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When people talk about Timothy Allen, Shannon Wine, Barbara Green and Kathleen Poe, they use words like “love” and “dedication." The teachers work at different schools, specialize in different subjects and have taken different paths to get to where they are today. But they share an ability to inspire students and give them a quality education, and now something else — the Gladys Prior Award for Teaching Excellence, announced Thursday .

 

Gilchrist Berg, local business leader and philanthropist, began giving out the awards, named after his fourth-grade teacher, in 1998. Along with the recognition, he gives each teacher $15,000. 

 

So far, 52 teachers have received the award, administered by the University of North Florida’s College of Education and Human Services.

At Fletcher High School, it was Allen’s knowledge and enthusiasm about chemistry 34 years ago that still stood out in Terence Cavanaugh’s mind. 

 

To this day, he can remember Happy Atom Hotel — the story Allen told to explain to his students electron structures and the Pauli exclusion principle.

 

“The fact that I still remember this story that he told in 1977 (and I know he still tells today) shows that he was able to make such learning memorable and complicated content understandable,” Cavanaugh wrote in his nomination letter.

Just down the road, Poe was honored at Fletcher Middle School for her ability to make science interesting for both students and the community.

For almost four decades, Poe has become known for her hands-on school improvement projects, ranging from a campus garden to tree-planting and recycling efforts. For the community, she’s organized a science night for 16 years — reaching out to hundreds of people to share her passion.

 

At the Alden Road Exceptional Student Center, Green was recognized for 35 years of work as a special education teacher. She strives to involve her students in the community — taking a river cruise after studying the St. Johns River, or camping out with the Boy Scouts.

Her supporters described the way Green’s personalized attention has helped many students make huge academic gains.

 

One former student told award organizers that Green helped him get off drugs and out of a gang — and on the honor roll with perfect attendance.

 

“I speak for hundreds of students in Jacksonville who think Ms. Green saved their lives,” the student wrote.

 

Wine began her career at Woodland Acres as an intern, then left to teach in Pensacola. 

In 2006, one of her former students, 13-year-old Radarius Jackson from Woodland Acres, was shot and killed. Wine returned to Jacksonville, first for Radarius’ funeral and to support his family. Then she returned for good to teach at Woodland Acres.

 

In addition to teaching first-graders, Wine models her teaching methods for future teachers at UNF.

 

In nominating Wine, former Gladys Prior Award winner Susan Bell said love is the single-most important factor in being an inspirational teacher.

“While many teachers love their jobs and love their students, there continues to be certain teachers who just seem to love their students at a deeper level,” Bell said.