Meet the semi-finalists for 2022 VyStar Duval County Teacher of the Year

The Jacksonville Public Education Fund is proud to announce the 15 semi-finalists for the 2022 VyStar Duval County Teacher of the Year


The Jacksonville Public Education Fund is proud to announce the 15 semi-finalists for the 2022 VyStar Duval County Teacher of the Year. 

The teachers will go on to be considered as finalists for the county’s top teaching honor and all 15 will participate in JPEF’s Teacher Leadership Initiative, a professional learning community that connects teacher leaders with best practices in equity and school quality. JPEF is proud to continue its partnership with VyStar Credit Union as the title sponsor for the county’s top teaching honor. 

JPEF will host the EDDY Awards on Saturday, January 22, 2022 at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront. The celebration’s 31st year will take place as an evening gala and an hourlong TV Special, the EDDY Awards: Live from Jacksonville! Through a partnership with Channel 4/The Local Station, News4Jax Morning Show anchor Melanie Lawson will take audiences live to the event, where the winner of the top honor will be announced as school communities tune in to watch across the county. 

See the full list of semi-finalists below!


Wendy Cox 

School: Young Men’s & Women’s Leadership Academy 

Grade: 8th Grade  

Subject: English Language Arts and YMWLA Reading Coach 

Teaching Experience: 19 years teaching  

“Mrs. Cox truly possesses all the characteristics that are necessary for being a good teacher and coach: she is caring, loving, patient, and attentive. In my opinion, Wendy was born to be a teacher, she has a caring heart and is always striving to perfect her craft.”  

 – Principal Tamara Feagins 

Lindsay Dennis 

School: Holiday Hill Elementary School 

Grade: 3rd Grade 

Subject: English Language Arts  

Teaching Experience: 7 years teaching 

“The most impressive attribute Lindsay possesses is her ability to create a warm and inviting classroom. Regardless of external factors out of her control, every child starts each new academic day with a blank slate. Children are welcomed and cared for in a trusting environment established by Mrs. Dennis.”  

– Principal Matthew Peterson 

Alexandria Farmand 

School: Woodland Acres Elementary School 

Grade: 2nd Grade 

Subject: All 

Teaching Experience: 5 years teaching 

“Students love her because she is kind, loving, fun, and cares about them. She gets to know every student in her class as a whole person. She is able to see exactly what each child brings to the community, and her whole teaching approach involves finding and using children’s unique strengths to help them overcome their struggles and develop a positive self-concept.”  

– Principal Kimberly Jennings  

Shaneka Ferrell 

School: Douglas Anderson School of the Arts 

Position: School Counselor, 9th – 12th grade 

Teaching Experience: 6 years  

Quote: “Ms. Ferrell is among those I remember when I think of Duval County faculty who champion student needs. It was because of inspiring teachers and staff, like Ms. Ferrell, who nurtured my passion for teaching. Today, I’m the person standing in front of the classroom. I’m the one certified, degreed, and responsible for a room full of precious minds and young hearts—at least until each school day is over. My hope is that I can be even half as supportive and loving as those who loved and mentored me.” 

– Emma, Former Student  

Amanda Hildenbrand 

School: Crown Point Elementary School 

Grade: 1st Grade 

Subject: All 

Teaching Experience: 8 years  

“Throughout last year, Mrs. Hildenbrand worked tirelessly to make up learning losses and close learning gaps. She did so in ways that were engaging to students such as her annual pumpkin patch event or her “Starbooks” event where students got to drink “coffee” while rotating through a variety of literary-based stations. Mrs. Hildenbrand also overcame the barrier of parents not being able to come into the school by communicating through the Class DOJO app. The photos and videos she sent me throughout the year will forever be cherished.” 

