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Wakulla County 2019 School-Level Teachers of the Year Selected by Peers


November 7, 2018



Superintendent Bobby Pearce recently announced the 2019 Wakulla County School-Level Teachers of the Year.  Surprising the teachers with flowers, candy, and balloons, students cheered as he entered each classroom to present the honor to their teacher.


The eight Teachers of the Year for 2019 are: Staci Welch for Crawfordville Elementary; Joanne English for Medart Elementary; Ashlee Guess for Riversink Elementary; Judy Paris for Shadeville Elementary; Lesley Jamison for Riversprings Middle; Mallory Harrison for Wakulla Middle; Patricia Bodiford for Wakulla High School; and Sharon Scherbarth representing teachers who serve students at several schools.


“There is a clear theme running through these eight selected by their peers: Teachers have to build positive relationships with their students before they can ever expect to teach them subjects,” he notes.


Nominations from each school’s faculty began the process in September, 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.


Staci Welch of Crawfordville Elementary has been teaching kindergarten at CES for 18 years.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a master’s degree in Elementary Reading and Literacy.


Recent trainings include those at the Autism Institute and at the Wakulla County Schools ESE (Exceptional Student Education) Institute. 


Welch believes, “By providing stimulating lessons, including Kagan structures and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math) activities, we can help students think outside the box, and teach them to question and explore.  Too often students give up when an activity gets difficult.  We must teach them that we learn from our failures and successes.”


Leadership roles include School Advisory Council Vice-Chair in 2015-2016 and as School Advisory Council Chair from 2016 to the present.  She also served on the BPIE (Best Practices for Inclusive Education) Committee.


Joanne English teaches fourth grade at Medart Elementary School.  She has 31 years of teaching experience with the last five in Florida.


English holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She has taught children in grades one through four, lending her experience with multi-age classrooms, plus “looping” (teaching the same children for more than one year) to her teaching repertoire.


Her view is that “An effective teacher is one who builds relationships with each student.  Every child should feel loved and respected along with being gently pushed to succeed and feel self-worth.”


English was appointed Team Leader last year, and keeps that position for this school year.  She also is on the AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) Elementary team, the Recycling Team, and has trained in “The Leader in Me” program for students and adults alike. 


Ashlee Guess of Riversink Elementary has been teaching for 13 years.  She has spent the last five years as an RES fifth grade teacher.


Guess holds a bachelor’s degree in Family and Child Sciences and a master’s degree in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment.  She is certified to teach children in grades pre-kindergarten through five.  For the past three years, she has been designated a Florida High-Impact Teacher due to the Learning Gains of her students on state standardized tests.


She also believes in the importance of getting to know her students well, saying “Effective teaching begins with building a positive relationship with students.  Knowing a student’s interests, strengths and weaknesses, along with their family dynamics, helps develop a bond where trust is established. It is important to gather data on students through informal observations and formal assessments to provide differentiated instruction.”


Guess established War Eagles Read at Riversink where Wakulla High School football players come and read with her students who have reading scores in the lowest quartile. In addition, she coordinates the RES Spelling Bee, Brain Brawl, and Safety Patrol.  She is also a Mentor Teacher to new teachers and an FSU Practicum Supervising Teacher for interns.


Judy Paris of Shadeville Elementary has been teaching for 14 years, the last six at SES as a fifth grade teacher. 


Paris earned a bachelor’s degree in Technical Writing with a minor in Mathematics.  She went on to earn a post baccalaureate degree in Mathematics Education and is certified in Elementary Education, Middle School Math, and High School Math.


Her philosophy of teaching is that “students thrive in an environment where they are encouraged to explain their thinking and try to understand how others think.  I aim to create a classroom where a love of learning is facilitated and where students build self-confidence.”


She has co-taught faculty workshops on Accelerated Math, is the Grade 5 team leader, and chair of the SES Mathematics Committee.  Paris was twice recognized by the Florida Department of Education as a “High Impact Teacher” due to her students’ Learning Gains, and has earned the “Best and Brightest” FDOE award for three consecutive years.  In addition, her SES peers voted her September “Teacher of the Month”.


Lesley Jamison is a 7th grade English Language Arts teacher at Riversprings Middle School.  She has been teaching for nine years.


