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College of Education and Human Services

The Gladys Prior Awards for Career Teaching Excellence Recipients

The Gladys Prior Awards for Career Teaching Excellence are among the largest monetary awards for teachers in the nation. Gilchrist Berg, founder and president of a Jacksonville investment company, established the awards in 1998 to honor his 4th grade teacher at Ortega Elementary School, Gladys Prior. In addition, Mr. Berg honored his 6th grade teacher, Gladys Roddenberry, by naming five UNF graduate scholarships after her. Mr. Berg has pledged over $2,000,000 to continue these awards for Duval County public and private school teachers.

"Teachers are one of our most important assets. We simply don't do enough to remind ourselves of their great influence on us every day of our lives. Maybe in some small way, these awards will cause others to reflect on the great contributions teachers have made to their lives and the life of their families."

-Gilchrist Berg

Learn more about nominations for the current award.

  • Susan Morgan, Jesica Pearce, Kristi St. John and Ilyssa Tomlinson

    Susan Morgan

    John E. Ford Pre K-8 School

    Exceptional Student Education - Second Language Acquisition (SLA)

    Susan Morgan is a distinguished educator with 35 years of unwavering commitment to the field of exceptional student education. Currently serving as a Pre-K through third grade Second Language Acquisition (SLA) teacher at John E. Ford Pre K-8 School, Susan’s main goal is to cultivate a sense of belonging and pave the way to success for her students. She has earned both her bachelors and master’s degree in Exceptional Student Education from the University of North Florida. Susan works to eliminate or minimize any obstacles her students may encounter, striving to be their biggest advocate both in and out of the classroom. In recognition of her exceptional dedication, Susan was honored as the John E. Ford Teacher of the Year and District Semi-Finalist for the 2019-2020 academic year. Despite her decades of service, Susan plans to continue her mission for another five or six years before embarking on new adventures.

    Jesica Pearce

    Lake Lucina Elementary

    Exceptional Student Education

    Jesica Pearce is an experienced educator specializing in Varying Exceptionalities (ESE) for third through fifth graders at Lake Lucina Elementary. With 22 years of teaching experience, a Bachelor of Arts in Childhood Education, as well as a Master of Arts in Art Education from Fitchburg State College, Massachusetts, Jesica brings a wealth of knowledge to her role. Jesica believes teaching is not only a profession but a calling to ignite change within the hearts and minds of her students. Recognized for her outstanding teaching methods, Jesica has been honored as a Microsoft Innovative Education Expert and received the prestigious Cindy Edelman Excellence in Teaching Fellowship. She has also been recognized as a Duval County Teacher of the Year Semifinalist and was named Lake Lucina Elementary Teacher of the Year in both 2013 and 2023. Inspired by a recent visit to Finland and its exceptional educational system, Jesica is on a mission to create a documentary sharing insights and best practices to inspire educational reform. Concurrently, she is pursuing a Master of Education in Global Education through Arizona State University’s online program to contribute her expertise to ensure equitable education for diverse populations worldwide.

    Kristi St. John

    LaVilla School of The Arts

    Language Arts

    Kristi St. John has been teaching for an impressive 24 years, beginning her journey after graduating from the University of North Florida in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. Throughout her career, Kristi has taught a range of grades, from second to eighth, at various schools including Louis S. Sheffield Elementary, West Riverside Elementary, and Bartram Springs Elementary. Now, she is teaching eighth grade language arts at LaVilla School of The Arts. Kristi's dedication to her students has not gone unnoticed, earning her the Teacher of the Year title at both Sheffield Elementary in 2003 and West Riverside Elementary in 2012. Her teaching philosophy is simple yet powerful: to be the supportive figure she wished she had growing up. Whether it's sparking curiosity, encouraging mindfulness, fostering love, or providing a platform for artistic or intellectual expression, Kristi is committed to empowering her students. Looking ahead, Kristi is excited to continue her teaching journey at LaVilla School of The Arts, where every day, her students bring her joy and fulfillment.

    Ilyssa Tomlinson

    Loretto Elementary Schools

    First Grade

    Ilyssa Tomlinson is a dedicated educator with 12 years of teaching experience in Duval County. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from University of North Florida and is currently teaching first grade at Loretto Elementary School. Passionate about creating a nurturing environment where every child feels valued, Ilyssa sees teaching as a platform to provide love, acceptance, and safety to her students, regardless of the challenges they may encounter. Ilyssa’s contributions to education have been recognized through various awards and accolades, including being named a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. She has participated as a speaker in the Duval County Public School’s (DCPS) Ultra program and UNF’s Project Intersect. Looking ahead, Ilyssa's future goals revolve around advocating for inclusive, loving, and engaging learning environments for her students. She aspires to integrate technology into her teaching methods and seize any opportunity that enhances the educational experience of her students.

