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Wakulla County 2016 School Level Teachers of the Year Selected

Photo standing left to right: Superintendent Bobby Pearce, William Peck, Jennifer Williams, Laura Hume, James Vernon, Director of Instruction Sunny Chancy

Seated left to right: Karla Nelson, Jennifer Anderson, Jennifer Redfern, Kelly Willis

Photo by Rhonda Stevens

Superintendent Bobby Pearce announced the 2016 School Level Teachers of the Year in December right before the holidays. Surprising the teachers with flowers, candy, and balloons, Superintendent Pearce received enthusiastic responses from students as he entered each classroom to present the honor to their teacher.


The eight Teachers of the Year for 2016 are: Karla Nelson representing Sopchoppy and Wakulla Education Centers; Kelly Willis for Crawfordville Elementary; Jennifer Anderson for Medart Elementary; Jennifer Williams for Riversink Elementary; Jennifer Redfern for Shadeville Elementary; Laura Hume for Riversprings Middle; William Peck for Wakulla Middle; and James Vernon for Wakulla High School.


Nominations from each school’s faculty began the process in November, and then nominees submitted professional and biographical information forms for their faculties to read. Faculties then voted for their school’s Teacher of the Year. Selected teachers’ names were concealed until Superintendent Pearce visited each school in December.


Karla Nelson represents for both Sopchoppy Education Center and Wakulla Education Center. This is her seventh year working in the Sopchoppy pre-kindergarten program where she was a paraprofessional for two years while she earned her bachelor’s degree in Child Development, certifying her to teach grades pre-kindergarten through three. She has been teaching pre-k for five years.


Nelson explains, “I believe that effective teaching is understanding that each child is unique and needs a secure, loving and motivating environment to help them grow and meet their fullest potential.”


She has applied for and received a Florida Agricultural Grant for the past three years which allows her to sponsor the Sopchoppy Pre-k garden that her students learn from. In addition, she organizes the Sopchoppy Pre-k library. Professional development trainings she has attended include Positive Behavior Support; Identifying and Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect; and Teaching in a Culturally Responsive Classroom.


Kelly Willis of Crawfordville Elementary School earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, plus has her endorsement in ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages). She has been teaching elementary school for eleven years, the last three as a pre-first grade teacher.


About her students she states, “It is my job to learn their interests, strengths and weaknesses so I can plan meaningful, engaging, hands-on lessons that will reach all types of learners. In my classroom we celebrate ALL successes, big or small, as I guide them to find a love for learning that will last a lifetime.”


Willis has attended many trainings to improve her craft, including the Whole Brain Teaching National Conference; Advanced Technology; Vertical Math Teaming; and Mentor Training to learn how to assist new teachers. She has twice been named Teacher of the Month by her peers.


Jennifer Anderson of Medart Elementary has a bachelor’s degree in English and has earned certifications in Elementary Education, English Education grades 6-12, Middle Grades Social Science, and completed the Reading Endorsement. She has been teaching for twenty years and currently teaches fifth grade.


She believes that a child’s well-being must be addressed before academic learning can occur, noting that “For a child’s learning potential to be reached, they must feel loved, feel safe,and feel included while at school. My class motto is ‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle’.”


Anderson is a member of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International for female educators, and has attended many professional trainings, such as The Leader in Me and the International Reading Association Conference. She coordinates Medart Elementary’s Spelling Bee, Tropicana Speech Contest, and sponsors the Brain Brawl Team.


Riversink Elementary elected first grade teacher Jennifer Williams. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Child Development, her master’s degree in Family and Child Sciences, and has certification in ESE (Exceptional Student Education), grades pre-k though 12. This is her twelfth year of teaching.


Williams states, “Effective teaching is knowing where our students are, knowing where they need to go, and believing that they can get there. Effective teaching is consistent, patient, and kind – yet also demanding. Having high expectations of our students creates within them a belief that they can accomplish the tasks set before them.”


Some of her contributions to Riversink Elementary include acting as Wellness Coordinator, Yearbook sponsor, grade-level chairman, recycling coordinator and PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) treasurer.


Shadeville Elementary voted for teacher Jennifer Redfern to represent their school. She has a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and is certified in ESE grades kindergarten-12. She has been teaching for fourteen years and currently works with students in grades two through five as an ESE inclusion teacher.


Redfern notes, “It is our job as educators to figure out what strategies work for each individual student. We should always be willing to change our way of teaching to meet the needs of each child.”


Currently she is the School Advisory Council Chairman and has earned the State of Florida Inclusion Award; Florida’s Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship; and is a Mentor Teacher to new teachers.


Laura Hume is the representative for Riversprings Middle School. She earned dual bachelor’s degrees in Elementary Education and ESE k-12, plus holds a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction and has ESOL certification k-12. This is her twelfth year of teaching and she currently teaches science and math to sixth grade students.


She believes that “Effective teaching begins with student engagement and ends with a community of learners. To achieve this level, the effective teacher needs to embrace student diversity by carefully structuring lessons, challenge her students in a safe environment, and not be afraid to step back and let the students share the teaching and learning.”


Some of the ways she has expanded her teaching skills include attending AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) Summer Institutes in Critical Reading and in Science; plus attending the ESE Institute on behavior management strategies for working with a diverse student population.


She is a Mentor Teacher, Team Leader, and coaches one of the RMS Odyssey of the Mind teams. Hume was also named Riversink Elementary’s Teacher of the Year for 2011.


William (Bill) Peck is the representative from Wakulla Middle School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in History and is certified in General Science grades 5-9; Social Science grades 6-12; ESE grades k-12; Middle Grades Integrated grades 5-9; and has earned the Reading Endorsement. This is his tenth year in education and he teaches a variety of academic subjects to WMS eighth graders.


He believes, “Effective teaching provides a thought provoking, stimulating environment that fosters critical thinking and student accountability.”


Peck has attended professional development trainings including the FCR/STEM (Florida Center for Research/Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Physical Science Summer Institute at Florida State University; the Panhandle Area Education Consortium Risk Management workshop on Concussions and Heat Casualties; and a Religion in Public Schools workshop.


He is currently the WMS assistant football coach, athletic director, and a Mentor Teacher to new teachers. In 2013 he was named WMS Teacher of the Month.


James Vernon represents Wakulla High School as their Teacher of the Year. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Science Education grades 6-12 and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Administration, plus is certified to teach Advanced Placement Micro/Macro Economics. Vernon has been teaching for eleven years and instructs high school students in Economics/Financial Literacy Honors, Economics/Financial Literacy, and AVID 1.


He observes, “The more I grow and learn about being an educator, the more I have realized that there is very little truth to the idea of being a ‘self-made’ person. This is impossible because it takes the efforts of an entire community which includes parents, administration, teachers and community stakeholders to provide the opportunity for education to be successful.”


Currently he is an AVID Site Team member, head strength coach, assistant head football coach, and assistant wrestling coach. He was the 2012 Florida Athletic Coaches Association Coach of the Year and a WHS Teacher of the Month.


These eight are now in the running for Wakulla County’s 2016 District Teacher of the Year which will be announced at the end of January. A qualified panel of judges will rate a written packet and an interview from each teacher. The 2016 Wakulla County Teacher of the Year will then compete with the other districts’ Teachers of the Year for the Florida Teacher of the Year award in the spring.


States Superintendent Pearce, “These eight teachers are all great representatives of theirschools and will be thoughtful, diverse voices for all the educators in the district as I meet with them periodically on important issues throughout the next year.” In addition, these teachers will serve on several Wakulla School District committees.


All Wakulla County teachers will be honored at the Teacher of the Year Breakfast on March 21, 2016.