Meet the 15 semi-finalists for 2017 Florida Blue Duval County Teacher of the Year!

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Allison Bear

J. Allen Axson Montessori School 

Allison is a truly dynamic educator.  She is a trained Montessori Teacher and believes strongly in the Montessori Method.  She is a constant advocate for young learners.  In the eleven years that Ms. Bear has been at J. Allen Axson, she has taught Pre-K, 3, 4 and 5 year olds.

As a leader in her school, Ms. Bear works to model highly effective teaching and helps her colleagues to do the same by sharing lessons, materials and working collaboratively to grow their success across all grade levels.  She has also served as a Teacher-Coach for Reading and Writing in grades K – 2 for the past three years.  Through coaching, Ms. Bear developed a love for teaching writing and has lead her grade level in creating a standards driven and age-appropriate writing rubric.

Allison takes pride in her work and mentors new teachers on her team.  For the past several summers, she has come to school to help first year teachers set up their Montessori classrooms prior to preplanning.  Her principal wrote, “Allison is truly a master teacher and works really hard with her students and families to make sure they get the best education possible.  She is very popular with parents and one of my most requested teachers at the primary level.” 

Allison Bear is representative of the district’s goal of retaining world class educators and serves Duval County Public Schools as a model educator.

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Michael Bostic-Jones

William M. Raines High School

Michael Bostic-Jones currently serves as U. S History teacher, Social Studies department chair, Leadership team member, Rainesmen sponsor and an athletic coach.  As a teacher, Mr. Bostic-Jones provides instructional support to a unique group of students.  His ability to build productive relationships and solid knowledge of his content has helped him emerge as a respected leader in his role as an educator.

Michael is not your average teacher, as his high level of teacher efficacy is authentically evident in everything he does for his students.  He consistently reflects on his childhood experiences and takes advantage of every opportunity to give students what he lacked as a result of growing up in the foster care system and attending multiple schools.  “Be great!” is often loudly reverberating in the corridor as he monitors students transitioning from one class to the next. 

Mr. Bostic-Jones’ innate ability to reach students through teaching goes beyond the four walls of the classroom.  As a teacher of history, he plans lessons that will journey the students through the various eras, the United States and regions of the world through his genuinely engaging delivery.  Having experienced being locked into a system of deprivation throughout his childhood, Michael has worked hard to provide his students opportunities to break those locks.  He has raised funds that have allowed him, over the past two years, to take students to Costa Rica to provide volunteer services, gain an experience in another country’s culture and ultimately realize that they can do anything, go anywhere and be anything they dream.  He is a dream weaver for many of his students.

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Latrece Brown

Andrew Robinson Elementary 

Latrece Brown is a champion for education and displays all of the qualities of a highly effective teacher.  She is passionate about learning and often spends many hours beyond the work day, preparing learning tasks or activities to meet the needs of her students.  Ms. Brown consistently demonstrates exemplary leadership qualities.  She serves as the anchor of her grade level and the STEM committee as the chair.  In recognition of high quality instruction in the classroom, she is designated as a model teacher for the DTO Transformation Region by Superintendent Iranetta Wright.

As a teacher leader, Latrece serves as the chairperson for the 4th grade team.  She demonstrates a deep understanding of the content and works collaboratively with her team to plan and deliver rigorous instruction in the classroom.  As a member of a few committees, Ms. Brown single-handedly planned STEM week, FSA parent night and a pep rally for the school.  She is truly the “cheerleader” of Andrew A. Robinson and her positive demeanor and personality make her a “go to” faculty member in her building.

In addition to being a phenomenal teacher, Latrece serves as a great resource to parents.  She created a closed group Facebook page to help parents understand the concepts of mathematics she is teaching.  Weekly she goes live to model strategies for solving a variety of problems or review commonly missed questions from parents and students in real time.  Because of her ability to think outside the box, Ms. Brown has created a firestorm at the school as it relates to the Facebook page.  Students and parents from other classes frequently request information for participation in the group. 

Latrece is charismatic and creative.  She has shown classroom management skills and develops a rapport with students, colleagues and parents that is characterized by mutual respect.  Beyond her strengths as a math teacher, she is also a talented sports enthusiast.  She works to see the whole child be developed.

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Kelly Crayne

Seabreeze Elementary 

Kelly Crayne is an Art Teacher at Seabreeze Elementary.  Upon entering Mrs. Crayne’s classroom, you know you have entered a place of learning, creativity and excitement.  Her love for teaching and her heart for children has no boundaries.  A parent at Seabreeze accompanied Mrs. Crayne on her mission trip to Costa Rica, where they spent a week at an orphanage painting murals, loving and teaching the precious kids.  The parent writes, “Mrs. Crayne engaged in a way that helped even the most reluctant of these children become focused and involved in what was an amazing adventure for all of us.” 

