Congratulations to the finalists for Teacher of the Year: Andrew Lodge, Ashley Watkins, Argel Hipol, Julia Mayeshiba, and Katrina Bias

Finalists for the 2023 VyStar Duval County Teacher of the Year announced

(This post contains excerpts from a press release provided by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF). JPEF coordinates the Teacher of the Year program.)

Dec. 9, 2022 – Congratulations to five outstanding educators who have been selected as the five finalists for the VyStar Duval County Teacher of the Year for 2023.

“The 2023 group of finalists represents the depth of excellence among all Team Duval educators,” said Duval schools Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene. “It is interesting that we have veteran educators and teachers who are early in their professional journey.  They represent different content areas and grade levels, but they all have one thing great educators have in common: They all love and care for children in such a way that they are willing to take every step necessary to meet every child’s learning needs.”

The five finalists are:

Katrina Bias (Deutsche Bank finalist)

School: Garden City Elementary School

Grade: 3rd-5th

Subject: Varying Exceptionalities teacher

Teaching Experience: 15 years teaching

Quote: “I feel we can help students to develop to their maximum potential by facilitating a nurturing learning environment that will instill in the students [the desire] to become lifelong learners. It is never too late; the present is a wonderful place for children to be introduced to new opportunities and develop the ‘I can’ attitude. Exuding positivity towards your students is a must. There will be so much more buy in if they feel that you will have their back no matter how many tries it may take them to excel at a particular standard, skill, or lesson.”

Dr. Argel Hipol (Wells Fargo finalist)

School: Westside High School

Subject: Biology

Teaching Experience:  12 years

Quote: “I rise above challenges. Changing the narrative of this school is challenging, but I am inspired because I know I can make a bigger impact and difference here. I always believe that my role in this school is to be an instrument of hope, care, and love to my dear students and fellow teachers.”

Andrew Lodge (Florida Blue finalist)

School: San Mateo Elementary School

Subject: Music Teacher

Teaching Experience: 3 years teaching

Quote: “The biggest thing that inspires me as an educator is the students. I am an educator that will go beyond for his students. They have a place in my heart that only they can fill. No matter how much certain students try to get under my skin, they get everything I have. I just want to make sure they have a reason.”

Julia Mayeshiba (VyStar Credit Union finalist)

School: Andrew Jackson High School

Subject: Math and Physics

Teaching Experience: 4 years teaching

Quote from colleague: “Julia folds her care and compassion into all her actions. The atmosphere in her room makes it abundantly clear that she believes all her students are worthy of love, praise, and is a teacher that sees the best in them regardless of their race, gender, history, test scores, or any other trait that our students possess. She is truly the best of us, and I am honored to call myself one of her peers.”

Ashley Watkins (Rotary finalist)

School: J. Allen Axson Montessori

Grade: 1-3

Subject: Inclusion teacher

Teaching Experience: 9 years teaching

Quote: “I believe in teaching the whole child. Creating a love of learning that is intrinsic is the greatest contribution that I can give my students and it is what inspires me as a teacher. One of my greatest joys is watching my children grow academically, socially, and emotionally throughout their three years in my classroom. In our classroom, students play a vital role in their education process.”

One of the five will be announced as the Teacher of the Year at the EDDY Awards on Feb. 10, 2023, at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront. The Teacher of the Year program is coordinated by JPEF with VyStar Credit Union serving as its title sponsor.

“We congratulate these teachers on being finalists for the VyStar Duval County Teacher of the Year,” said JPEF President Rachael Tutwiler Fortune. “It’s quite an achievement to be selected among the top five out of nearly 180 Teachers of the Year. We know the most important in-school factor to student success is teachers, which is why we want to support, elevate and celebrate the great work these teachers are doing.”

For more information visit or contact Amy Henderson at [email protected].

Accessibility Statement | Privacy Policy
Admin Login