Jamison earned a bachelor’s degree in English Teaching from Eastern Kentucky University and has taught English in grades seven through twelve, including high school Yearbook and Journalism.


She believes, “Teaching means providing students with a base knowledge and then giving them the opportunity to become responsible for their learning through collaboration.  Students not only learn their grade level material, but also how to work with those around them while becoming responsible for themselves.  Both are necessary skills for becoming successful later in life.”


Her leadership roles include teaching her colleagues in workshops such as Kagan Strategies and Language Arts Writing. She is also the Cheerleading co-coach.  In addition, Jamison has participated in AVID Critical Thinking and AVID Summer Institute trainings, plus “Laying the Foundations” training on Secondary Pre-Advanced Placement from the National Math and Science Institute.


Mallory Harrison teaches English Language Arts and Critical Thinking to eighth graders at Wakulla Middle School.


Harrison earned a bachelor’s degree with a dual major in Elementary Education and in Exceptional Education.  She holds certifications to teach Elementary Education, Middle Grades English grades 5-9, Exceptional Student Education (ESE) grades K-12, and Reading.


She believes her students can become life-long learners by “sharing with others what they learn about teaching and realizing all the things that they have not yet discovered.  I want my students to become empowered by their own learning and development as teachers.  I create situations where my students can take charge of what they learn and how it applies in their classrooms.  Finally, I want them to realize that they do not teach subjects, but rather people.”


In addition to teaching, Harrison is a Mentor to new teachers, a Teacher Coach, head Soccer Coach, and 8th Grade Field Trip Coordinator. She also coached the WMS Odyssey of the Mind team for two years.


Patricia Bodiford has taught at Wakulla High School for 10 years, working with students in Exceptional Education classes grades nine through twelve.


Bodiford earned a bachelor’s degree with a dual major in Elementary Education and Exceptional Student Education.  She also has earned the Reading Endorsement.  She teaches her students using the Access Points ESE courses for all academics, plus she helps them be prepared for life after high school by supervising their Executive Internships.


She says, “Preparing students for the next grade, for college, and for adult life requires building character, cultivating diverse talents and interests, and supporting students’ physical and emotional well-being.  I believe all students can learn.  It may take more time or a child may learn in a different way, but I believe you should never ‘give up’ on a child.”


Bodiford is the ESE Department Chair, the High School/High Tech Coordinator, Glee Club Sponsor, and has been the Assistant Director and Inspiration Coach of the Year for Wakulla County’s Special Olympics. 


Sharon Scherbarth represents the teachers who serve students districtwide.   She is a teacher of the Visually Impaired, plus is an Orientation and Mobility Specialist.  In addition, she is certified in Varying Exceptionalities.  This is her twenty-third year in education.


Scherbarth says tells her students, “It is impossible for anyone to know everything, so knowing where and how to search for answers is critical.  They need to learn critical thinking skills in using the information they find.  My goal is to challenge each one to reach their individual potential.”


Professional trainings she has been involved with include the Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference; Special Olympics Coaches Conferences and Leadership Conferences; Weekends with the Experts for Teachers of the Visually Impaired; and Wakulla ESE Institute sessions.


Involvement with the local and state Special Olympics has enhanced her leadership skills as she has taken on roles as Wakulla County director, coach, volunteer and chaperone of Wakulla students involved with Special Olympics.  She also earned the Special Olympics Florida (SOFL) Wakulla County Coach of the Year award. In addition, Scherbarth is the Local Assistive Technology (LATS) Specialist; Coordinator of the University Experience Program at Florida State University; and a volunteer for the Lighthouse of the Big Bend/Dining in the Dark event.


These eight are now in the running for Wakulla County’s 2019 District Teacher of the Year, who will be announced in December.  A qualified panel of judges will rate a written packet and an interview from each teacher. The 2019 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 great role models for their students and for every teacher in the Wakulla County School District. That their peers selected them says a lot about the impact they have had on the students and adults they come in contact with every day. In addition, these teachers will serve on several Wakulla School District committees as a voice for their schools.”


All Wakulla County teachers will be honored at the Teacher of the Year Breakfast this spring.