  • 2023: Sangita Cody, Latasha Lawrence, Mia Jenkins and Morgan Jackson


    Sangita Cody

    Neptune Beach Elementary School

    Exceptional Student Education 

    Sangita Cody is an accomplished fifth-grade teacher, currently teaching students with varying exceptionalities at Neptune Beach Elementary School. With an impressive 19 years of experience in education, she has established herself as a dedicated and passionate educator. Mrs. Cody’s commitment to excellence is evidenced by her recognition as a Teacher of the Year finalist twice during her career. She was a finalist in 2007 while teaching at Woodland Acres Elementary School and again in 2011 at Neptune Beach Elementary. Mrs. Cody believes that “learning should be fun, hands-on and engaging” and that “motivation is key!” Looking to the future, Mrs. Cody’s goal is to continue to help exceptional children see their worth and find different, individualized strategies that make them successful lifelong learners.

    Latasha Lawrence

    James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory Middle School


    Latasha Lawrence is a highly experienced eighth-grade biology teacher at James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory Middle School. With 20 years of teaching experience in the Duval County Public School system, Latasha is known for her dependability, enthusiasm and inspirational teaching style. Latasha’s biology scores are among the highest in the district, with a 97 percent passing rate on her end-of course test. Latasha was also named Duval County Teacher of the Year finalist for the 2021-2022 school year. Her dedication to her students is evident through her involvement in a wide variety of school activities, including serving as a staff member for the extended day program, a coordinator of the eighth grade end-of-the-year field trip, the sponsor of the Black History Club, the choir director and the school’s golf coach.

    Mia Griffin-Jenkins

    Mandarin Oaks Elementary School

    English Lanaguage Arts

    Mrs. Griffin-Jenkins currently serves as the fifth-grade language arts teacher for the gifted and academically talented at Mandarin Oaks Elementary School. With 31 years of teaching experience, Mrs. Griffin-Jenkins has received numerous accolades, including being the chosen recipient for Mandarin Oaks Teacher of the Year during the 2002-2023 school year. One of Mrs. Griffin-Jenkins’ strengths is her ability to disaggregate data and develop effective instructional plans to increase student growth in literacy. Mrs. Griffin-Jenkins believes that education should be student-centered, with an emphasis on each student’s unique requirements, interests and abilities. Beyond her classroom, Mrs. Griffin-Jenkins seeks to share her passion and expertise for literacy in after-school organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, demonstrating her commitment to lifelong learning and her desire to make a difference in the broader community.

    Morgan Jackson

    LaVilla School of the Arts

    English Language Arts

    Morgan Jackson is an esteemed ELA gifted and advanced eighth grade teacher with an impressive 25 years of teaching experience. With 23 of those years spent at LaVilla, Mrs. Jackson has played instrumental roles in numerous committees and programs, including her current role as chair for the language arts department. Mrs. Jackson is renowned for her innovative and creative teaching methods, which foster high levels of student engagement and lead to in-depth and thought-provoking discussions. Mrs. Jackson’s contributions extend beyond her classroom as she actively mentors new teachers and presents school-wide professional development sessions. Above all, Mrs. Jackson is known for her kindness and genuine care for her students. Her ability to foster a love of learning in her students is a testament to her skill and expertise as an educator.

  • 2022: Sara Henry, May Hotard, Meshellia Hughes and Crystal Parker

    Sara Henry

    Ruth Upson Elementary School


    Sara Henry is a reading and language arts teacher at Ruth Upson Elementary. Ms. Henry has taught everything from AP Research at the high school level, to reading and writing for early childhood and elementary levels for 22 years. She showcases her interest in students outside of the classroom by starting a running club, creating partnerships between a local nursing home for a pen pal program, collaborating with a nearby bookstore so her students would have access to a variety of reading materials, and previously volunteered her time with marching band and Colorguard programs.

    May Hotard

    Bishop Kenny High School


    May Hotard is a Spanish teacher at Bishop Kenny High School with 38 years of teaching experience. Mrs. Hotard has shown her passion for education by leading her school’s Learning Resources Program for students with learning disabilities. She is known around the school for her laughter and enthusiasm inside the classroom, as well as her willingness to help students outside of regular work hours and assisting many student organizations such as cheerleading, Kenny Angels, Theatre and Anchor Club.

    Meshellia Hughes

    Andrew A. Robinson Elementary School


    Meshellia Hughes is a third-grade math teacher at Andrew A. Robinson Elementary and has been in the education sector for 17 years. She has assisted current and past schools make significant improvements in test scores, including helping Garden City move up to a B school in 2020-2021. Ms. Hughes has increased test scores within her classroom by 60 percent within the last five years and brings positivity into her classroom by having her students start each day by sharing positive affirmations about themselves with their classmates. 

    Crystal Parker

    Edward H. White High School


    Crystal Parker  has been a teacher in Duval County Public Schools for 21 years and is currently the Advanced Via Individual Determination (AVID) and English teacher at Edward H. White High School. Ms. Parker started the AVID program at Sandalwood High School and has been a national AVID trainer for the last nine years. She is also the basketball coach at Edward H. White, where many of her students play. Former students and colleagues praise Ms. Parker for her dedication to preparing students for post-secondary decisions focused on determination and perseverance, as well as making learning fun through creative programming such as “Parker’s Parlor” where students analyze literature over ice cream sundaes.  