Students in Mrs. Crayne’s class are challenged and engaged in learning every day.  They are provided with a rich learning experience utilizing various instructional methods.  She is highly respected by the students, parents and staff.  She embodies the essence of an exemplary teacher and demonstrates a strong commitment to the education profession. 

In addition to being an inspiration to the children in her classroom, Mrs. Crayne has also done projects outside the school that have inspired the entire community.  Several years ago, she organized a fundraising walk for a child with Down’s Syndrome who was also diagnosed with Leukemia.  She made shirts for the team and rallied around the parents as they experienced a difficult time. 

Kelly is a team player and often compliments the work of others.  She offers support to her colleagues, is always open to listening and sharing and is a true leader at Seabreeze Elementary.

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Aurelio Cruz Lorente

West Riverside Elementary

Mr. Cruz is West Riverside’s Kindergarten Spanish teacher.  His determination to succeed has led him to excel in the Dual Language Program.  He motivates his students to excel and shows genuine interest for their well-being and development.  Mr. Cruz’s classroom is an environment that all students enjoy.  His highly engaging lessons, the use of technology, hands-on student learning activities and puppets all contribute to student success in learning the Spanish language.

Mr. Cruz strives to be a life-long learner by researching ways to implement new and innovative teaching strategies that are engaging and enticing to get Kindergarten students involved, active and responsible for their own learning.  Mr. Cruz has proven that teaching is artistry.  This is demonstrated through well-developed lesson plans and activities.  He has shown the ability to connect content, language and cultural objectives with ease.  The learning experiences that he produces in every instance of the day are truly meaningful, engaging and rigorous for his students. 

In describing Mr. Cruz, his principal used a quote from Peter McWilliams: “Your master teacher knows all you need to learn, the perfect timing for learning it, and the ideal way of teaching it to you.  You don’t create a master teacher – that’s already been done.  You discover your master teacher.”  Mr. Cruz has a passion for teaching and inspires young children to learn in any way they can.

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Melissa Galjour

Sandalwood High School 

Melissa Galjour is an exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable and skilled teacher who inspires students of all backgrounds and abilities.  She has the respect and admiration of her students, their parents, her colleagues and business partners.  She is poised, articulate, and possesses a high energy level to withstand a taxing schedule.  

Mrs. Galjour is dedicated to the Superintendent’s vision where, “Every student is inspired and prepared for success in college or a career, and life.”  She instills within every student the desire to attend college.  She is an encourager and a “dream maker” for children.  She is a wonderful example of the caliber of professional we need in every classroom.  She truly holds a special talent that allows her to reach students and challenge them to understand the value of learning. 

Mrs. Galjour is a model teacher.  As a leader of teachers, she spearheads her colleagues in early dismissal and common planning sessions.  She is both respected and admired.  She works diligently to keep her rigorous curriculum in alignment with the county and state requirements.  She voluntarily serves on multiple committees, including Shared Decision Making and PBIS teams.  Even as a high school teacher, she creates learning stations and rotations to differentiate learning and maximize results.  Her enthusiasm is contagious, inspiring her students to read and comprehend to their maximum capacity.  She gives her whole heart to fight for what is right for her students.  She does it for the students because she knows that she is often their only voice and because there is something in her that demands nothing less than excellence.

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Jacquelyn S. Gandy

Thomas Jefferson Elementary

Jacquelyn Gandy is a fourth grade English Language Arts teacher whose students often struggle with and are disinterested in reading.  She therefore makes sure that her students enter into a print-rich environment that is overflowing with various genres of literature and reading materials.  Ms. Gandy has a vocabulary-rich classroom and consistently models the writing process for her students.  She engages students with a sense of humor and her commitment to empower them.  Last year, she and her partner teacher sponsored a team of seven students who competed in Chartwells Chopped, a district cooking competition.  Their students submitted recipes, prepared a multi-course meal and were thrilled to bring back a second place trophy! 

Ms. Gandy has become a role model for parent communication.  Every week she emails parents regarding homework and upcoming activities.  She also has an open line of communication with parents, who comfortably email, text and call her when needed.  Ms. Gandy understands that school climate and teacher morale are major factors in the success of a school.  For this reason, she contributes to team-building activities and recognitions.  In October, she recorded a video message praising her faculty’s breast cancer survivors.  She has initiated faculty kickball games, and last year she included parents and students.  She is currently seeking resources to start a school-wide newspaper featuring student entries.  Ms. Gandy is greatly appreciated for what she gives of herself professionally and personally.

