Superintendent Bobby Pearce announced the 2015 School Level Teachers of the Year on December 12, 2014. 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 2015 are: Amber Stallings representing Crawfordville Elementary; Connie Worrill for Medart Elementary; Connie Cooper for Riversink Elementary; Jennifer Brooks for Shadeville Elementary; David McBrayer for Riversprings Middle; Rebecca Thomas for Wakulla Middle; Suzanne Fielder for Wakulla High School; and Terry Price representing professionals who serve more than one 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 on December 12.
Amber Stallings of Crawfordville Elementary School earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, plus has endorsements in ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) and Reading. Stallings has been teaching kindergarten for 10 years. She states, “I believe that effective teaching begins with active learning where teaching and learning are about modeling, exploring, creating, questioning, sharing, and playing. I believe that collaboration with peer teachers is key to reaching each student.” Stallings demonstrates her leadership skills in many ways, including as Grade Level Team Leader and Textbook Chairman. She is also a member of the National Association of the Education of Young Children.
Connie Worrill of Medart Elementary has a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education/Early Childhood and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership. She has been teaching for 30 years and currently teaches kindergarten. She believes, “Effective teaching incorporates using best practices, targeted instruction, and allowing and encouraging individuality.” Worrill is a member of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International for female educators, and serves on the Exceptional Student Education (ESE) Parent Regional Advisory Board for the Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resource System (FDLRS). She also founded and conducts an Autism Support Group.
Riversink Elementary elected music teacher Connie Cooper. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Music Education and is certified in Music grades K-12 and Orff-Schulwerk Levels 1 and 2. This is her 36th year of teaching. Cooper states, “Music is basic to life. It’s natural and all subject matters relate to it. Students are exposed to the full gamut of musical experiences. That innate rhythm inside of them is fine-tuned and students learn that music is for everyone, not just the musically gifted.” She is a member of the Wakulla County Arts Coalition, has served on the School Advisory Council, and is the Children’s Ministries Director at the Church of God of Prophecy. Working with students from Riversink and Shadeville Elementary Schools, she instituted and organized an Orff Band based on the Orff-Schulwerk revolution in elementary education. Her students are actively involved in performances conducted during the annual Celebration of the Arts.
Shadeville Elementary voted for art teacher Jennifer Brooks to represent their school. She has a bachelor’s degree in Art Education and is certified in Art grades K-12. She has been teaching for 15 years. Brooks notes, “To teach a student you must be a student. I am an art teacher in training at all times. Students come in many forms developmentally and physically. I must allow their individual and unique creative windows of opportunity to stay open at all times.” Currently she is the Wakulla County Arts Coordinator, and has been a Mentor Teacher to a new teacher.
David McBrayer is the representative for Riversprings Middle School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Math Education and is certified to teach math, plus middle school social studies, science, and language arts. This is his eleventh year of teaching and he currently works with eighth grade students in Algebra 1, Algebra 1 Honors, and U.S. History. He believes in the words of Voltaire: “Hard work prevents the three social evils, which are poverty, vice, and boredom.” McBrayer notes, “During the school year a teacher may spend more time with a child than their parents do, which means that it is important that I not only teach my students the state standards, but also how to live as a good person.” Some of the ways he goes above and beyond at RMS are as an AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) original Site Team Member; Lead Teacher; and Assistant Girls Soccer coach. He is also the “Voice of the Bears” during home football games and is a contributing member of the Math Committee.
Rebecca (“Becky”) Thomas is the representative from Wakulla Middle School. She holds a degree in Elementary Education and is certified as an Educational Media Specialist grades Pre-K through 12, English grades 5-9, Social Science grades 5-9, and earned the Reading Endorsement. This is her 35th year in education, and currently she is the WMS Media Specialist. She believes, “Students pay closer attention and achieve more if they know you care. I truly care about kids, their concerns, their home lives, their passions and needs. In the library, I work closely with my reading teachers to ensure struggling readers have books that will hold their interests.” Her service to WMS includes being the School Improvement Team Reading Chairman, Yearbook Sponsor, and Broadcast Team Sponsor. In addition, she organizes reading incentives school wide.
Suzanne Fielder represents Wakulla High School as their Teacher of the Year. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Math Education grades 6-12 and is certified to teach Science grades 5-9. Fielder has been teaching for 15 years and currently teaches Geometry, Geometry Honors, Pre-Calculus, and Advanced Placement Calculus to students in grades 9-12. She observes, “I believe the best way to impact student achievement is to let the students know I care and that they can succeed. If they know I am on their side and that I believe in them, they will do their best.” Not only is she the Math Department Head, she is also a member of the Reading Team and the Engineering Academy. In addition, she is a lead teacher for the Gifted and Talented STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Scholars Program, supervising students on STEM field trips and summer field experiences.
Reading Coach Terry Price represents professionals who work at more than one school. She is a National Board Certified teacher who is certified in Social Studies grades 6-12, Middle Grades Integrated Curriculum, and has earned her Reading Endorsement. This is her 28th year of teaching. Price believes, “Effective teaching is messy and joyful. In order to achieve those attributes, the teaching must be firmly rooted in teacher knowledge of students and content, thorough preparation, and a belief that what is being taught is important.” She is a Reading Endorsement Trainer and an ESOL Trainer for teachers. In addition, she is on the District Reading Committee, the District Professional Development Committee, has served on state FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) committees, and is a member of both the Florida Reading Coaches Association and the International Reading Association.
These eight are now in the running for Wakulla County’s 2015 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 2015 Wakulla County Teacher of the Year will then compete with the other 66 districts’ Teachers of the Year for the Florida Teacher of the Year award in the spring. In addition, these teachers serve on several Wakulla School District committees throughout the school year and meet with Superintendent Pearce periodically as representatives of their schools. All Wakulla County teachers will be honored at the Teacher of the Year Breakfast on March 23, 2015. States Superintendent Pearce, “That these eight are chosen by their peers is truly an honor. They represent all of the dedicated teachers in our school system who understand that teaching is not as much about the subject as it is about the student.”