  • 2021: Kirk Altman, Chris Banks, Jennifer Prescott and Sonja Sams

    Kirk Altman

    Sallye B. Mathis Elementary School


    Kirk Altman  is a veteran exceptional student education (ESE) teacher who currently teaches pre-K at Sallye B. Mathis Elementary School. Altman uses his more than 28 years of experience in the classroom to provide an abundance of care in supporting his students’ growth and development in an inclusive and creative environment. Even during COVID-19, Altman continued to virtually provide for his students with his animated story telling, art, science, literacy activities and daily routines to remain connected and provide support.

    Chris Banks

    LaVilla School of the Arts Middle School


    Chris Banks is the Band Program Director for LaVilla Schol of the Arts Middle School and believes “perfect practice makes perfect” – holding all of his students to a high standard. Banks’ impact on his students affects them well after leaving middle school. Many of his alumni return to serve as volunteers and mentors for the younger students. After teaching for 17 years he is known for his collaborative team effort, both with the faculty members and interns as well as his collaboration with local non-profit, Don’t Miss A Beat; a partnership that stemmed from wanting to provide his students of color with assistance and a community support system.

    Jennifer Prescott

    Mandarin Middle School 


    Jennifer Prescott  is is a veteran teacher with more than 37 years of experience. She currently serves as the TV Production and Career Technical Education teacher at Mandarin Middle School where she has taught for more than 30 years as a charter faculty member. Prescott shares her passion for teaching beyond the classroom to help build a better education for students and colleagues. She stepped in to help her team at the beginning of the pandemic and has made lasting impressions on her students, many of whom now have careers in TV production. Prescott also volunteers with Citibank’s Women in IT Program to expose girls to STEM, and has mentored more than 40 beginning teachers and many of COEHS’ student interns.

    Sonja Sams

    Highlands Elementary School


    Sonja Sams  has spent more than 23 years committed to serving Title I schools. Currently she serves as Highlands Elementary School’s Reading Interventionist and Television Production Sponsor. Year after year, Sams’ students are recognized for their gains and high levels of achievement. Sams is known not only for her content knowledge and expertise, but also her ability to build lasting relationships with peers and with her students.

  • 2020: Pamela Adams, Mary Mickle, Edward Moore and Jill Sullivan

    Pamela Adams

    Crown Point Elementary School


    Pamela Adams is a fifth-grade math and science teacher who has spent all of her 16-year teaching career at Crown Point Elementary School. She caters lesson plans for ESOL, gifted students and students with varying learning abilities. She also volunteers at parent/teacher and Title 1 events and serves as the school’s lead TV production club sponsor. Adams is known for sharing lesson plans with colleagues and inspiring others to seek continuous improvements. Each new lesson comes with a hands-on experience for students to learn from, with former students remember making “junk fish”, participating in market days and building models of the water cycle.

    Mary Mickle

    Waterleaf Elementary School


    Mary Mickle has been a teacher for 29 years with the last 22 years as part of the Duval County Public Schools as an elementary school music teacher. She is currently at Waterleaf Elementary School where she starts every class by singing hello to each individual student with the students singing back in response. Mickle leads the honor chorus, recorder club and is the music director for the school play. Not only does she teach and inspire children at Waterleaf, she also mentors UNF interns and teaches adults.

    Edward Moore

    Tiger Academy


    Edward Moore is a fifth grade English Language Arts teacher at Tiger Academy. Students, parents and colleagues give him the highest accolades, expressing their profound gratitude for developing rapport with each of his students and supporting them outside of the classroom, even many years after graduation. Now in his fifteenth year of teaching, he still believes in attending every sporting event, performance and graduation he is invited to by his previous students. Moore serves as a mentor for teacher candidates and is a founding member of BADD (Brothers Accountable Driven and Determined).

    Jill Sullivan

    Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle School


    Jill Sullivan has been a teacher at Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle School for the last 11 years. She is the science department chair and lead coastal science teacher. She is described as a leader amongst her peers and as a role model by her students. She is known for her kindness and openness with her students, her passion for the sciences and her deep belief in teaching through hands-on experiences. She leads her students out of the classroom and outside for research and class projects often, including walks to Sherman’s Creek to study water quality or maintaining the schools many aquariums.   

  • 2019: Amy Glendenning, Mary Phillips, Kevin Sullivan and Terry Woodlief

    Amy Glendenning

    Seabreeze Elementary School


    Amy Glendenning accepting check Amy has been teaching for 34 years, 21 of which have been at Seabreeze. She is best described as a teacher who adapts her classroom to meet the needs of every single child. Her ability to work with parents to arrange for extra instruction time, to include early mornings, afternoon and lunchtime sessions, enforces her commitment to her students' success. She is described as a teacher who seeks out ideas and resources to make sure things "click" for each and every student.

