Learn more about our current Teachers of the Year and teachers who were honored in past years.
2018 Florida Blue Duval County Teacher of the Year
Stephanie Bellino is an astonishing fourth and fifth grade reading teacher at Garden City Elementary School. Stephanie graduated from Misericordia University in Dallas, PA. She works to provide opportunities for her students to guide their own learning with self-reflection. She believes that, “if students can guide their own learning, it will allow them to be accountable in a way that develops independent, intrinsically motivated learners.” Stephanie works tirelessly to ensure that her students are engaged and excited. She says, “I go to bed every night thinking about the exciting new concepts I'm teaching the next day. I spend my weekends making flashy charts that will capture their attention. I use my time after school to further my knowledge in professional development, and even volunteer to coach extracurricular activities, because all these things make up the individuals that inspired me so many years ago.”
Deutsche Bank Finalist
Abe Reising is an exceptional World History and AP World History teacher at Mandarin High School. Abe has served for five years at Mandarin High, and before that he taught during a Live-In teaching experience at San Sin High School in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Abe strives to help each and every student become a world class citizen. He says that his students, “end the school year with a greater sense of personal identify, along with an increased receptiveness to the differences they see in others. The students that pass through my class develop pride in their ability to reason, and possess a greater ability to not just have an opinion, but to support their opinion with examples and evidence.” Abe believes in teaching love and empathy to his students in hopes that they spread those traits infectiously.
Tabetha Cox is an extraordinary educator who teaches Reading to fourth grade students at Sadie T. Tillis Elementary School. Tabetha holds a Master’s of Education in Teacher Leadership and is currently serving on the Executive Board of the Duval Reading Council. Prior to teaching, Tabetha served as United States Navy Trainer in the States and overseas. Mrs. Cox works to create a sense of power and empowerment in her students. She says, “I want to teach my children that they have power in their fingertips no matter where they come from, who is holding them down, how much or little money they have, they can be anything they choose.”
Wells Fargo Finalist
Will Smith is a brilliant Agriscience Instructor & Lead FFA Advisor at Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle School. Will graduated from Florida A&M University in 2007 and spent six years teaching at New Smyrna Middle School before coming to Mayport. Will is proud to be uncommon in his life and his teaching practices. He says, “From being a 180lb defensive lineman that wrote poetry and played chess in high school to being the Agriscience teacher that doesn't own a pair of cowboy boots or change out of his shirt and tie to collect specimens, I've always been uncommon and made the common things in life my own.” Will believes strongly in getting his students doing things in order to learn. He believes that project-based instruction and field studies are integral to his students’ success in the classroom and life.
Florida Blue Finalist
Alicia Lloyd is magnificent Middle and High School Science Teacher at Youth Development Programs - PreTrial Detention Center. She has 33 years of teaching experience and 31 of those were here in Duval County. The students that Alicia teaches are adjudicated juveniles awaiting trial and adults who are seeking to obtain their high school diplomas where 40% percent of the current population are overage and 29% percent are identified as ESE. Alicia has a special gift in working with this population and says, “I want to inspire them to, in simple terms, do better, whether they are eight, or eighteen years old. I need to provide opportunities of success for all students. I need to see that student's smile that says to me, I KNOW I am doing better.” She also works diligently to help reignite in them a desire to read and learn, something that many of her students have been turned off to given their experiences in school and life.
This fall, voters will have a chance to determine the direction of our public schools through four School Board elections and a referendum on a half-penny sales tax for Duval County Public Schools.
In JPEF's 2019 Public Perceptions Poll, the Jacksonville community said once again they would support a small tax for schools.
86.5 % of students district-wide graduated high school in 2019, a record high.