On May 15, I attended a breakfast hosted by the Deerwood Rotary Club along with Trey Csar, President of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund. The beautiful setting in the Clubhouse of the Deerwood Country Club was the perfect venue to celebrate the achievements of the five finalists for this year’s Duval County Teacher of the Year.
The Rotary Clubs of Duval County have a deep and rich history in elevating our district’s finest educators. Through their efforts starting 24 years ago, the process of identifying and then awarding the county’s best teachers has grown in scope and visibility. In March, these five finalists were highlighted in the Annual EDDY Awards Ceremony at the Times Union Center where close to 900 teachers, principals, school board members and community advocates came together to honor the work of the district’s finest.
The Rotary Clubs of Duval County support the EDDY Awards through their financial contributions. The Deerwood Club has taken the lead in this effort and guarantees that each teacher and their school receive significant stipends to allow them to enhance the work in their individual classrooms. In an emotional reminder, Trey asked the group to keep the two young girls who were shot on a school bus last week in their hearts and prayers, and that we all need to remember that the challenges facing our schools and community are great and our work needs to continue to address those challenges.
Here’s what a couple the teachers had to say:
Jill Sullivan, 7th and 8th grade science teacher at Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle School. Jill shared her journey as a former high school drop out to the success she has found in teaching and her current position where she embraces the opportunity to prepare her students with the skills they will need to enter the workforce and be successful.
Michael Bostic-Jones, 11th grade history teacher at William M. Raines High School was a child in the foster care system growing up and shares his story of finding a mentor in a teacher who saw the potential in an angry young man and was able to transform him into the young man we see today. Michael’s goal is to provide the same opportunities for the students he engages with every day in his classroom.
Our 2015 Duval County Teacher of the Year, Kifimbo Holloway-Parnell is an 8th grade language arts teacher at Kirby Smith Middle School. Kifimbo expressed her passion about the need to reverse the violence so prevalent in our society today by helping children understand their true potential for success. Her work helps to empower children as they find their individual voices to seek answers about societies’ imprint in their lives.
Sabrina Hall, 9th through 12th grade math teacher at Andrew Jackson High School and Suzanne Evans, 3rd grade language arts teachers at Fishweir Elementary also shared their stories as well.
All five teachers will work with the Jacksonville Public Education Fund throughout the year with our teacher leadership and engagement opportunities and events. Their stories and the enthusiasm and intensity with which they approach their work and impact our children’s lives provides the inspiration we all need to rise above the problems plaguing our communities and schools and leave us with hope for a bright and positive future.
Special thanks and appreciation to:
John Kattman, Past President of the Deerwood Rotary Club for sharing his joy of honoring excellence in teaching that the process brings each year.
Dr. William Cody, President of the Deerwood Club for honoring the partnership that has existed for close to 25 years.