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Nassau County's Teachers of the Year Celebrating Nassau's Top Teachers

Nassau County School District is proud of all of our educators. Each year, teachers are nominated and chosen by their colleagues to represent their school as the Teacher of the Year. Below are the selected teachers for each school. These teachers will complete further tasks in hopes of becoming the teacher selected to represent Nassau County School District.

Teachers, thank you for your endless efforts to help our Nassau schools be the very best they can be! Congratulations!

#WeAreNassau

Bryceville Elementary School

Latashia Davis

Years in Education: 26 years
Subject: 4th Grade ELA

Why I teach: I teach because I love learning! I have always enjoyed learning and still do! I want my students to see my excitement about learning and get excited too. The standards are rigorous, and we must work hard, but that doesn't mean we can't also have fun. We do not play in class, but we still try and find humor and joy in all situations. My students grow academically and emotionally because of the relationships we develop throughout the year.

Callahan Elementary School

Allison Neiser

Years in Education: 4 years
Subject: Kindergarten

Why I teach: The sign on my door reads, “Home Sweet Classroom.” I strive to create an environment where my students feel safe, loved, and cared for; we are like a family. When my students experience a learning environment like this, they can grow and become whomever they want. My classroom is a place where we celebrate growth and successes because I want my students to be excited to come to school every morning. Kindergarten is the first stop on a long road of education. I set out each day to foster and mold their love for learning to last a lifetime. My teaching philosophy is easy; we are a family. We build each other up, support one another through mistakes so we can all learn, we grow through the year TOGETHER. I cannot imagine doing anything else. I live for the ah-ha moments and the cheers of success when we learn and grow.

Callahan Intermediate School

Alisha Whitaker

Years in Education: 10 years
Subject: 5th Grade ELA

Why I teach: I love to teach because connecting with my students and helping them to grow sets the stage for who they will become. As teachers, we work hard not just to educate, but to support our students. We give additional support in our classrooms as well as outside of school. At the end of the day, when all the students are gone, our job is not over. We continue to plan lessons, worry about home situations, and pray for our students. The long hours and sleepless nights are worth it when my struggling student has a “light bulb moment,” or a student draws me a picture, writes me a note, gives me a hug, or brings me a souvenir from their vacation. I teach to help make a difference in my students’ lives. Teaching is simply the best!

Callahan Middle School

Sandra Giles

Years in Education: 36 years
Subject: Guidance Counselor

Why I teach: I can’t imagine being anything other than an educator. For 36 years, I have never hated going to work or dreaded the weekend ending…even during this last year of uncertainty. My passion has always been children, especially middle and high school students. My philosophy of teaching is based on value, grace, and mercy. It is my job to help these children find value in themselves and to feel valued by someone else. It is also my job to make parents feel valued in Nassau County’s educational system. No one sends their children to school and tells them to misbehave or to disrupt. It just happens. As an educator and a counselor in particular, my job is to bridge that gap between what happens at home and what happens here at school. I need to be able to provide a safe, judgment-free zone for students and parents. That is where the grace and mercy come in. People have told me before that I am too accommodating with kids and parents. I see that as my gift. Many parents see the educational system as a bad memory or a place where they failed…a scary place that still judges them. If I am able to make something in the educational system a little easier for a child or for a parent to navigate…then I did my job.

Emma Love Hardee Elementary

Shannon Hogue

Years in Education: 21 years
Subject: Reading Coach

Why I teach: Education is not a one size fits all. Teachers are the physicians of education. Using data collected from our students, we are to diagnose and prescribe an individualized, tailored instructional plan. And this is what makes differentiated education, good medicine.

Fernandina Beach High School

Michael Gass

Years in Education: 10 years
Subject: Grades 9-12, Culinary Arts

Why I teach: The opportunity to teach has been a blessing worth sharing. Below is a poem I wrote a poem about it.

Moving and shaking, roasting and baking kneading the minds of the youth,

Walking and talking, slicing and dicing, making our way to the truth.

Listening and sharing, searing and pairing, feeding ourselves and our peers,

Creating and dreaming, boiling and braising, turning the world on its ear.

For kitchen life doesn't come easy, the toll it exacts will be great,

But you will never regret the bonds that were made with the ones who put food on the plate.

Some folks are called and others show up, and together they carry the day,

When night closes in and the service begins even lost souls find their way.

A motlier bunch could not be assembled or even imagined by chance,

The art and the science wrapped up together inextricably linked in the dance.

For those who embark on this journey no other path will suffice,

We accept the challenge, the sweat and travail, and happily pay any price.

Go out therefore and adventure, meet the people, know the cultures we share,

Absorb the lessons, store them deep in your soul and take in life like the air.

Fernandina Beach Middle School

Lindy Lesoine

Years in Education: 25 years
Subject: 6th Grade Reading

Why I teach: When I was in 7th grade, I had the most phenomenal physical education teacher ever. She had this zest for life and for teaching that was unmatched by anyone at my school at that time. I knew then that I wanted to be a teacher, and I wanted to be just like her. And while I have not been a Physical Education teacher like her, I hope that my enthusiasm for life and teaching comes close to hers. My goal as a teacher is simply this: Make a difference in a child’s life. Be that person that students will, years later, say, “Remember Mrs. Lesoine; she was the best.” or “Remember in Mrs. Lesoine’s room when we did _________________?” I want students to feel safe in my classroom and know that they are valued and important to me.

