Meet the 15 semi-finalists for 2018 Florida Blue Duval County Teacher of the Year!


Jason Pearce 

Lake Lucina Elementary School

Jason Pearce is a dedicated fourth grade teacher at Lake Lucina Elementary School. Mr. Pearce specializes in teaching mathematics and science, and he believes that all his students can learn mathematics and science and instills a growth mindset in each and every student. For students that don’t succeed on their first try, he guides them to improve through small group instruction and centers. He continues to circle back to those students even after the unit is over. He believes in second chances for students. Jason believes in creating an inviting and engaging classroom. He says, “My classroom is not a place to sit on couches. It is active, and has a full agenda. Students learn previous outcomes don't apply this year.”


Ashley Cascais

Woodland Acres Elementary School

Ashley Cascais is a dynamic third grade teacher at Woodland Acres Elementary School. After moving to Jacksonville from New Jersey, she discovered a passion for teaching students that live in the inner city. She works diligently to make change in each and every student’s life. She says, “I chose to be a teacher so that I can be a positive role model in these children's lives. A lot of people don't know that teachers have various roles in the education field. We are not just the teacher but also a caregiver, counselor, nurturer, role model, friend, etc.” Ashley feels called to this work and does it solely for the wellbeing of her students. She has also taken on a number of leadership roles at Woodland Acres and beyond. 


Jessica Barker 

San Pablo Elementary 

Jessica Barker is a passionate educator teaching Music to the students at San Pablo Elementary School. She encourages risk taking in her classroom by modeling those same risks in her actions. She believes that teaching is an honor, and works to share her love for learning with all of her students. Jessica works hard to connect with her students and engage them in each learning experience. She says, “I have developed positive rapport and imaginative content delivery which promotes a high level of student engagement. The security and excitement students feel in my classroom are a direct result of my own passion for the subject area.”


Walter Nettles

Biscayne Elementary 

Walter Nettles is fabulous fifth grade mathematics teacher at Biscayne Elementary School. Mr. Nettles is committed to going the extra mile with for all of his students. He offers after school tutoring four days a week and these sessions are open to all of his students. He believes in creating a learning environment that is engaging for the diverse learners in his classroom. He says, “My goal each day is to reach and teach the students. We always move forward and treat each day as a new opportunity to be better then we were the day before.” Walter has seen great success with his students and 100% of them score proficient or better on last year’s Florida Standards Assessment (FSA). 


Summer Meide

Twin Lakes Academy Elementary

Summer Meide teaches Kindergarten at Twin Lakes Academy Elementary School. Summer is truly dedicated to the students and staff at Twin Lakes Academy, and works diligently to improve the teaching and learning in her students and at her school. Summer works tireless hours each week trying to ensure success for each and every one of her kindergarten students. She says the teaching is a calling for her, and that “teachers should be their students' cheerleader, give them a hug when they are sad, and give them support when they are struggling.” She also feels that the countless hours are worth it. “All of those sleepless nights, papers to grade, time planning lessons, and all of our energy put in is worth it for our students. If you give it your all, you will see the impact you have made for years to come.” 


Yetta Goolsby

Greenland Pines Elementary School 

Yetta Goolsby teaches communication and social skills to students with special needs at Greenland Pines Elementary School. She is currently serving as the grade level chairman, and works to lead by example with her students and colleagues. She say, “I believe leading by example is important. Students are always treated with respect and kindness in my classroom. Even when a student is having a difficult moment, I model patience and understanding but also firmness. When a student from another class or a colleague needs assistance, I do not hesitate to help out in any way that I can.” Yetta believes that all students, including those with special needs, can learn and should have equitable learning experience and opportunities. 


Brittany Dean 

DuPont Middle School

Brittany Dean is a spectacular Visual Arts teacher at DuPont Middle School. She has served for many years at DuPont Middle and feels that her time there has shaped her into the incredible educator that she is today. She works to be engaging, helpful, and inspiring in her classroom and believes in the power of arts education for all students. She says, “Arts education enables those children from a financially challenged background to have an equal playing field with children who have had more opportunities in their lives. The arts can connect people more deeply to the world and open them to new ways of seeing and make deeper connections to learning.” Brittany believes in the importance of educating the whole child so that they can engage in their communities as human beings who enjoy all forms of beauty in our world. 


Mary Krieger 

Stanto College Preparatory School 

Mary Krieger is a fantastic Social Studies and Psychology teacher at Stanton College Preparatory School. She works to make lasting connections with her students, and she believes these connections help them increase their understanding of the content she teaches. She uses those connections to seek out examples that relate to the lives of her students to help increase comprehension and retention of the information. She believes in empowering her students to become the best that can be. She says, “We teach to empower, but to also encourage. For our students, we empower them with knowledge, educators know that knowledge opens doors and empowers; without it, we have seen dark times in history. We encourage our students with genuine kindness; we find their strengths and affirm them.” 


