April 14, 2022 – With her gospel-infused voice, Alisha Felk leads a group of delighted and dancing first graders in one of their favorite songs: “Oh 3D Shapes.”
Students sway to the tune of the song, which mirrors “Oh Happy Day,” and helps them grasp the concept of 3D shapes, like cones and spheres and pyramids.
Using music and movement is one of the many educational techniques the Gregory Drive paraprofessional employs in the classrooms she supports. Her students are often those who struggle with reading and math.
While Felk is not officially a full-time teacher, her colleagues say she is a superstar and natural educator whose “instructional knowledge and best practices are unparalleled.”
It is why she was among dozens of talented Team Duval employees nominated for the 2022 School-Related Employee of the Year award.
And in early April, it became official. Felk was recognized as the winner of the top honor during the annual Employee of the Year awards ceremony.
Felk said the recognition ignited a fire inside her.
“It just made me want to go harder,” said Felk, who is currently working to earn her bachelor’s degree at Florida State College at Jacksonville. “I just started analyzing more about how I could be better. How can I have a greater impact? What more can I offer children?”
She said her love for children is hereditary, crediting her grandmother with inspiring her to be an educator.
“I just love kids,” said Felk. “I love the pride they have when they have grasped something. I live for them to have that pride.”
She pointed out a student in the class who had previously struggled with sounding out vowels.
“Now he is over there explaining to his classmates how to pronounce their vowels,” said Felk with a smile.
Principal Augena Sapp said it is a joy to watch Felk interact with her students.
“She is warm and engaging,” wrote Sapp in her nomination form. “You can sense that she has a genuine connection with each child. That is very important in the development of a child. Students who are taught by Ms. Felk will have a firm foundation…a love of learning is developed because of her consistent use of best practices that make students successful.”
Crystal Gray, an instructional math coach at the school, wrote in her nomination letter that Felk continually seeks to drive improvement for her students.
“She strives each day to encourage students to love learning and truly engages them in the pursuit of knowledge,” wrote Gray.
But it’s not just her actions inside the classroom.
Both Sapp and Gray noted how Felk went above and beyond in supporting other teachers as well as serving in often major, but unglamorous, roles in the school. Particularly with car dismissal.
“There are more than 350 car riders at the school, and Felk knows them all by name,” said Sapp. “It’s amazing to see her standing there with her walkie talkie, and correctly calling every single student’s name. She knows her students so well. That’s a superhero. No one else can do that job. We could not get on without her.”
Sapp said she has even had to ask Felk to stop going above and beyond because she was amazed at how much the paraprofessional did beyond her official role.
“She won’t stop,” said Sapp. “She truly wants to do what’s best for children. She is amazing.”
Felk was one of 11 finalists for the School-Related Employee of the Year honor. Each finalist was recognized at the annual ceremony, held this year on April 1.
|SHARON L. JOHNSON||Clerk I Office||ALIMACANI ELEMENTARY|
|LETICHA FRANCES SHIMER-NARGANE||Paraprofessional ESOL Elem||BAYVIEW ELEMENTARY|
|ADRIANA PURCELL||Paraprofessional ESOL Elem||ENGLEWOOD ELEMENTARY|
|SUSANA M ACOSTA||Paraprofessional ESOL||HOGAN-SPRING GLEN ELEMENTARY|
|FRANCINE COLLETTE M ELIBOX||Paraprofessional Elem||KERNAN TRAIL ELEMENTARY|
|ALICIA SCHUMAN LONG||Paraprofessional ASD||LORETTO ELEMENTARY|
|JACQUELINE LANORA DORRELL||Extended Day I||LOUIS SHEFFIELD ELEMENTARY|
|MICHELLE ANN HOMESZYN||Paraprofessional ESE||LOVE GROVE ELEMENTARY|
|BENJAMIN JOSEPH GIFFIN||Paraprofessional ESE Center Schools||OAK HILL ACADEMY|
|LORRAINE V. ALLEN||School Office Assistant Office||OCEANWAY MIDDLE|
|SHERRY G. HAWK||School Office Assistant Guidance||RIVERSIDE HIGH|