15 educators selected as VyStar Teacher of the Year semifinalists

15 educators selected as VyStar Teacher of the Year semifinalists

Nov. 17, 2020 – Congratulations to the the 15 outstanding educators who were selected as semifinalists for VyStar Duval County Teacher of the Year.

The announcement was made Monday by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF) who manages the Teacher of the Year process.

The 15 educators will go on to be considered as finalists for the county’s Teacher of the Year, which will be announced at the EDDY Awards on Jan. 27, 2021.

Visit JPEF to read the full bios of each of the semifinalists, learn more about the exciting teacher leadership initiative they will participate in, and get more details about the new format for the EDDY awards, which will be presented as an hourlong TV special in partnership with News4Jax.

List of Semifinalists
Sharmariton Ashley
Andrew Jackson High School of Advanced Technology, College Prep teacher
  • “I made the students understand that they are the victor and not the victim.”
Shayla Baylock
William M. Raines High, English honors teacher
  • “I joined Teach for America and committed to two years, but somehow, I am in year seven wondering where the time went! For some reason, I keep telling my students, ‘see you tomorrow,’ and those tomorrows keep coming! My students are my inspiration.” 
Christine Bell
Chets Creek Elementary, music teacher
  • “A good mentor is a servant. The key is helping young teachers discover what they are passionate about and where their talents can make the best difference. Where passion and talent collide is the sweet spot.” 
Maryjane Cassette
Sabal Palm Elementary, third grade teacher
  • “We are living in an unprecedented time. Now more than ever, the mental health of our students and ourselves is critical.”
Nadine Ebri
Southside Middle, eighth-grade algebra
  • I soon realized that my love for technology would be critical in transforming our school’s ability to remain connected with students.” 
Kenneth Ford  
Carter G. Woodson Elementary, fifth-grade math and science
  • Mr. Ford attributes his life and career to his eighth grade teacher, Ms. Tave, who helped him re-integrate into school after treatment for leukemia. “She made room for me to operate at my greatest self,” says Mr. Ford. “Because of Ms. Tave, I’ll proudly teach the band of misfits every year.” 
Jameea Jackson-Gaines
Richard Lewis Brown Gifted and Academically Talented Academy, first-grade teacher
  • “Teaching is truly a work of heart. I don’t do it for the accolades, I do it for the impact. Let’s do it with grace, let’s do it with passion but most of all, let’s do it with love.”
Katie Kiefaber
Matthew Gilbert Middle, eighth-grade science
  • “Each year, I whole heartedly take on whatever I can do.”
Kimberly Parker
Lake Lucina Elementary, first-grade teacher
  • “You ask what allows me to move students’ academic success in class? It is simple: I give them a backpack full of love, hope, guidance, and tools necessary to be successful.”
Margaret Rogero-Hastings
Mandarin Oaks Elementary, fourth-grade teacher
  • “While this year looks different, it does not take away from the commitment I have to my fellow co-workers who are teaching in different environments.”
Kayla Santiago
Cedar Hills Elementary, fourth-grade teacher
  • “I want to continue to show others that anything is possible with faith and prayer. Always lead by example!” 
Mathew Schemer
Julia Landon College Preparatory and Leadership Development School
  • Mr. Schemer created his own fictional nation, Schemerica, to serve as an educational aid to help students understand what it means to be an active and engaged citizen. “The invention of Schemerica revolves around the idea that any student can succeed when provided with a learning environment they enjoy and feel comfortable in.”
Jim Schmitt
Mandarin High, History and global perspectives and research teacher
  • “In today’s world, with uncertainty and at times, fear for the future, we as teachers know that our class is a haven of hope for our students. Teachers’ love of students is the difference maker in society.”
Leslie Wilkinson
Garden City Elementary, fifth grade teacher
  • “I strive to have my students leave my classroom with the expectation that education is fun, engaging and with a desire to learn more.” 
Charlotte Wintz
James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory Middle School
  • “Over the years, I have learned that no matter the subject area, what generation is in front of me, or in which direction the pedagogical pendulum is swinging, students will respond when they feel safe and loved.”