The Jacksonville Public Education Fund is proud to announce the five finalists for the VyStar Duval County Teacher of the Year for 2024.
One of the five will be announced as the Teacher of the Year at the EDDY Awards on January 20, 2024, at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront. JPEF is proud to continue its partnership with VyStar Credit Union as the title sponsor for the county’s top teaching honor.
The five finalists are:
Ana Andenmatten (VyStar Credit Union finalist)
- School: Mandarin Oaks Elementary
- Grade: 1st
- Teaching Experience: 17 years
Ms. Andenmatten is a first-grade teacher at Mandarin Oaks Elementary School. She’s in her 17th year as a teacher and is inspired by the caring nature of her students. She brings special needs foster animals into the classroom and says her students accept them without judgement as they care for them and prepare them to go to a new forever family.
Knowing that not all parents can afford after-school activities, she created two free after-school clubs, the Lego Club and an Animal Lovers Club that has since become a 4-H charter through the University of Florida. She also transformed an unused outdoor space into a garden oasis where the students get to plant, watch caterpillars change to monarch butterflies, sit with bunny rabbits under the trees lined with wind chimes and feed apples to an adorable, rescued pet pig.
As the lead science teacher, she uses the garden to create hands-on learning experiences for her “little scientists.”
She also follows the data to track student success, which led to her students having a 33-point gain in reading scores last year.
Ms. Andenmatten is a big proponent of hands-on learning and exposing students, especially girls, to all the science options. She says: “My kids every year tell me that science is their favorite subject. They can't wait for science in the afternoons. That makes my heart swell with joy and satisfaction. I want other teachers to feel that excitement.”
Katrice Shorter (Wells Fargo finalist)
- School: Atlantic Coast High School
- Subject: Biology
- Teaching Experience: 18 years
Ms. Shorter is a biology teacher at Atlantic Coast High School where she is the lead instructor for the school’s new Medical Academy in partnership with Mayo Clinic. In her 18 years of teaching, she’s taught a multitude of subjects including math and science, chemistry, anatomy and physiology.
In addition, she is the JV and Varsity Cheer coach, step team sponsor, and founding advisor for the HOSA (Future Health Professionals) chapter at Atlantic Coast High School. In the seven years she’s led HOSA at Atlantic Coast, her students have advanced to the state level competitions each year with last school year being the first time that any Atlantic Coast HOSA students advanced and attended the international competition and conference in Dallas, TX.
Within her classroom she fosters an environment of academic excellence, instilling in her students that failure is not an option and that they can achieve whatever they work hard towards.
Ms. Shorter believes every child possesses the ability to learn and that every child deserves a champion. She is inspired to be that champion for them and thrives when they succeed. She says: “It is my students who inspire me! I understand that for some, those 90-minutes spent together, every other day, may be the only time an adult has encouraged them, smiled at them, said ‘Good Morning!’, asked them if they’re all right and truly meant it.”
Jazline Clark (Florida Blue finalist)
- School: Arlington Middle School
- Grade: 8th
- Subject: English Language Arts
- Teaching Experience: 4 years
Ms. Clark is an 8th grade English Language Arts teacher at Arlington Middle School. She’s been teaching for four years and gives back to her fellow teachers by serving as one of the school’s new teacher mentors. She is also the English Language Arts co-chair, the 8th grade ELA lead teacher, as well as the 8th grade hall representative for the Shared Decision-Making Committee.
At Arlington Middle School, she makes students facilitators of their own learning, sharing with them the metrics and data on how they’re doing, not just individually, but as a class and a grade level. She said, “This creates healthy academic competition amongst my students across class periods and drives their hunger to outperform peers!”
Ms. Clark said, “I am grateful and proud to be able to call myself educator to each of the diverse learners that I teach. I hope to be a critical figure in each of my student’s lives down the line when they become adults, are in their careers, or become renown to the world.”
Gustavo Guzman (Deerwood Rotary finalist)
- School: Terry Parker High School
- Subject: Biology
- Teaching Experience: 2 years
Mr. Guzman, the son of Mexican Americans who spoke little English, gained an early appreciation for education. He said the craving and hunger to expand intellectually meant everything to him and he was fortunate to have high school teachers, mentors and role models who inspired him to pursue admission to Edward Waters University and challenge himself as a scholar.
Today he is a biology teacher at Terry Parker High School where he serves as a role model for his students, school, and community. He is the Site Director for the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project at Terry Parker High School where he gets to introduce minority students to leaders and opportunities in Jacksonville. He also makes sure to have a positive impact on students by providing positive encouragement on their growth as students. He says, “I love to empower students with positive affirmations based on character development, academic growth, and athletic accomplishments.”
As an educator, he makes an enormous effort to meet his students where they are and works diligently to develop a plan to get them to their next level. He also wants them to see him as their inspiration. “Teachers are life changers and I love knowing that being my authentic and ever-growing self has influenced the possibilities and life trajectory of many students,” he says.
Jenifer Straley (Deustche Bank finalist)
- School: Lake Lucina Elementary
- Grade: 3rd grade
- Teaching Experience: 9 years
Ms. Straley is not a stranger to the title of Teacher of the Year. This is the fourth straight year the Lake Lucina elementary third-grade teacher has been nominated by her peers.
The former fitness instructor started the “Fit and Fun” wellness group five years ago and being a founding member of the school’s Spirit Squad. She works tirelessly to provide students and her fellow teachers with special events such as a performance by the Jacksonville Symphony, popcorn for special events, and yoga for Lake Lucina students and families.
She monitors her students’ data to ensure they are succeeding, and last year her students had 83 % proficiency on the 3rd Grade FAST Math. Her goal is to have all students happy, hardworking, and confident in their abilities.
Ms. Straley firmly believes that we all have both a teacher and a student within ourselves and is grateful to be surrounded at Lake Lucina with so many sources of guidance and inspiration who have helped her learn how to be a better teacher.
She says: “I feel that the moment in life that we stop being open to learning from others is when we become stagnant and immobile. I learned how to be successful in the classroom by watching successful, passionate people do the work.”
Each year, schools nominate their Teachers of the Year to be the VyStar Duval County Teacher of the Year. Selection committees narrow down the nominees to 15 semifinalists who are then narrowed down to five finalists. The winner will be announced at the EDDY Awards in January and will go on to compete for the title of Florida’s Teacher of the Year.
“We congratulate these incredible educators on being finalists for the 2024 VyStar Duval County Teacher of the Year,” said JPEF President Rachael Tutwiler Fortune. “It’s quite an achievement to be selected among the top five out of more than 180 Teachers of the Year. These educators exemplify what it means to go the extra mile for student success. Having highly qualified teachers is one of the main factors in student success, and we celebrate these finalists and all the Teachers of the Year for the great work they are doing on behalf of our students.”
“It’s such a privilege to recognize these amazing teachers that represent the excellence that is Duval County Public Schools,” said Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Dana Kriznar. “These teachers represent the thousands of educators that are the heart of our district.”