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Four Jacksonville teachers honored with 2022 Gladys Prior for Career Teaching Excellence $15K award

The University of North Florida College of Education and Human Services (COEHS) today surprised four local Jacksonville teachers with the 2022 Gladys Prior Awards for Career Teaching Excellence and $15,000 each, one of the largest monetary awards for teachers in the nation.

The 2022 award winners are Meshellia Hughes from Andrew A. Robinson Elementary School, May Hotard from Bishop Kenny High School, Crystal Parker from Edward H. White High School, and Sara Henry from Ruth N. Upson Elementary School.

The Gladys Prior Awards for Career Teaching Excellence were established in 1998 by Gilchrist Berg, founder and president of Water Street Capital, to honor teachers with lifelong careers in education. Berg has given more than $2 million to honor Jacksonville teachers. The award is named after Berg’s fourth-grade teacher at Ortega Elementary School, Gladys Prior.

UNF’s COEHS manages the gift and arranges the annual surprise award for each teacher at their school surrounded by faculty, staff and students.

“The Gladys Prior Awards are a wonderful opportunity to recognize the exceptional teachers in the Jacksonville area who are dedicated to education and making a significant difference and impact with their students,” said UNF COEHS dean Dr. Diane Yendol-Hoppey. “We are very appreciative to Gilchrist Berg for his continued commitment to education with these awards.”

The 2022 Gladys Prior Awards for Career Teaching Excellence recipients:

Meshellia Hughes receiving the Gladys Prior Awards for Career Teaching ExcellenceMeshellia Hughes is a third-grade math teacher at Andrew A. Robinson Elementary and has been in the education sector for more than 15 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% 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. 


May Hotard receiving the Gladys Prior Awards for Career Teaching ExcellenceMay Hotard is a Spanish teacher at Bishop Kenny High School with more than 40 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.



Crystal Parker receiving the Gladys Prior Awards for Career Teaching ExcellenceCrystal Parker has been a teacher in Duval County Public Schools for more than 20 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.


Sara Henry receiving the Gladys Prior Awards for Career Teaching ExcellenceSara 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 more than 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.