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Vincent H. Hall II

Twin Lakes Academy Middle School 

Vincent Hall is an absolute star!  He currently teaches Grade 7 Math and Algebra 1.  His presence in his school has transformed the attitude and performance of the entire math department.   According to his principal, Mr. Hall is one of the most highly effective instructional leaders she has had the pleasure with whom to work.  Mr. Hall not only excels in the classroom, but he also takes a leadership role in his school’s shared leadership team.  His leadership resulted in his being selected mid-year to be the department head. 

Mr. Hall accepts and flourishes in leadership positions and looks for opportunities to assist a variety of School District Offices.  He recently assisted the Office of Middle School Mathematics with professional development initiatives and served as a Mentor Coach.  His tremendous leadership qualities, skills and abilities have truly set him apart.  Vincent accepts responsibility willingly and is skillful in accomplishing the tasks he is assigned effectively, achieving well beyond expectations.

Mr. Vincent Hall has the personality and professional demeanor of a college professor.  He is passionate about quality professional instruction, great student performance and an educational environment conducive to learning that fosters critical thinking and student discourse.  He is very capable of leading by example, and as a result, the students and teachers he supports have drastically improved, both instructionally and academically.  Vincent inspires his team to perform and goes above and beyond to assist everyone.

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Holly Hultgren

Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology 

Mrs. Hultgren introduces students to the agricultural world and makes them part owners.  She engages the business world in the program through classroom demonstrations, field trips, mentoring and internships.  Mrs. Hultgren took on the challenge of ensuring seniors in the Agriscience/Biotechnology Academy at Peterson were successful in obtaining the opportunity to intern with a veterinarian or animal shelter.  Through her efforts, the Agriscience/Biotechnology Academy received the designation as a “National Model Academy” through the National Career Academy Coalition. 

A former student says that she would not be where she is today were it not for Mrs. Hultgren’s constant encouragement and challenge to do better.  That same student lost her best friend in a car accident in her senior year.  She writes that Mrs. Hultgren comforted her and encouraged her to keep pushing through and not give up. 

Holly Hultgren’s work is inspiring to her students, the school and educators across the nation.  She has achieved 100% graduation rate from her academy.  She does not just teach students, she prepares them for a lifetime of service, collaboration, innovation, integrity equity and excellence.  As the nation is examining the importance and impact of Career and Technical Education (CTE), Holly Hultgren is on the forefront of that movement.

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Simon Michael III

Kernan Middle School

Mr. Michael will put his full effort into any endeavor that he takes on and is thus purposefully thoughtful in accepting new roles and responsibilities.  For the past two years serving as Dean of Students, Mr. Michael has worked tirelessly to help shift the culture of his school with a focus on positive behavioral interventions.  He has worked to create a sense of transparency in the disciplinary system at his school, allowing all students to feel that they are treated fairly and respected within Kernan Middle School.  The notion that school culture is improved by fixing deficiencies rather than heavy handed punitive actions is a cornerstone of the culture that Mr. Michael has created in his professional role.

Mr. Michael’s principal says that he is one of the biggest change makers in her school.  He has a vision for excellence and is dedicated to making his school the best learning environment for all children.  He has helped teachers see through professional development, working with them in the classrooms, and by his example that building relationships with students is the most effective means of turning a student’s behavior around.  

Simon Michael works collaboratively with the guidance counselors to target and mentor children.  He leads the student-focused leadership team that works together to solve school-wide challenges and plans activities that make school a fun and inviting place.   His work and his heart have made a difference not only in the school as a whole, but also in individual children.

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Rade Obradovic

Hyde Park Elementary

According to his principal, Mr. Obradovic is an over-achiever, a problem-solver, an innovator, and a model member of the 5th and 6th grade team.  He works to inspire and impact all those he comes in contact with each day.  He has mastered the elusive art of being firm but fair, having rules yet maintaining relationships and keenly remembering that though he teaches two grade levels, he is really teaching children to whom he freely offers love, acceptance and support. 

Rade teaches his students to strive for excellence, to love science, and to respect each other.  He teaches his colleagues to give their best for their students, to wear a smile, to have faith and to remember that the storms of life can often produce beautiful rainbows and new growth.  

Mr. Obradovic demonstrates excellence in teaching and learning by providing his students with authentic experiences.  His students have had the opportunity to build and launch rockets.  They created three dimensional diagrams of cells which included a rather delicious display.  He is facilitating a literature study with the book, “The Martian.”  Mr. Obradovic has a positive impact on student achievement through his expertise, enthusiasm and creative methods of instruction. 

Rade also possesses a growth mindset.  He constantly wants to improve his practice and requests feedback about his methods.  He uses this feedback along with student data to tailor a more purposeful learning model for his students in order to better meet the needs of all learners in the classroom.