    Mary Phillips

    Duncan Fletcher Middle School


    Mary Phillips accepting check Mary has been teaching for more than 20 years and is a respected community leader in the Jacksonville Beach area. In addition to her effective and impactful teaching style, she's known for her commitment to civic duties, as evidenced by her membership in the Jacksonville Beach Citizen Police force and the countless hours she has dedicated to community-based nonprofits that provide outreach and necessary services to families and students.

    Kevin Sullivan

    Edward White High School


    Kevin Sullivan accepting check Kevin has been teaching for more than 33 years, 21 of which have been in Duval County public schools. He was considering retirement but decided to teach for five more years when he was asked to help start a magnet program at Ed White (Military Academy of Leadership). He played a crucial role ensuring the success of the Special Olympics program at Atlantic Coast High School when the program was first established and is known for his commitment to ensuring all students are included in all events.

    Terry Woodlief

    Central Riverside Elementary School


    Terry Woodlief accepting check Terry has been teaching for more than 40 years and has been repeatedly recognized as a Duval County Public School District Teacher of the Year. She has been lauded by other educators as a teacher with extensive knowledge of how to use technology in instruction, and for her ability to support the whole child by extending classroom teaching to embrace other core subjects.

  • 2018: Darellee Naccarato, Mary Beth Jones, Virginia Dickert and Joan Bacon

    Darellee Naccarato

    Seabreeze Elementary School


    For 19 years, Mrs. Darellee Naccarato has taught in four Duval County Public Schools. She is currently at Seabreeze Elementary where she was named Teacher of the Year two years ago. Mrs. Naccarato states without hesitation that teaching music and drama is her dream job and shares that the only way to make it better would be to increase the music and theatre programs in her school and throughout the county.

    Mrs. Naccarato acknowledges three teachers for guiding her path:

    Dr. Margaret Ratz who taught her to read despite a learning disability; Mrs. Sally McKee her third grade teacher who inspired her to become a teacher; and Mr. Bob Pickell, her choral director from sixth to 12th grade. Today, her students are her inspiration.

    Mrs. Naccarato teaches to instill confidence, inclusion and collaboration through performance. She recognizes that music and drama enrich the lives of both students and their families. The desire to instill confidence is found in the words of a Seabreeze parent referring to her second grade son, "Mrs. Naccarato gave him a … speaking part in the class musical… She felt like he could do it even though I wasn't sure. I cried tears of joy as I listened to that sweet, small voice speak to a crowd of parents.

    Mrs. Naccarato never doubted him for a second."

    Mary Beth Jones

    San Jose Catholic School

    GRADE 3

    Mrs. Mary Beth Jones has taught the entirety of her 37-year career at San Jose Catholic School. During nearly all that time, Mrs. Jones taught fifth grade, moving to third grade just three years ago. She has taught not one, not two, but three generations of students.

    Mrs. Jones identifies her first principal, Sr. Eithne, as her inspiration. She recognized the trust placed in her by Sr. Eithne and was committed to not letting her down. Mrs. Jones credits her first teaching partner, Margaret DiChiara, as the model for all the years of teaching that were to come.

    Mrs. Jones feels that every day is a new day for teachers and she knows that allowing teachers to find and practice their own style allows them to reach more students. Her assistant principal writes, "Countless graduates return each year, comment with other teachers about their favorite moments and stop by her classroom for a quick hug or conversation.

    They do this because of the way Mrs. Jones has prepared them for all their future endeavors. She is colorful, engaging and has a natural ability to relate to all types of students. There can be only one Mary Beth Jones, and for that our school is eternally blessed!"

    Virginia Barnett Dickert

    Jacksonville Country Day School


    Over a remarkable 36-year period, Mrs. Virginia Dickert's contributions to children and music have left an indelible mark on Jacksonville.

    She has worked with students in Duval County schools, Mandarin Baptist Church, the Jacksonville Children's Chorus and 23 years at Jacksonville Country Day School. Mrs. Dickert long ago recognized that students want and need an opportunity to shine and recognized the power of performance in a child's life. She credits her mother, her teacher Ruth Dobrin, and opportunities at Hendricks Avenue Elementary and Wolfson High School for planting the seeds to become a music educator.

    Mrs. Dickert was a Teacher of the Year, was awarded for her work "Drumline Buddies" by the Florida Music Educators Association, and plays a leading role in the North Florida Orff Chapter. In 2014, the song "Orange Blossom Special" (Arr. Robert Moore) was commissioned in her honor by the Jacksonville Children's Chorus. Colleague Chrystal Staples writes, "I have no doubt if you asked any teacher or administrator in our school, district or state organizations … there would scarcely be a person who has not heard of her or who has not been positively impacted by her professionalism, musical knowledge and giving spirit!"

