EDDY Awards: Celebrating and learning from our best teachers

The EDDY Awards, an annual event to celebrate Duval County's leading teachers, is a time-honored tradition that has grown into its new mission to elevate the role of Jacksonville's best teachers.

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Scott Sowell

Darnell-Cookman Middle/High School

Dr. Sowell is a science teacher with a deep appreciation for the impact his lessons have on the “here and now.” He is passionate about his students’ understanding of what science is as a discipline, how science works and how scientific knowledge is generated. He works to excite, engage and empower his students everyday to understand and improve the world around them.

Dr. Sowell’s students learn science by doing science. Instead of putting the lecture before the lab so that his students show him what he said was correct, Dr. Sowell places the experience before the lecture so that his students create their own learning by exploring real-life scientific situations. He develops a strong community of learners in his classroom, fostering a climate of collaboration, empathy and kindness where critical thinking and creative expression are valued.

As a novice-teacher mentor and professional development facilitator, Dr. Sowell works directly with the newest faculty members at Darnell-Cookman, encouraging them to constantly improve by seeking new knowledge. His passion for his practice is evident inside the classroom as well as in the time he gives back to bettering his profession and the field of scientific inquiry.

…I believe Dr. Sowell epitomizes the characteristics of a great teacher. He is a great teacher, mentor, facilitator, team player and overall caring person who would truly represent the best of Darnell-Cookman…

W. Jane Harvey,Curriculum and Technology Integration Specialist Darnell-Cookman Middle/High School


  • Ph.D., Florida State University M.S., Florida State University
  • B.A., University of North FloridaB.S., University of North Florida


  • 12 years of teaching experience
  • Science Department Head, Darnell-Cookman MS/HS
  • School Leadership Committee
  • 2009-present – Shared Decision-Making Committee
  • 2011 – presenter at annual conference of the Magnet Schools of America
  • 2010 – present – Mentor for Novice teachers within Duval County MINT/TIP Program
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Christy J. Constande

Chets Creek Elementary

Ms. Constande prides herself on creating a classroom where each student feels safe enough to risk sharing his thoughts and expressing his feelings. She takes her role to develop lifelong readers and writers seriously, providing each student with opportunities to be independent thinkers and workers. She describes education like a favorite book; the teacher is the prize-winning author, students are the beloved characters and the setting is the inviting classroom. Ms. Constande’s classroom focuses on books, authors, illustrators, words, guiding questions and instructions.She calls her students “friends” and works to make each one feel welcomed, respected and safe when they step into her classroom. Ms. Constande’s friends don’t raise their hands when they want to ask a question, they wait for the appropriate time to join the conversation. They are free to retrieve materials they need in the room and to use the restroom when necessary.

Eight years ago, Ms. Constande worked with a co-teacher and an ESE teacher to develop and pilot an inclusion program with special standard students. High expectations for all o her students have led to great success and the program has been observed by educators from around the world. Ms. Constande aspires to have her students become contributors to the community.Every year they create a basket or the silent auction benefiting the Sulzbacher Center and tie the issue of homelessness to literature through books like Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting. She continues to volunteer her time at the McKenzie Wilson Academic Resource Center, offering tutoring to a high population of English Language Learners from the Chets Creek neighborhood.

In her every action she (Christy Constande) encompasses the qualities of a teacher who routinely puts forth her bravest self for her students.
-- Susan T. Phillips Principal, Chets Creek Elementary


  • M.A., Jacksonville University
  • B.A., Purdue University


  • 26 years of teaching experience
  • 2005 – Dare to Soar – Literacy Model Classroom
  • 1992- Exceptional Student Education Mainstreaming Teacher of the Year
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Cindy Fitch

Oak Hill Elementary

The year was 1959 and Cindy Fitch was a fourth grade student in Ms. Pearl Cain’s classroom at Ruth N. Upson Elementary. She remembers how her teacher made everyone believe they had special gifts and something important to contribute. After 39 years as a teacher, Ms. Fitch continues to try to emulate what Ms. Cain modeled in that classroom all those years ago.

Ms. Fitch creates a warm and inviting learning environment where she builds strong relationships with her students who know she cares about them. When you walk into her classroom, you see shelves stocked with books, walls covered with math concepts and motivational posters, rocking chairs and even a bathtub filled with pillows, a favorite reading place for her students.