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Brent Sawdy

Lake Shore Middle School

As a Civics teacher, it is not unusual to see Mr. Sawdy working with his students before, during and after school.  He is there to listen and advise each student in a group or in an individual setting.  Mr. Sawdy approaches teaching with the philosophy that all students can learn and therefore should be supported.  He believes that students can make certain choices on how their learning experiences should evolve and lays the foundation for the students to make those informed decisions when applicable.  With this philosophy and love for academia, the students revere Mr. Sawdy and are very receptive to his method of teaching. 

Expecting only the best from his students has helped Mr. Sawdy maintain personal relationships with them.  He goes that extra mile to help his students see life as a journey worth taking.  He is a constant encourager.  This commitment to excellence has been recognized by faculty and staff, as well as students and parents.  Mr. Sawdy started the WATA Club (Warriors are Taking Action) which not only runs the recycling program that received the School Board’s Green Champion and Most Improved School Awards, but he also heads the campus community service for students, community and parents alike.

In his own words, Brent Sawdy states, “I teach to inspire children to dream big and work hard to realize those dreams.  I teach to improve the quality of my community.  I teach to ensure that my country’s democratic principles are safe.   I’m proud that I get to have a positive impact on countless children.”

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Caitlyn Stetson

Reynolds Lane Elementary School

Mrs. Stetson is a shining star at Reynolds Lane.  Her positive attitude and willingness to help others is an inspiration to everyone.  She has a special fondness for all of her students and makes it her personal mission to help each and every one of them become successful.  Her enthusiasm about her students and her work is uplifting and makes her classroom a wonderful environment in which to learn.

Mrs. Stetson’s classroom is an amazing place to learn.  It is bright, inviting, and full of students’ work.  She is a math whiz, who involves her students in hands-on, interactive lessons.  She leaves a lasting impression on her students.  She not only strives for the very best in her classroom, but she also works to ensure that the school is a wonderful place to work and learn. 

Mrs. Stetson continually exhibits outstanding leadership abilities in the classroom and within her school.  She is a driven individual who strives to provide the best education for her students every day.  Although she is truly a master of her craft, she embraces any opportunity for professional development and frequently seeks new ways to present material to her students in a fun and engaging way that will increase their understanding. 

Caitlyn Stetson’s students very often begin to mimic the growth mindset of their teacher.  This contributes to a classroom culture in which everyone is growing, learning and striving for high achievement every day.

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Korry VanWagoner

Twin Lakes Academy Elementary School 

The foundation for Korry’s teaching is built on character, which she instills in her students daily.  The warmth of her classroom environment is absolutely amazing.  When you walk into her classroom, you hear students leading discussions around content, but you also hear laughter.  Ms. VanWagoner’s students are happy and confident risk-takers.

Ms. VanWagoner is dynamic, motivating and has the ability to reach each and every student.  She goes above and beyond to reach struggling students by providing positive experiences, meaningful lessons, and up-to-date technology resources to enhance learning.   Parents, teachers and students are impressed by Korry’s openness and approachability.  She maintains a positive relationship with parents and fosters a strong school-to-home connection as a classroom teacher and teacher mentor.  Her rapport with children, parents and colleagues is natural and intuitive. 

Korry VanWagoner is a highly dedicated professional who knows how to motivate her students and peers to strive for excellence.  Her positive attitude and personality draws students, parents and teachers to her.  She is constantly seeking to improve her pedagogy and is always willing to share that newfound knowledge with peers and incorporate it into her everyday classroom practices.  The sharing of practices even extends outside of her school building and throughout the region.

Kerry is a person who is meticulous in every task.  She is a model teacher for the school, and often has visits from teachers throughout Duval County.  Her instruction is rigorous and students are engaged and able to explain what they are learning.  Korry manages to differentiate instruction for all students at different levels.

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Jeanne Walker

Waterleaf Elementary School

Mrs. Walker upholds rigorous academic expectations for all students in her class.  She has an excellent understanding of the mathematics curriculum, which is conveyed when she speaks to students and parents.  Her teaching style keeps the students engaged in the lesson, which is apparent with the students’ increased understanding of grade-level mathematical solutions. 

Mrs. Walker’s classroom runs like a well-oiled machine.  Her students take ownership over their own learning and pursue goals based on data.  Students have clear expectations and goals for their learning and strive to achieve them with rigorous and meaningful tasks.  Most days you will find Jeanne on the floor with a small group working to meet their individual goals.  Her classroom is an environment where students are using academic vocabulary and collaborating respectfully. 

Jeanne’s commitment and dedication to her students is beyond measure.  She builds a rapport with each student that goes beyond the classroom.  On her own time, she has coordinated separate small group lunch groups for girls and boys to teach social skills and Second Step lessons.  Mrs. Walker creates a safe space where students can take risks and be accepted.  Each year Jeanne accepts the most challenging behavior students in addition to inclusion students.  She strives to meet the needs of each student in her care.

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