    Joan M. Bacon

    LaVilla School of the Arts


    After an astonishing 43 years in classrooms on two coasts and across four states, Mrs. Joan Bacon confesses that she was an average student and had no early aspirations to become a teacher, let alone pursue a lifelong career in teaching. All that changed when she first entered the classroom. Mrs. Bacon writes, "Once I began to teach, the experience was overwhelming!" Her teaching leaves her with no doubt that all children want to learn. According to Mrs. Bacon, in order for that to happen, children need to feel welcome and safe; they need to experience mutual respect and trust; they need the tools to be successful; and they need clear and high expectations.

    Mrs. Bacon has been previously recognized as a three-time Teacher of the Year (each time in a different school), named a finalist as an Outstanding Young Educator and, in 1999, was invited to open LaVilla School of the Arts. She speaks of the vulnerable nature of adolescents and of their need for recognition, encouragement and acceptance.

    Mrs. Bacon speaks of the adolescent's critical stage of personal development and her commitment to becoming a trusted adult. To that end, former student Mandy Eastwood remembers, "I could always lean on her for help, or if I just needed someone to talk to."

  • 2017: Patrice Haupt, Alicia Henderson, Larry J. Knight, Jr. and James L. Miller

    Patrice Haupt

    Paxon School for Advanced Studies

    High School Language Arts / AP Literature

    Paxon School teacher, Patrice Haupt, believes each student is a unique individual who needs a secure, loving and inviting atmosphere in which to grow and mature emotionally, intellectually, socially and physically. Megan Mendez writes, "There are many things I could tell you about Mrs. Haupt. Above all, I want you to know about the compassion and understanding she shows to every child she encounters. We were not just her students; we were always her children. She didn't accept the bare minimum from any of us because she always saw the potential each and everyone of us had." Mrs. Haupt was inspired by the learning challenges of her son to become a teacher. That inspiration sustains her desire to be a better teacher everyday for those students who struggle and may feel forgotten. Former colleague, Sarah Axelrod, writes "She is still in the lives of the students she has taught, some of whom are in their own classrooms now." Mrs. Haupt, previously a Barnes and Noble Teacher of the Year, hopes to enroll in a doctoral program. Not surprisingly, Mrs. Haupt would like to focus her work and scholarship on those students who are the first generation in their families to apply to, enter and successfully navigate higher education.

    Alicia Henderson

    Assumption Catholic School

    Language Arts, Grade 8

    Mrs. Henderson's role model was her aunt, Barbara Green, who taught special education for 35 years and was herself a Gladys Prior Award recipient in 2010. With this inspiration in mind, Mrs. Henderson believes that it is important to gain the trust and respect of students while developing a relationship with them. She enjoys helping young people realize how much they are capable of, not only in the classroom, but in life. Along with being a language arts teacher, Mrs. Henderson serves as the cross-country coach. Parent Jennifer White writes, "Of my five children, some love to run, but aren't super-fast, some love to run and are fast and getting faster, and some don't love it, aren't fast, but know it's good for them. They love Mrs. Henderson because she is always encouraging and supporting." This attention to the individual is also evident in the classroom. Colleague Tina Amico writes, "The story seems the same each August. A good number of students enter Alicia's classroom with little or no interest in reading, either due to lack of interest or low reading level. This is where Alicia grabs hold of the reins and takes over, starting to work her magic on these unsuspecting adolescents." Mrs. Henderson's goal in life is to continue to inspire children to love reading and writing.

    Larry J. Knight, Jr.

    Stanton College Preparatory School

    High School Language Arts

    Larry J. Knight, Jr. teaches in order to enlighten his students, affect their moral, social and intellectual growth, and to help transform society through education. His teaching is informed by the philosophy that good instruction speaks directly to the learning needs of students. Former student, Manya Goldstein, speaks to Mr. Knight's commitment to both the student and the betterment of society when she describes him as the "watchful advisor" to the award winning Stanton newspaper, the Devil's Advocate. The success of the Devil's Advocate under Mr. Knight's guidance is the result of hard work and high expectations as described by student Valerie Starks, "I vividly remember submitting countless drafts of my work prior to receiving a 'P' (for publishable)." Valerie goes on to say, "He treats all people with tolerance and dignity, earning the respect of Stantonians everywhere." As a career teacher of 19 years, Mr. Knight's awards and recognitions are abundant. In addition to the Gladys Prior award, Mr. Knight is this year's Stanton College Preparatory School's Teacher of the Year. Mr. Knight's goals include continuing to hone his craft as an educator and to complete his doctoral degree, anticipated in 2018.

    James L. Miller

    LaVilla School of the Arts

    Social Studies / U.S. History, Grade 8

    Mr. James Miller comes from a long line of educators to include two siblings who are also teachers. While noting that there might be something "akin to a teaching gene" when speaking of family influence, Mr. Miller also points to Mr. Mike Ridell, his history teacher at Lee High School, as someone who inspired him as "the most difficult, demanding and best teacher I have ever known." As a Nationally Board Certified Teacher, Mr. Miller has been previously recognized as the St. Johns River Water Management Environmental Educator of the Year, the William M. Raines High School Teacher of the Year and the Duval County Region I Teacher of the Year. By all accounts, Mr. Miller is an infectious story teller who weaves maps, images, film clips and even his love of gardening into his "war" against the notion that "history is boring." Former student Jayleen Cerda is "reminded by his words to never stop seeking the truth." Mr. Miller considers teaching to be "one of the highest forms of public service-one that I am glad to partake in for the betterment of my students and our community."