Carla Dawson-Jackson

ASA Phillip Randolph Career Academies 

Carla Dawson-Jackson is a dynamic Science teacher at ASA Philip Randolph Career Academies. Carla has spent her career learning how to engage her students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) ideas and believes in the power of students engaging in the STEM fields. She is passionate about this work and believes that every child deserves the best educational experience possible. She says, “I teach because every child deserves an excellent teacher who wants to be an agent of change, a provider of hope, and to share my passion for STEM.” She encourages her students to be independent thinkers and challenges their ways of thinking through hands on and engaging activities in her Science classroom. 


Krista Dunn 

Landmark Middle School

Krista Dunn teaches seventh and eighth grade Science at Landmark Middle School. She is a dedicated middle school teacher who loves teaching and specifically loves teaching Science. She teaches her content through hands on investigations where students have the opportunity to debate the successes and failures of those investigations. She finds joy when students work through a problem as a group and find a way to solve it. She works to instill a love of Science in each and every one of her students. She says, "I want to provide students with an opportunity to understand the world around them, appreciate the discoveries of the past, and a way to learn to think logically.” Krista enjoys the challenge of teaching and feels that her students provide her with the unique opportunity to improve daily. 


Abe Reising

Mandarin High School 

Abe Reising is an exceptional World History and AP World History teacher at Mandarin High School. Abe has served for five years at Mandarin High, and before that he taught during a Live-In teaching experience at San Sin High School in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Abe strives to help each and every student become a world class citizen. He says that his students, “end the school year with a greater sense of personal identify, along with an increased receptiveness to the differences they see in others. The students that pass through my class develop pride in their ability to reason, and possess a greater ability to not just have an opinion, but to support their opinion with examples and evidence.” Abe believes in teaching love and empathy to his students in hopes that they spread those traits infectiously. 


Tabetha Cox 

Sadie T. Tillis Elementary School 

Tabetha Cox is an extraordinary educator who teaches Reading to fourth grade students at Sadie T. Tillis Elementary School. Tabetha holds a Master’s of Education in Teacher Leadership and is currently serving on the Executive Board of the Duval Reading Council. Prior to teaching, Tabetha served as United States Navy Trainer in the States and overseas. Mrs. Cox works to create a sense of power and empowerment in her students. She says, “I want to teach my children that they have power in their fingertips no matter where they come from, who is holding them down, how much or little money they have, they can be anything they choose.”


Will Smith

Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle School

Will Smith is a brilliant Agriscience Instructor & Lead FFA Advisor at Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle School. Will graduated from Florida A&M University in 2007 and spent six years teaching at New Smyrna Middle School before coming to Mayport. Will is proud to be uncommon in his life and his teaching practices. He says, “From being a 180lb defensive lineman that wrote poetry and played chess in high school to being the Agriscience teacher that doesn't own a pair of cowboy boots or change out of his shirt and tie to collect specimens, I've always been uncommon and made the common things in life my own.” Will believes strongly in getting his students doing things in order to learn. He believes that project-based instruction and field studies are integral to his students’ success in the classroom and life. 


Stephanie Bellino

Garden City Elementary School 

Stephanie Bellinois an astonishing fourth and fifth grade reading teacher at Garden City Elementary School. Stephanie graduated from Misericordia University in Dallas, PA. She works to provide opportunities for her students to guide their own learning with self-reflection. She believes that, “if students can guide their own learning, it will allow them to be accountable in a way that develops independent, intrinsically motivated learners.” Stephanie works tirelessly to ensure that her students are engaged and excited. She says, “I go to bed every night thinking about the exciting new concepts I'm teaching the next day. I spend my weekends making flashy charts that will capture their attention. I use my time after school to further my knowledge in professional development, and even volunteer to coach extracurricular activities, because all these things make up the individuals that inspired me so many years ago.” 


Alicia Lloyd

PreTrial Detention Center

Alicia Lloyd is magnificent Middle and High School Science Teacher at Youth Development Programs - PreTrial Detention Center. She has 33 years of teaching experience and 31 of those were here in Duval County. The students that Alicia teaches are adjudicated juveniles awaiting trial and adults who are seeking to obtain their high school diplomas where 40% percent of the current population are overage and 29% percent are identified as ESE. Alicia has a special gift in working with this population and says, “I want to inspire them to, in simple terms, do better, whether they are eight, or eighteen years old. I need to provide opportunities of success for all students. I need to see that student's smile that says to me, I KNOW I am doing better.” She also works diligently to help reignite in them a desire to read and learn, something that many of her students have been turned off to given their experiences in school and life.