Standing before a group of over 170 persons, Dr. Karyn Gary, Superintendent of Schools, announced the winners of the Volunteer, Substitute, Support Person and Teacher of the Year for the School District of DeSoto County. The annual Employee and Volunteer of the Year event was held at the Turner Agri-Civic Center on Thursday, February 20th. This was the second year the School District of DeSoto County and the DeSoto County Education Foundation, Inc. joined forces to host the event.
The program began with the presentation of the colors presented by the DeSoto County High School ROTC. After a welcome by foundation’s chairperson Ann Ryals, the Superintendent Dr. Karyn Gary introduced the nominees and the winners in each of the categories. Teacher of the Year nominees included: Julie Chidsey who teaches at DeSoto High School; Jolie’Schanck who teaches at Nocatee Elementary School; Jacqueline Harris who teaches at West Elementary; Brittany Hines who teaches at DeSoto Middle School; Mary Pete Martin who teaches at the DeSoto Early Childhood Center and Stephanie Langford who teaches at Memorial Elementary School.
Mrs. Stephanie Langford, a Kindergarten teacher at Memorial Elementary School, was named Teacher of the Year for DeSoto County. “My role as a teacher goes beyond reading, writing and math. It also entails teaching life skills, diligence and responsibility…students are respected and taught to respect…success is not an option, it is an ambition,” Mrs. Langford stated in her application. “My students will only be as successful as I make them. If excellence is what I seek, then I must strive for it myself.
“We have qualified staff in all our schools,” stated Superintendent Gary, “and choosing just one to represent our district was not an easy task. We are indeed proud of Mrs. Langford and all that she exemplifies.” Mrs. Langford received and iPad from iPad from Womack Sanitation, a gift card from Albritton Insurance Services, a gift card from VALIC Financial Advisors, Inc., a gift card from Mosaic, a certificate from the DeSoto County Health Department and a personal crafted pen from Tim Vowels of McDonalds. In addition, the school district awards a monetary award to the Teacher of the Year.
New this year to the celebration, was the recognition of the Rookie Teacher of the Year. This teacher is one that is within their first three years of teaching and portrays the lasting qualities of an exceptional teacher. Those nominees were: Elisabeth Jensen who teaches at West Elementary; Amanda Yates who teaches at Memorial Elementary; Jennifer Buonaiuto who teaches at DeSoto County High School and Ashley Simser who teaches at Nocatee Elementary School. The winner in this category, Jennifer Buonaiuto is the teacher of the Business and IT Academy at DeSoto County High School.
The School related Employee of the Year was also recognized for their dedication and support work to the district. Each nominee received a certificate with the winner receiving a gift certificate from Mosaic, a gift certificate from the DeSoto County Health Department, and a gift certificate from VALIC Financial Advisors. Albritton Insurance presented the Support Employee of the Year with an iPad. The nominees were: Amie Rizzo / DCHS; Jorge Cerna/ NES; Gloria Montelongo / WES; Daniel Doran / DMS; Sandra Aquilar / MES; Natalyn Flemming / DECC; Lou McDonald / Finance Department and Alan Cespedes / IT Department. The winner was Lou McDonald representing the Finance Department.
Substitute of the Year nominees were Sue Knight, Ann Buchard, Carolyn McKinney and Michelle Griffin. The winner was Sue Knight who represented DeSoto County High School.
Volunteer of the Year nominees were: Shelby Young / WES; Judith Idle / WES (Winner in the Adult category); Donna Brown / NES; J Refugio Tovar / NES (Winner in the Youth category); Roberto San Luis / FSC (Winner in the Senior category); Elvia Valdovinos / FSC; Sharon Shatney / DECC and Juan Jimenez / DECC.
“We are pleased to be able to be a part of this recognition,” stated Martha Jo Markey Executive Director of the DeSoto County Education Foundation. “We applaud our sponsors of the event, Suncoast Schools Credit Union, Mosaic, Ryals Cattle Co., Womack Sanitation, Albritton Insurance Services, LLC, VALIC Financial Advisors and the DeSoto County Health Department. We commend their commitment to the teachers and staff of the school district.”