  • 2016: Susan Wright Harper, Mark McGiveron, Judith McMillen Reppert and Scott Sowell, Ph.D.

    Susan Wright Harper

    Tiger Academy

    Kindergarten Teacher

    Tiger Academy teacher Susan Harper wants to provide all children the opportunity to achieve their maximum potential as confident and lifelong learners. For her former students, she has far surpassed this aim! Nia Atcherson said, "I met Ms. Harper and something started to spark inside me. Ms. Harper is determined, intelligent and full of optimism." Colleague Alisha Goins described her class as a rich and literacy-filled environment that engulfs the students every minute of their days. Ms. Harper is driven by the needs and directions of her students, and she demands their highest levels of performance. Parent Cheryl Quarles-Gaston, who is also a principal explained that Ms. Harper recognizes that her students are from communities with poverty, crime, and family instability; however, she refuses to accept all but students' highest performance. Principal Charles McWhite wrote, "Her classroom is characterized by high levels of student energy and teacher passion. The engagement level and academic performance of her predominantly inner-city kindergarten students is simply astounding." Ms. Harper is the 3-time recipient of school's Teacher of the Year. She has been teaching and nurturing students for 41 years in warm and learning environments. Her teaching techniques have been demonstrated in a number of videos and articles.

    Mark McGiveron

    Duncan Fletcher Middle School

    Gifted Program, Mathematics (Geometry)

    "If I can be that role model of positivity and show my students anything can be done, Geometry class becomes a piece of cake." Mark McGiveron uses this notion when he describes his battle with leukemia, the challenges he experienced, and how he approached this battle. Former student Katlyn McCain is majoring in education because of Mr. McGiveron's impact on her life. "I remember many times staying late where he would help you with homework, try teaching the objectives in a different way, a way that you better understood." Along with athletic coaching in high school and being nominated for Coach of the Year, Mr. McGiveron coaches the Math Counts Team, a group that consistently has garnered awards in competitions and has resulted in a National Gold Level School Status for Fletcher MS. Principal Teresa Mowbray reported that Mr. McGiveron students hold the Duval County School record for the highest percentage of students to pass the End-of-Course Exam in Geometry with percentages from 97 to 100%. He has been named the Teacher of the Year at Fletcher MS four times. Mr. McGiveron is inspired by his late mother, Karin McGiveron, who dedicated 33 years teaching 5th grade in Warwick, RI. His mother's legacy will assist him as he assures students that they matter and that they are equipped to face any obstacle in their paths.

    Judith McMillen Reppert

    Martin J. Gottlieb Day School

    Middle School Social Studies/Civics Grades 6, 7, & 8

    Judith McMillen Reppert asserts that classrooms should be a microcosm of society at its best and a place to develop individual curiosity, creativity, and future joyful passions. According to colleague Susann Turner, "She inspires her students to strive for the excitement of learning that she possesses. When Judy is discussed, words like dedicated, loving, caring, unforgettable, ‘best thing ever,' admired, and respected often surface." Ms. Reppert creates memorable learning and is an ardent believer in hands-on learning. In activities that include caveman dinners, elections, battles, or leaders, students achieve authentic learning experiences. Former student Max Goldstein stated, "It was the stories, how they linked together and felt real…There were people, reasons, events, cause and effect, and no shortage of political intrigue, whether in ancient Egypt or the Civil War." As a career teacher of 46 years, Ms. Reppert champions her parents and 7th grade history teacher Miss Shultz. As recipient of the Brit Hinukh Covenant of Education Award and Rabbi Gaffney Leadership in Education Award, Ms. Reppert continues to create engaging experiences by developing partnerships with students and encouraging student ownership in the learning process.

    Scott Sowell, Ph.D.

    Darnell Cookman Middle/High School

    Advanced Placement Environmental ScienceSenior Seminar Capstone Research

    Dr. Scott Sowell believes "we teach as we were taught," and he credits his teaching success from teachers and mentors that include his mother Margaret Sowell and previous Gladys Prior recipients Jacki Simms and Kathy Poe. Dr. Sowell has taken the mantle of mentorship forward to his teaching colleagues, and more importantly, his students. According to his principal, Carol Daniels, Dr. Sowell "consistently demonstrates the attributes of the quintessential teacher." As the 2012 Duval County Teacher of the Year and a member of the inaugural class of Leadership in Education, Dr. Sowell orchestrates learning that is built upon students' everyday lives in order to make science livable, meaningful, and purposeful. His colleague, Gayle Fiser reports he is constantly seeking new learning experiences and techniques to deliver meaningful information to his students. Because of his motivating efforts, a host of his students have been inspired to continue their educational pursuits in science; Kaitlyn Rullow and Matthew Braden credit Dr. Sowell for their decisions to major in coastal biology. As Dr. Sowell articulated, "I understand that being a teacher is about shaping the current lives and future identities of students, and I take that responsibility very seriously."

