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Leader in Me: profile of a Duval County Public Schools elementary school teacher

For Nilda Allen, a Windy Hill Elementary School teacher, the best part about interacting with Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF) and being selected as her school’s 2018 Teacher of the Year was the love she felt from the community outside of her school’s four walls.

“My principal and assistant principal do a great job of telling me I’m doing great, but teachers also get a lot of blame,” Allen, a fourth-grade teacher at Windy Hill, said. “It was nice to have people outside of the school come and say they appreciate me. It’s the most appreciated I’ve felt in the past 11 years that I’ve been teaching.”

“And it’s just nice to get recognized. Even though I didn’t make it to the semi-finalist or finalist round of the county Teacher of the Year cycle, I was in the Florida Blue Spotlight, and I felt that JPEF was paying attention to all of us and really wanted to ramp all of the Teachers of the Year up.”

“The opportunities I’ve been given opened my eyes to how much JPEF really supports public education in Jacksonville,” Allen said.

Why I Teach from JaxPEF on Vimeo.

As part of the year-long EDDY’s Experience JPEF hosts for all school-based teachers of the year, Allen was able to hear Jessica Solano, the Florida Teacher of the Year, speak about Growth Mindset, attend networking events with other teachers and participate in JPEF’s Teacher Roundtable.

Allen describes Growth Mindset as “personal” and “dear to her heart.” It is something she wants her students to have and wants to have for herself. And so the opportunity to hear from Solano, a fellow teacher, was particularly powerful.

“We don’t always get a chance to interact and meet with other teachers. For example, I had met Tabetha Cox [a fellow teacher and Sadie T. Tillis Teacher of the Year] last year while working on a Cornerstone project, and I liked her,” Allen said. “But you know you don’t have time to really get to know people at trainings. JPEF gave us a chance to know each other more – and now I’ve found my teacher soul mate!”

Allen described how she and Cox often exchange ideas about best practices and innovative ways they can engage the students in their respective classrooms. This summer, JPEF has provided Allen the opportunity to improve her craft at Instructional Partners Bootcamp.

“My husband said, ‘you’re such a nerd, why do you want to go?’” she joked. This year is Allen’s first year teaching fourth grade, and she planned to spend the summer conducting research focused on informational text and informational writing. Bootcamp will allow her the opportunity to grow in the way she already planned with even more interaction, supported by other teachers.

“So many times people don’t assume the best things of Duval schools for a variety of reasons – whether it’s articles on the news or school grades. Some people see the school’s a C or a D and they think not good things are happening there,” Allen said. “But most of us care. Most of us are trying our best in doing good things. Most of us are more than just the school letter grade or our VAM score. Every school has something great to offer.

“Visiting and having the people JPEF is connected to visit the schools and just putting the message out there so that teachers know there is a group that truly cares and wants to support them is impactful,” she continued.

The vision of Windy Hill Elementary School is to be a learning community. Everyone is expected to have high goals, work hard and achieve success. Windy Hill is a designated “Leader in Me” school. The Leader in Me is Franklin Covey’s whole school transformation process. It teaches 21st-century leadership and life skills to students and creates a culture of student empowerment based on the idea that every child can be a leader.