For her years of dedication to students and her school, Withlacoochee Technical College has nominated Jeanne DeFelice for the school district Teacher of the Year honor.
“I have been teaching since the 2002-2003 school year and have with WTC for my entire career,” DeFelice said.
She embraces the school’s mission of inspiring students to strive for high standards in their quest to attain solid employability skills.
DeFelice said she chose the teaching career after many years as a legal secretary.
“I enjoyed the opportunity to educate clients and explain processes that were often intimidating or unfamiliar,” DeFelice said. “I was able to help them understand why something was occurring at a particular time, and how it fit into the big picture regarding their situation.”
Students seeking career pathways find DeFelice to be a valuable resource when they have questions.
DeFelice said she loves seeing how students gain then perfect skills.
“Seeing the excitement they have as their new futures unfold and hearing from them after they have graduated and are working makes my day.”
A horse accident led Becky Harris to her teaching career, but it’s her innovative style in the classroom that resulted in her being Crystal River High School’s nominee for school district Teacher of the Year.
“I graduated from Crystal River High and have taught most of my eight years here, too,” Harris said. “I feel like it’s home here.”
She didn’t initially plan on becoming a teacher; in fact, she graduated from the Virginia Military Institute with a dream of going into the military. “Then I had a horse-riding accident and I couldn’t be in the military any more. It crushed me,” Harris said. “I came back to Florida not knowing what to do. One day while standing in line at the grocery story, an athletic director’s secretary heard my story and told me to teach.”
It was then, at age 22, she embarked on the path toward being a teacher.
“I work all year with my students convincing them that my job is not to teach them, my job is to give them skills to teach themselves,” Harris said. Instilling a love of learning in students fosters self-determination and sets them on a path toward success, she said.
“I will not spoon feed my class. Don’t walk into my room and say, ‘I can’t do this.’
“The biggest gift I can give in life is to teach yourself,” Harris said.
For her love of students and determination, Citrus Resources for Exceptional Students in Transitions — known as the CREST School — has selected Julie Henry as its nominee for school district Teacher of the Year.
Henry said years of raising her three autistic children instilled in her a love and desire to help students who have disabilities.
While raising her children, she poured her life into learning everything she could to care for them.
“As I did that, I learned more and more about living with disabilities,” Henry said. “I found I was drawn to those kids because they have amazing hearts.”
She strives to find what lights up a child’s interest while seeing what is going on inside of her students who are nonverbal.
“Most of my class is nonverbal, and when I finally get them to communicate with me and tell me what is in their head, it is amazing,” Henry said. “People often think they don’t have anything going on, but they have so much to say -- they just need someone to hear.”
Seeing her students smile is a key motivator for Henry.
“Seeing them get a concept for the first time and their excitement for life is all I need,” Henry said. “I have the best job. I love the kids, love where I work, and everything about it.”
Greg Naruta is Citrus High’s nominee for school district Teacher of the Year.
Natura has been teaching for 14 years and has been with Citrus County schools for eight of those years.
“My mom was a teacher and I distinctly remember asking my mom why it didn’t bother her staying up late every night grading papers and building boards,” Naruta said. “She would tell me she loved it. I thought if she could enjoy it maybe I would as well.”
He began his college years studying accounting, but quickly realized his heart was elsewhere.
To him teaching comes naturally. He loves sparking a conversation and hearing the thoughts of his high school students.
“There is no formula; there is no right way to teach, but you get to work with people and be dynamic,” Naruta said. “Even at the high school level they are open to new experiences. Every day is a different experience and a new day to do something useful.”
Naruta said he loves teaching because it lays a foundation for the future.
“As a social studies teacher I’m encouraged by what I see with students who come through my classroom regarding optimism in the future,” Naruta said. “They have amazing ideas and views. Teenagers get a bad reputation, and that is not what I see in school. They want more information and have a natural curiosity, and it keeps me wanting to provide the best education we can give them.”
Victoria Wyka’s innovative and loving approach to teaching has resulted in her being Lecanto High School’s nominee for school district Teacher of the Year.
Wyka has been teaching math for 11 years, however she took some time off to start a family.
She attributes choice of careers to her father, who taught at Withlacoochee Technical College for many years, as well as her high school math teacher, Bob Jackson.
“I actually majored in business in college, but found that it wasn’t in my heart,” she said. “I saw how much my father impacted his students,” she said, adding that she aspires to do the same.
She said math is tough, but it’s all in the way you teach your students.
“I don’t think I’m unique. I have found that anything in life is easier if you have fun at it,” she said. “I try to have a relaxing class whether it is for our freshmen or our seniors.
She said she often hears students say: I still may not like math, but I did enjoy the class.
“I love the light bulbs — that is the moment when you the information clicks in the student’s mind,” she said. “It means I’m doing something right.”