  • 2015: Valerie Doner, Timothy Kenney, Cormac O‚ÄôRiordan and Mollie Peterson

    Valerie Doner

    Bishop Kenny High School

    AP Language, Speech, and Debate

    English Department Chair

    Bishop Kenny High School teacher Valerie Doner experiences a thrill "each time the bell ushers in a new group of students." As a teacher of 37 years, she believes education is alive. "I have interacted with so many truly exceptional people - students, parents, teachers, and administrators - that my life has been very rich. Some think this is a thankless job: I beg to differ. I am thankful for every year that I have had in the classroom..."

    Inspired by her high school English teacher, Esther Johnson and ultimate hero of all time, Samuel Johnson, L.L.D., Valerie has forwarded this inspiration and shared her expertise with students who routinely come back to express their appreciation to her. Assistant Academic Dean Laura Yocum recounts that former students make a point to stop by the school to personally thank Valerie for teaching them, for believing in them, and for pushing them to realize their potential and reach for the proverbial stars. Former student and University of Central Florida professor, Dr. Peter Sinelli states that without Valerie as his English teacher, speech and debate coach, theatre director and dedicated mentor, he could not imagine that his life would have turned out as it has.

    Timothy Kenney

    Mandarin Oaks Elementary School

    5th grade Mathematics

    Tim Kenney believes he "inherited" the family business of teaching from his educator parents, and he relates that from an early age, he witnessed the impact of teachers in both the classroom and community. He carries that impact forward to his students daily. Ashley, one of his students describes Tim as an "amazing, awesome, spectacular, and not so boring teacher because he wanted this job for a see all of our beautiful faces and smiles." As a teacher with 13 years of experience, Tim has garnered impressive awards that include the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching, UNF Outstanding Alumnus Award, and he has been the recipient of several teaching fellowships. Tim also is the first Gladys Roddenberry Fellow to be awarded the Gladys Prior Award. His principal, Patricia Carson relates that "Tim believes that by creating a classroom climate where students feel respected and supported, he builds a foundation of trust and self-confidence. He also believes that by making learning interesting and fun, he can engage his students and get them excited about learning."

    Cormac O'Riordan

    The Bolles SchoolHonors Contemporary World History

    AP European History

    History teacher Cormac O'Riordan is passionate! Scott Smith, Associate Head/Academic Dean of The Bolles School describes Cormac as passionate about teaching, history, learning how to think, developing integrity, modeling maximum effort, and showing respect for diverse opinions. As a veteran teacher of 19 years, Cormac states, "I can't imagine a better job than introducing students to historical periods, people and events, and together analyzing why studying history is essential to our responsibilities as citizens in a liberal democracy." Parents Michael and Jill Abel conveyed that Cormac is highly skilled in offering sustained inspiration to students while instilling a passion for history that causes students to analyze diverse and interesting perspectives. As the son of an elementary teacher in Ireland, Cormac attributes his love for teaching to his mother and other exemplary teachers at The Bolles School. Cormac has been the recipient of The Dewan Teaching Fellow Award in 2006 and 2014, and the Edward E. Ford Merit Award in 1999, 2002, and 2009.

    Mollie Peterson

    James Weldon Johnson College Prep Middle School

    8th grade Language Arts (self-contained gifted)

    Mollie Peterson teaches 8th grade Language Arts at James Weldon Johnson College Prep Middle School, and she has taught eleven years at this school. Mollie believes her classroom should be a place that sparks and fosters curiosity, discovery, and creativity, as well as a place that teaches students to consider others' points of view. "I host 130 students every two days and I aim to create a place that harkens back to the salons of Paris where we refine our thinking through reading, writing, and discussion; where we learn to respect and love each other because we share a common compassion." Mollie's role model, friend, and teacher is her mother, Mary Browning. Mollie credits her mother for coaching her to make students feel comfortable in their school "homes" by serving them and caring deeply about them. Mollie's techniques pay off reports student Aditi Anna. "She always encourages her students which is really good if you're ever feeling down on a day, you know she'll bring your hopes up." Principal Sharwonda Peek respects Mollie for the manner in which she knows each of her students on an individual level. Mollie is the first Gladys Prior recipient at James Weldon Johnson College Prep Middle School.

  • 2014: Victor Sciullo, Katherine Nesselrode, Eric A. Jackson and Roberta Knieberg

    Victor SciulloI

    B Prep and AP Chemistry

    Paxon School for Advanced Studies

    Victor Sciullo teaches IB Prep and AP chemistry at Paxon School for Advanced Studies. To ensure the academic success of his students, he created a database of his lectures and tutors outside of class. Victor weaves life's lessons into his teaching and reaches students who previously had little or no interest in science. He tells students to remember that life is like a hallway. Along the hallway are open doors. When you start to make decisions some doors open and others close. Don't let those doors close. Make sure they stay open by keeping your goals in sight. Victor doesn't just teach chemistry; he teaches the whole student.