Hilliard Elementary School

Tara Libby

Years in Education: 16 years
Subject: ESE Pre-K

Why I teach: Teaching is so much more than a “job” for me…it is a calling. My students are my “babies” and their families become part of my family. Building relationships with my students and their parents is very important to me. I am the first point of reference that my students (and many of their families) have with school. I have the immense responsibility to help set the tone for school as a fun and positive experience for them. I believe that all my students have the ability to learn and grow, no matter what delay or disability they may have and I push them towards their goals each day. Teaching Pre-K has taught me more about myself as an educator than any other teaching position. It is the hardest, yet most rewarding job I have ever had. A quote that rings true and that I keep posted in my room says, “If a student leaves my classroom with new skills, I’ve done my job. If a child leaves my classroom knowing they are loved and accepted for who they are, I’ve reached my goal.” -Unknown

Hilliard Middle-Senior High School

Cindy Mcclanathan

Years in Education: 3 years
Subject: 9-12/Health Science, Nursing Assistant, Anatomy & Physiology, Medical Skills

Why I teach: I still have a lot to learn within the world of education. I left full-time acute care nursing and landed on a different planet. My current philosophy surrounding teaching is to learn as much from my students as they learn from me. We teach each other. Although I have almost lost my sanity more than once, it has been well worth it to see my students actively working in healthcare. I credit my inspiration to pursue medicine to the HOSA program I was in during high school. I hope to make the same impact on my students. I take pride in helping to mold our future medical providers.

Southside Elementary School

Erica Watts

Years in Education: 13 years
Subject: 2nd Grade

Why I teach: Through education, I strive to inspire and motivate my students to reach their fullest potential. When provided with the appropriate tools and support, I know that all children can learn and be successful. I believe in the power of engagement, targeted small group instruction, and differentiation. I believe in the power of positive thinking and building relationships. I spend my days teaching kids to be the very best they can be, and there is nothing in the world more rewarding than that.

West Nassau High School

Josh McKinney

Years in Education: 13 years
Subject: Grades 9-12., College Dual Enrollment

I teach so students can dream. One of the most heartbreaking things for me to realize is that we as a culture, give up on ourselves and others way too soon in life. We sacrifice what is possible by limiting our vision based on what reality is. But that’s the thing - the reality is only regulated by what you as a person perceive is possible. Students should be free to fly, create, explore, and dare. Students should be taught to challenge what is possible and be equipped to do the impossible. Students should be loved where they are at and pushed to a greater form of self. Teaching is important to me because a teacher taught me to do these things, and I’m still learning what gift my freedom dreams actually are. “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” ~Disney

Wildlight Elementary School

Kristan Greeson

Years in Education: 17 years
Subject: 4th Grade Math/Science/Social Studies

Why I teach: Learning in the classroom helps children develop life skills. As a teacher, my goal is to help students recognize, develop, and use their God-given abilities so they can be successful and contribute to the global community. Therefore, I use my classroom as a hands-on laboratory to empower, build self-esteem, and create knowledge-loving children. In doing so, I am able to provide all levels of learners a variety of educational options so they can gain independence and connect learning to real-life situations.

Yulee Elementary School

Matt Bellar

Years in Education: 10 years
Subject: 5th grade Math/Science

Why I teach: I believe my role as an educator is to create a lifelong love of learning for my students. Learning is meant to be fun and engaging, not as a check off list to accomplish by the end of the year. Through hands-on activities, whole and small group discussion, and different engagement strategies, my goal is that students leave my class with a desire to learn and with a toolbox full of skills to help them be successful in and out of the classroom.

Yulee High School

Donna Perry

Years in Education: 27 years
Subject: 9-12/Media Specialist

Why I teach: I teach for one main reason – it is what I was created to do. I feel blessed to be able to work in a field that brings me so much joy and fulfillment. After teaching in the classroom for seventeen years, the past ten years in the media center have enabled me to not only continue serving students but our faculty and staff as well. My purpose each day is to create a warm and welcoming environment in which all members of our Yulee High School family feel they belong. I strive to support each student and teacher any way I can, whether it be by helping students find the perfect book, assisting students with laptop issues, or collaborating with teachers and providing literacy support for their curricula, I do whatever I can to help students learn and succeed.

Yulee Middle School

Anna Smith

Years in Education: 19 years
Subject: 6th Grade Math

Why I teach: My teaching philosophy is to make each student feel valuable, confident, and eager to learn to be successful in all aspects of life. I firmly believe that I can help mold the minds of my middle school students into becoming driven, independent, leaders. I am committed to guiding the students to work at their full potential, giving them the tools to see their value, and providing the skills necessary to become an upstanding citizen. As a teacher, I have strived to make my classroom a place the students feel safe, loved, and able to be themselves.

Yulee Primary School

Shannon McNally

Years in Education: 14 years
Subject: 1st Grade

Why I teach: For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a teacher. I went to college with the goal of teaching high school history. After being placed in a Kindergarten classroom I fell in love with the little guys. My philosophy of teaching is that everyone is here to learn and everyone will leave my room with a love for knowledge. We are a classroom community that thrives and grows with each other throughout the year. We are constantly learning from each other, whether I am teaching them something new or they are teaching me something new.

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