Beaming with joy, Carrie Wilson, school guidance counselor at Challenger K-8 was announced as the Hernando County School District Teacher of the Year at the annual gala celebration on January 10, 2020. A boisterous crowd erupted in cheers as the announcement was made by outgoing Teacher of the Year Justen Early from Nature Coast Technical High School.
Dr. Dakeyan Cha Dre Graham, 2020 Florida Teacher of the Year, and the evening’s keynote speaker aptly described teaching as “the most noble, humbling and significant profession on the face of this planet.”
“No other profession would exist without education,” said the Hillsborough County School District music teacher.
Graham’s goal is to visit each of the 74 school districts in the state of Florida as Florida’s Teacher of the Year.
He highlighted the importance of building strong relationships with students. He said that following a breakthrough with a struggling student he realized that “relationships are the currency of success.”
This student, who had some behavioral issues, was hesitant to get involved with activities. However, she was motivated by competition. Dr. Graham drew her out of her shell through a game called bird on a perch. She won the game and later thanked him for “giving her a home.”
He told the teachers, “You all are here, because you understand the importance of rapport... While we are positively impacting the next generation of world changers, every single person in this room is a world changer.”
That evening as we learned about each school’s Teacher of the Year, it was readily apparent that Dr. Graham’s description was spot on.
Carrie Wilson was described in the following way, “Innovating, inspiring and intervening in all areas critical to student success, Ms. Carrie Wilson is a top notch educator who supports the success of all students and staff at Challenger K-8. She creates a safe space for her students to learn self regulation and press beyond the barriers that impede achievement. Her impact on the whole child is evident in the gains and accomplishments of her students who continue to raise the bar in educational, social and emotional goals.”
Wilson was surprised to receive the award, and extremely grateful. She thanked her very first teachers: her parents for supporting her “through all the crazy things” she did in her youth.
“But I have to also thank this community of Hernando County. I came here in 2005 and I grew up in a really small town. This place feels like home- like the small town I grew up in.” She said that she’s had such a wonderful opportunity to work with numerous people in the school system and added, “The best administrators have gone through Challenger! Every single one of them has made me better as a teacher.”
She remarked that she recently heard a podcast about passion. She said that it might not always be possible to completely follow your passion. “We have to tell kids that passion is hard work, passion is finding things that we really love and enjoy. Through teaching and as a guidance counselor I have really been able to find that.”
She also mentioned that her husband is a firefighter and they often debate the question of ‘who is a hero.’ Wilson contends that teachers are heroes. “Teachers are on the frontlines each and everyday. They are doing so much for children and for families and each other.”
“I’m a school counselor so I feel blessed that other people see that support staff are worthy… I feel so honored.”
Wilson had tough competition from 24 other teachers chosen to be Teacher of the Year (TOY) at their respective schools. Once selected by nominating committees at their individual schools, the teachers go through a multistep selection process in competition for the district title. The Hernando County Education Foundation TOY selection committee is made up of retired educators, board members and community members. They view a video of the teacher instructing his or her pupils. During an individual interview the teacher further explains the videotaped lesson and how their instruction results in student learning gains. Each nominee also speaks for one minute on a designated topic at the Academy of Teachers Induction Dinner. All of this is part of a rubric scoring system along with an application packet.
Congratulations to all of the Teachers of the Year.
Each of the following teachers or “world changers” as described by Dr. Graham have been chosen by their school as Teacher of the Year for 2020:
Mark Labelle, Adult Education, is a driven, well organized teacher who enjoys teaching about what he loves. He guides his students in thinking through a problem by giving them real world situations.
Haley Trinque, Brooksville Elementary School, whether it’s turning her classroom into a dinosaur excavation site, lending a hand to her colleagues, or creating a hallway dance party for the whole grade level, she is always ready to “get her teach on.”
Jennifer Merschbach, Central High School, goes above and beyond to ensure students are successful in their testing endeavors.
Victoria Piccinich from Chocachatti Elementary is a highly effective teacher who has been able to increase student test scores while creating positive attitudes and closing achievement gaps.
Amanda Myers, D.S. Parrott Middle School, inspires reluctant readers during her intensive reading classes “even if it’s just so they can view her hair color of the week.” Her positive attitude and classroom antics always keep the kids engaged.
Brooke Gill, Deltona Elementary, captivates students with classroom transformations on a regular basis. Students become rock-cycle geologists, context clue detectives and writing engineers. She has even taken a pie in the face for FSA math prep.
Michelle Murdza, East Side Elementary School, is an excellent teacher who attends every after school function volunteering her time. She goes the extra mile to ensure every event is a success.
Aimee Crisp, Endeavor/Discovery Academy, is a ‘homegrown’ teacher having attended Hernando County Schools, Kindergarten through 12th grade. She has a genuine and caring nature. With each passing day, Aimee cultivates a classroom environment where emotional wellbeing is nurtured and student achievement flourishes.
Corrie Mahla, Explorer K-8, is always ready with a contagious smile a heart that is ready to help and a kind word that uplifts and encourages, for her second grade students.
Teacher of the Year for F.W. Springstead High School is Erin-Ann Edwards who happens to be a Springstead graduate. Her love of science keeps students engaged in learning by creating an environment where collaboration and labs involve relevant hands on activities.
Sarah Ann Bradburn, Fox Chapel Middle School, is a young lady who can recite the preamble of both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, while displaying humility and a true passion for teaching.
Jessica Mastrogiuseppe, Hernando E-School, is a science and technology expert who answers questions from students and teachers alike.
Victor Dell, Hernando High School Honors English teacher, is extremely devoted to his students and the many endeavors he takes on such as journalism and yearbook. It seems like he never misses a game as he’s always on the sidelines with his students, covering the action- camera in hand.
Amy Stoessel, J.D. Floyd Elementary School, is a former Weeki Wachee Springs mermaid and a one of a kind teacher who brings magic to her first grade classroom.
Meghan Chapin, Moton Elementary School, is a “master of data and manipulator of young minds.” She is a motivated and modest teacher who is adored by her students.
Alyssa Marano, Nature Coast Technical High School, relates to her students individually whether she is coaching, teaching or mentoring. She realizes that a teacher has the ability to direct a student’s life for the better.
Heather Phillips, Pinegrove Elementary, has a happy and positive attitude. She inspires her students to strive for success and her colleagues look to her for guidance.
Renee Fischer, Powell Middle School, cares about people in a way expressed beyond words. She touches the lives of over 100 civics students each year. Many of her former students come back to tell her how much they miss her and enjoyed being in her class.
Devon Pratser, Spring Hill Elementary, is highly respected by all her colleagues and commonly referred to as “The Data Queen.” Her students adore her for the rapport she builds with them.
Jennifer Doban, Suncoast Elementary, is a caring individual who has a strong dedication to her students and Suncoast Elementary. She is an immeasurable asset to her school and the teaching profession.
Nancy Beltran, Weeki Wachee High School, is a model teacher and phenomenal trailblazer who brings life to the ‘VIP’ mentoring program.
Lyndell Hudson, West Hernando Middle School, is a beacon of light for those he encounters daily. He is a man of God who leads by faith, love and positivity. He is willing to help with any task.
Jennifer Lane, Westside Elementary, prepares her students for a lifetime of learning. She creates a ‘tiger den’ that is loving, challenging and inviting.
Jennifer Rosenzweig, Winding Waters K-8, promotes individuality and provides enriching opportunities for her students’ success. She inspires her students by instilling in them a love for learning.