– Rachel, Parent  

Latasha Lawrence 

School: James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory Middle School 

Grade: 8th Grade 

Subject: Biology 

Teaching Experience: 18 years  

“Ms. Lawrence still is one of my all-time favorite teachers. She not only taught me important science concepts, but also left a lasting impact on my life. Ms. Lawrence comes to school every day with a bright smile and attitude ready to conquer any task presented. Ms. Lawrence does an amazing job of keeping the class on task and keeping kids’ behaviors in line while keeping her students engaged in learning. I will always remember how she would tell us to stop engaging in “foolishness” and it still makes me die laughing whenever I think about it. Ms. Lawrence does an amazing job of keeping rambunctious middle schoolers in line with her jovial personality, but more importantly with a firm mutual agreement of respect in the classroom.”  

– Jeb, Former Student 

Shakeya Lee 

School: Biscayne Elementary Leadership Academy 

Grade: 3rd Grade 

Subject: English Language Arts and Social Studies 

Teaching Experience: 3 years  

Quote: “Ms. Lee actively looks for ways to incorporate technology and different techniques that will appeal to her students. Last school year Ms. Lee participated in several trainings for continued growth, even attending a course to learn and utilize Minecraft Education, which my son loves. Ms. Lee stimulates learning in students and adds personality to meet students where they are. Ms. Lee anticipates challenges and not only prepares students but educates parents on what to anticipate and how to help their child. Ms. Lee learns her students quickly and adjusts to them to ensure they grasp the content.”  

– Janee, Parent  

Candice Lilly 

School: Mandarin Oaks Elementary  

Grade: Kindergarten Inclusion 

Subject: All 

Teaching Experience: 8 years  

Quote: “Ms. Lilly goes far beyond the kids in her own classroom. She has been the lead for Girls on the Run and during these meetings she teaches more than just running by giving girls empowerment. She has also been involved in extended care and community education. Everyone I know told me to sign my child up for community education and do “Kids in the Kitchen” with her. She also participates in every PTA event and brings families to the school. Her students want to see her outside of the classroom. This helps parents find ways to connect with their child’s education. I am positive it helps elevate the little ones who may need it the most. Every parent and child who walks away from her classrooms feels that this teacher gave the child the absolute best education.”  

– Melissa, Parent  

Charles Darwin Magdaluyo 

School: Jean Ribault High School  

Grade: 9th and 12th  

Subject: Human Anatomy and Physiology 

Teaching Experience: 7 years  

“In this class, we are never afraid to ask questions and make mistakes in concepts he teaches. We feel valued. We belong. Mr. Magdaluyo creates a safe environment for us in his classroom that allows us to ask for help if we do not understand something. He always makes sure we understand the lessons. He tries to connect with all of us students and builds bonds. I truly believe that he’s the best teacher in Duval County, and I wouldn’t believe you if you said he was anything less than the best in all of Florida.” 

– Jasmyn, Current Student  

Jennifer Mills 

School: Jacksonville Classical Academy  

Grade: 1st and 3rd – 7th Grade 

Subject: Literacy Instructional Coach 

Teaching Experience: 10 years  

“It’s my absolute pleasure to recommend Jennifer Mills for Teacher of the Year. She has a gift for making challenging literary works like Homer and The Count of Monte Cristo accessible and enjoyable to children. My son felt very comfortable asking her questions about these extraordinary works and was very proud of himself when he was able to finish them. Her lessons are always creative and well thought out. Even after accepting her new position this year, she volunteered to substitute several times for numerous open positions at the beginning of the school year. She was his English teacher for the majority of the first quarter. In addition to her time spent working during the school year she also trains new teachers over the summer. She truly makes everyone at Jacksonville Classical feel welcome. We feel very blessed to have had Ms. Mills as a teacher for my son and a literacy coach at his school. All schools should have an educator as kind and hardworking as Ms. Mills. She deserves to be recognized as Teacher of the Year.”  

– Shawna, Parent  

Nick Nelson 

School: Sabal Palm Elementary   

Grade: 2nd Grade  

Subject: All 

Teaching Experience: 9 years  

“Our youngest daughter was lucky enough to have Mr. Nelson as her second-grade teacher at Sabal Palm elementary. He brought out characteristics in our child that she didn’t even know of herself! He taught her to be unapologetically herself. And that is by far the greatest blessing a family can get from a teacher. Duval County is lucky to have him, and more teachers should aspire to have the same enthusiasm for getting to know and help each individual child as he has! There’s something that is profound in this man that shines like a beacon to these children. I hope that he continues to bless all these children that he teaches with the ray of sunshine that he is.”  