    Katherine Nesselrode

    AP/AICE English/Language Arts

    Mandarin High School

    Katherine Nesselrode, a 27 year veteran, teaches AP/AICE English Language Arts at Mandarin High School. Kathy never gives up on students no matter how much they are struggling or slacking because she believes all her students are capable of success. Her mantra to her students is: "You will not fail my class" and she goes above and beyond to be sure they do it, staying long after the school day ends to mentor her students to success. She expects excellence and she gets it.

    Eric A. Jackson

    5th Grade Math and Science

    Atlantic Beach Elementary School

    Eric Jackson teaches 5th grade math and science at Atlantic Beach Elementary School. His 14 year career started at S.A. Hull Elementary where he was recognized for his excellence as a teacher of urban children. He spent two years as a district level math coach but missed teaching his own students so he returned to the classroom. His nominator said, "Anyone can sympathize, shake their heads, and move on when students do not perform to their potential, but every now and then we are granted the privilege of knowing a compassionate teacher who is moved to do something about it. Mr. Jackson is such a teacher. He has such a contagious spirit and such relentless determination and the results are students who believe they can fly, and they do." A parent said, "Mr. Jackson isn't just teaching math and science, he is developing thinkers." Her two children have become excellent math students as a result of Eric's excellent teaching and his willingness to come early and stay late to coach his students.

    Roberta Knieberg

    Exceptional Student Education/ Learning Strategies

    Fletcher Middle School

    Roberta (Robbie) Knieberg teaches students with varying exceptionalities at Fletcher Middle School where she was once a student. Her former teacher, Ethel Stanton, volunteered in Robbie's class for ten years. She admired Robbie's high level of energy, good humor and motivational methods to enliven instruction. One student said that she would never have passed 6th grade without Robbie's kind, patient help and willingness to listen. The girl's' mother reported that Robbie encouraged her daughter to run for (and win) Student Council vice president. Robbie sponsored award winning cheerleading squads for years, an example of her deep involvement in her schools. She created an annual scholarship fund at Fletcher Senior High School called "Cap and Gown" which provides money to five students for senior activities they can't afford. She saw a need and filled it in honor of her father who never graduated. A teacher for 36 years, Robbie is a National Board Certified Teacher, a Princeton Scholar, and a Fulbright scholar who spent three weeks in Japan.

  • 2013: Kelly Delaney, Regina Morris, Shirelle Quaintance and Kelley Ranch

    Kelly Delaney

    Art/ 3D/ Sculpture

    Atlantic Coast High School

    Kelly Delaney teaches art at Atlantic Coast High School where her students excel in competitions and community involvement. A former colleague praises Kelly for welcoming students with disabilities into her classes and opening their minds to creative success. A student supporter appreciates Kelly for helping him adjust to a new school, referring him for scholarships, and involving him with other students in community service projects with the Jacksonville Humane Society, No More Homeless Pets, Hubbard House, Second Harvest Food Bank, and other non-profit organizations.

    Regina Morris

    Exceptional Student Education Inclusion

    West Jacksonville Elementary School

    Regina Morris teaches exceptional students at West Jacksonville Elementary, the school she went to as a child. Regina has taught students with disabilities for 25 years. She is passionate about including all exceptional students in school-wide activities. Her principal, Robert Gresham, who has worked with her for over twenty years, recalls a field trip where the other teachers were apprehensive about allowing her students with autism to go. One child was a "runner" who would take off, unsupervised. Aided by other students who volunteered to be his buddies, the student enjoyed the trip. A parent of three children with autism credits Regina giving them the love, guidance and instruction that has led two of them to high school graduation this year.

    Shirelle Quaintance

    8th Grade Gifted/Advanced English Language Arts

    Kirby-Smith Middle School

    Shirelle Quaintance teaches 8th grade English Language Arts students at Kirby-Smith Middle School. She's been teaching for 14 years. She is known as a strict, demanding teacher who cares deeply about her students. Even though her advanced and gifted students are capable of outstanding scholarship, many have life experiences that keep them from academic success. Parents sing her praises, one even admitting she was as nervous as her child about meeting Mrs. Quaintance. As her daughter struggled because of her disabilities, Shirelle was a force to be reckoned with. As she does with all her students, she would not accept failure and would not give up on this student who is now a straight A student in high school.

    Kelley Ranch


    Jean Ribault High School

    Dr. Kelley Ranch teaches Latin at Ribault High School. According to her former principal, Dr. James Young, she played an instrumental role in moving Ribault from an "F" school grade to an "A" in three years. Kelley's commitment to her school and the surrounding community began when she voluntarily transferred from a high-performing magnet school to teach at Ribault when it was a low-performing school. She lives in the neighborhood and is deeply committed to changing the image of urban schools from failures to successes. Kelley has been a teacher for 28 years.