadership for 100% passing rate on 2000 AP Calculus Exam

Mr. Frencl is an unapologetic math nerd. He realized he wanted to be a math teacher in his 7th grade prealgebra class when he learned how to solve equations.  As he has grown as a teacher, he has come to realize that building relationships with his students is one of the most important parts of successful teaching.  Mr. Frencl knows that math can be scary and he works to make it relevant and sometimes even fun.  He and his students sing the quadratic formula song, chant the pattern for factoring sum and difference of two cubes, tell corny math jokes and get pied in the face in celebration of Pi Day.  The principle that guides him in his work: "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

His students' success speaks for itself. Since the 1999-2000 school year, 90% of Mr. Frencl's AP Calculus students passed the AP Calculus test and 34% scored a 5, the highest possible score.  Three separate times 100% of the students in his class passed the AP exam.  Mr. Frencl acknowledges that it is not his achievement as a teacher, but a shared success with his students.  Together they work hard and have fun and all the time Mr. Frencl encourages them and lets them know he believes in their ability to succeed.

Mr. Frencl's students know that his class will be challenging, but they also know that they will learn a lot.  On the first day of school his students understand he is in charge, but they also know that Mr. Frencl is different and that his class will be different from any they have experienced in the past. He gets to know each of his students on a personal level, attending athletic events, learning about college plans and their families.  His students depend not only him but on each other to learn, to improve and to achieve.

The sign on Mr. Frencls' bulletin board reads "We are building a culture of greatness."  He begins every year with the belief that all of his students will pass the AP Calculus exam and he works to ensure that each of his students has the same faith in their own ability.

"Mr. Frencl...is the best of the best and I will always be grateful for his teaching and support."

Camden Anderson

Student