– Elise, Parent  

Carrie Robinson 

School: Julia Landon College Preparatory & Leadership Development School   

Grade: 7th Grade  

Subject: Advanced Science 

Teaching Experience: 18.5 years 

“In Mrs. Robinson’s class, not only do I learn new things every day in a safe, quiet environment, but I also get a clear understanding of concepts and a written explanation describing items I may have missed on assignment. In the two years I have been a student in Mrs. Robinson’s science class, I have not only enlarged my knowledge and understanding of the science curriculum required, but I have also gained much in the way of academic integrity. Now, I am most certainly not implying that Mrs. Robinson’s science class is an easy A, as that is not the case. Her course requires much organization and time management. I am however very satisfied with the quality of education I receive in her class. In conclusion, Mrs. Robinson is a very devoted, caring, and enthusiastic teacher, and more than deserves her title of teacher of the year.”  

– Emma, Current Student   

Charmelita Royster 

School: The Bridge to Success High School   

Grade: 9th – 12th Grade  

Subject: Algebra; Research  

Teaching Experience: 15 years 

“Before coming to Mrs. Royster’s class, I’d always preferred English or anything over math. I dreaded days I had math class because I wasn’t naturally good at it. But Mrs. Royster presented math in a way that I could understand. She taught me to despise the phrase “I can’t.” Anytime I’d say, “I can’t do this” or “This is way too hard,” she would say, “Don’t say that you can’t. You can do anything you put your mind to.” She helped me become more confident and helped improve my math skills. In addition, I didn’t have many thoughts about attending a university or being a part of a sorority; I didn’t really believe that was attainable for me. Mrs. Royster believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself. Now, I have the desire to go to college and to further my education. Mrs. Royster is a person who I look up to. She truly cares about her students. Sometimes all a student needs to learn is a teacher who cares about them.”  

– Pilar, Former Student  

Sarah Smith 

School: John NC Stockton Elementary   

Grade: 2nd Grade  

Subject: Math; Science  

Teaching Experience: 5 years 

“Mrs. Smith has a great rapport with her students and creates a welcoming environment in her classroom. From the minute you walk in, you automatically feel the camaraderie and “homey” feeling all around. The classroom is organized, bright and colorful, and you can usually hear soft music playing in the background. She also has a great relationship with her students’ parents. She meets with them frequently using a variety of platforms which include class newsletters, emails, Class Dojo, phone conferences and face-to-face conferences. It is evident her ultimate goal is to create and foster a community within her classroom that emulates the positive environment we want for all of our students. Mrs. Smith also does a great job incorporating technology within her whole group lessons, centers, or small group instruction. She is a great model classroom to show how technology enhances mathematics and science instruction on a daily basis. Mrs. Smith’s commitment to the profession is impressive. Her energy, positive attitude, work ethic and desire to improve education are attributing factors to why she is highly respected by our community.”   

– Principal Stephanie Brannan  

Derya Tozoglu 

School: River City Science Academy Elementary  

Grade: 5th Grade  

Subject: Math 

Teaching Experience: 17 years 

“Although she is a veteran teacher, she has never stopped working to improve and seek out advice to continuously grow and become more effective. Her enthusiasm, love, and passion for teaching (and her students) has not dimmed even through all the challenges she has faced. When I think of a teacher that sets the example for all others, Mrs. Tozoglu comes to mind. She goes above and beyond to ensure all of her students experience success. Mrs. Tozoglu sacrifices her planning time and Saturdays to provide intensive instruction to students in need. Even when the student is ready to give up, she uses a different strategy and approach to make the math concept relatable to the student.”

– Dean of Curriculum and Instruction Nicole Spanbauer  




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