Ms. Fitch gets parents, families and the community involved at Oak Hill through her annual production of American Grandstand. The production provides every student with an opportunity to shine, no matter how big a part they play!I n addition to her work in the classroom, Ms. Fitch is a state trainer for the Florida Performance Measurement System, Peer-Teacher and Clinical Educator trainer, ESOL trainer, trainer for Increasing Human Effectiveness, and a mentor to beginning teachers. In 1991, Ms. Fitch was one of ten teachers in Duval County selected to go on the first teacher exchange trip to Jacksonville’s sister city, Murmansk, Russia.

“It seems that in education today, too many educators do not understand thatteaching is a craft, one that cannot be mastered yet perpetually refined. Ms. Fitch, though, is a perfect example of someone who understands this and works each and every day to become the best that she can be.”

Amy Bright Principal Oak Hill Elementary


  • M.E., Converse College
  • B.S., Winthrop College


  • 39 years of teaching experience
  • 2007 – The Gladys Pryor Award for Career Teaching Excellence
  • 2006-2007 – Duval County Teacher of the Year Finalist
  • 2006-2007 – Teacher of the Year John Stockton Elementary
  • 1998-1999 – Teacher of the Year John Stockton Elementary
  • 1987-1988- Teacher of the Year West Riverside Elementary
  • 1981-1982 – Teacher of the Year West Riverside Elementary
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Kate Houston

First Coast high School

Ms. Houston describes herself as a statistic. She is one of the fifty percent of new teachers who leave the profession in the first five years. She goes on to describe how she missed the children; the sense of accomplishment in June when the last grade is entered and the rhythm of life associated with the flow of the school year. Today,Ms. Houston describes herself as a career educator and a lifetime student. She strives to be the kind of teacher who can make a believer out of any child, regardless of background.

In order to accomplish her goal, Ms. Houston works to tie the information she imparts in the classroom to her students’ lives outside the classroom. She works with a team of teachers to ensure her students will leave high school compassionate, caring adults prepared for college or a career. In addition to classroom work, Ms. Houston established a Poetry Café where students are free to share original poetry or a favorite verse. The newly formed Writers Anonymous Club holds bi-monthly meetings and hosts a Fall “poetry slam.” Ms. Houston also helped found First Coast’s InteractChapter whose members volunteer monthly to feed the homeless at the Sulzbacher Center. And her Campus Clean-Up Initiative hosts a volunteer cleanup each season of the year. Ms. Houston also serves as the lead teacher for the English 10 team and her SLC.

Ms. Houston sees teaching as a vocation rather than a job. She is proud of her students’ successes and works everyday to nurture a desire to learn in each of them.

“Ms. Houston has discovered fulfillment through the opportunity to reach, and to teach, our students."

Vincent Hall Principal First Coast High School


  • M.A., University of Florida
  • B.A., University of Florida


  • 9 years of teaching experience
  • 2003-2004 – Palm Bay High School Tenth Grade Teacher of the Year
  • 2002-2003 – Department o Romance Language and Literature Cooperative Teaching Award
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Lauren M. Martin

Pinedale Elementary

“The role of a teacher is to be someone who WILL in children’s lives, because not every child has someone who will or can.” As a member of the 2010 Teach For America Corp., Ms. Martin entered Pinedale Elementary as a novice fourth grade ELA teacher with a maturity far beyond her years. She is inspired by her own fourth grade teacher whom she credits for developing her love of writing. She credits her grandfather, step-grandmother and mother with modeling professionalism through their own careers.

Ms. Martin sets high expectations for all of her students, working to encourage each of them to understand that they can be successful. She focuses on helping her students understand the “why” of writing, explaining that communicating through the written word is necessary in all facets of life. Her dedication to this premise is evident in the increase in her students’ FCAT writing scores last year, results thePrincipal, Alicia Hinson, describes as “otherwise far-fetched.” Pinedale Elementary went from an “F” school to an “A” in one year and Ms. Martin is credited for being instrumental to this turnaround.

I cannot ask for a more dedicated, committed, and compassionate teacher who sees the best in all students despite their hardships.

Alicia HinsonPrincipal Pinedale Elementary


  • B.A., University of Florida


  • 2 years of teaching experience
  • Grade Level Chair
  • Pinedale Leadership Team Membership




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