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Local County Educator Named Teacher of the Year Finalist

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On May 8, 2024, the Florida Department of Education announced that local educator Jaime Suarez was named as one of the five finalists for the 2025 Teacher of the Year award. Suarez, a teacher at the Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics, was chosen from 74 district teachers of the year. The Commissioner of Education, Manny Diaz Jr., discussed Suarez’s selection, stating, “I am pleased to recognize Jaime Suarez on her selection as one of the five finalists for the 2025 Florida Teacher of the Year award,” Diaz said. “She has a track record of improving student outcomes and works every day to ensure that every student receives a high-quality education.”

Suarez earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Troy University in Alabama and currently educates Challenger students from grades six to eight in the field of mathematics. The announcement delved further into Suarez’s qualifications, stating that she serves on the district’s science textbook selection committee, coordinates the school’s Math Field Day, is the grade level mentor and team lead, and is a “High Impact teacher.”

The finalists for the 2025 Teacher of the Year award were chosen from a pool of over 185,000 public school teachers. Once each school district selects its teacher of the year candidate, a committee that represents parents, businesses, principals, and teachers reviews the applicants on the basis of “outstanding ability to teach and communicate knowledge of the subject taught, professional development, philosophy of teaching, and outstanding school and community service.”

Once the award recipient is announced, they will serve as the Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education for one year until next year’s winner is named. A host of sponsors, in conjunction with the Florida Education Foundation, make these efforts possible, including HCA Healthcare, Florida Power and Light Company, and Publix Super Markets Charities, among others.

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The winner of the 2025 Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year award will be announced at a gala in Orlando, Florida, on July 25. According to the Florida Teachers Lead website, the gala is only one of four primary parts of the state’s Teacher of the Year program, with the other three being the Teacher Lead Network, The Alumni Network, and the Roundtable.

The gala, which began being held in 1967, celebrates teachers for excellence in other categories as well, including Outstanding Teacher Leader, Digital Educator, Life Skills and Citizenship, and Excellence in Teaching.

At the Teacher Lead Network, coaching and mentoring is provided to help the attendees to become even better educators. The instructional areas are broken down further into four categories: academic ownership, essential content, culture of learning, and demonstration of learning. The Teacher Lead Network, now in its eighth year, currently boasts 200-plus members across the state.

The Roundtable involves all 74 of the districts’ Teachers of the Year coming together for a three-day event of “professional learning rooted in the belief that all students can succeed.”

Teacher of the Year State Finalist Jaime Suarez with her students, Superintendent John Stratton, School Board members, Challenger K-8 School Principal Rosemarie Maiorini and FDOE Public Schools Chancellor Dr. Paul Burns. Courtesy of HCSD
Jaime Suarez receives notification that she is a finalist for the State of Florida's Teacher of the Year. Courtesy of HCSD.
Jaime Suarez receives notification that she is a finalist for the State of Florida’s Teacher of the Year. Courtesy of HCSD.
In photo (l-r): Hernando County Schools Superintendent John Stratton; Jaime Suarez; Challenger K-8 School Principal Rosemarie Maiorini; FDOE Public Schools Chancellor Dr. Paul Burns
In photo (l-r): Hernando County Schools Superintendent John Stratton; Jaime Suarez; Challenger K-8 School Principal Rosemarie Maiorini; FDOE Public Schools Chancellor Dr. Paul Burns. Courtesy of Florida DOE.

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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