2024 Teacher of the Year Semi-Finalist Juana Zargon


How you became an educator and anything you've learned along the way that has stuck with you.

Like many others during the pandemic, my overall sense of hopelessness reached an all-time high. I had just graduated college, an event that should have been a momentous milestone, but ended up being lack-luster. There was no ceremony, but a Zoom meeting with my classmates instead. There were no photos or handing off diplomas, just my name briefly popping up on my laptop screen followed by a “Congratulations Class of 2020.” This was the same time that “essential workers” became common household vocabulary, and I started thinking about how I could make more of an impact in the lives of those around me.  

When the pandemic came to an end, I started re-evaluating my career choices. A friend suggested that I try substitute teaching, and shortly after I picked up a substitute position at Love Grove. After one day, my entire perspective shifted. I immediately felt a connection to the students in the exceptional student education department and I knew that this is where I belonged.   

Your work with the ESE (Exceptional Student Education) department.

I enjoy working in the ESE department because of the creativity it allows. Modifying curriculum to meet the needs of each child is a fun challenge. Creating visuals, multi-sensory activities, and creating meaningful opportunities for inclusion are the best parts of the job. I believe that by promoting inclusion and a sense of community within the school, you can make sure every student has the opportunity to reach their full potential.  

Restarting the yearbook at your school.

To this day, I still go through my elementary school yearbook whenever I visit my parents house. I love looking at old pictures and yearbooks even if they are not mine. It’s so cool to me that we all have our own lives and all these memories are documented in a few pictures of a yearbook. When I came to Love Grove, we hadn’t had a yearbook in a couple of years. It was hard to sell the amount of copies that most companies required and it takes so much time to put it together. The first year I did it using a company, which made the process super easy and streamlined, but put a lot of pressure on me to cover the debt of 100 yearbooks. This also priced the book at about $20 which isn’t very accessible to most families. I decided to make the yearbook without a company this year. While I am super happy with the outcome (and price) it took much longer to create my own template. Either way, it is worth it because a yearbook builds a huge sense of community that can be looked back on even 20 years later.

Going through the TOY process as an educator. 

Going through the TOY process as an educator was a huge confidence boost. I would say it even eased my anxiety of “not being good enough.” It feels great to be recognized for the amount of time and effort I put into my school and classroom. If I would have done anything differently, I would have applied for the fellowship opportunity.




of public schools in Duval County earned an "A," "B," or "C" in 2021-2022.