West Elementary teacher Jackie Harris started this week like many others, working with students in her STEAM lab, creating new and exciting lessons for the students, talking with peers about learning strategies and preparing for her classes. This may seem little out of the ordinary, considering that on January 23th she was named DeSoto County’s Teacher of the Year, an honor that included a check for $5,000, from MIDFLORIDA and several other monetary gifts for her and her classroom.
The administrators and staff of West Elementary and the School District of DeSoto County, are as excited for her as are his students. An educator for 9 years, Mrs. Harris is known for having high goals for herself and for her students. “I am inspired to teach so that I can make a difference in children’s lives,” said Mrs. Harris. “I have the potential to make a significant impact on these permeable and easily-influenced lives.” In Harris’s STEAM lab, nothing is an assumed skill. She takes the time to teach students team building and it becomes a priority in her classroom from the first day. Strengths that are evident include students working in a positive, collaborative effort and at the same time working independently in their group.
“I am very excited to go on to the next level representing DeSoto County Schools!” stated Mrs. Harris. “I am delighted to reside and work in DeSoto County. I am very proud to be part of the school faculty as we persevere in sowing our resources and best-practice instruction into our students in order to help them prepare not only for a trade, craft, or a profession; but also to help instill in them employability skills and encourage them to be proactive leaders in their day-to-day affairs. And I will never forget Alexandra Tenorio, one of my proactive fifth graders, introducing me with such poise and grace, on stage. Alex is the epitome of Stephen Covey’s Leader in Me – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People program! I am extremely proud of Alex and her accomplishments, and look forward to her future!”
DeSoto County’s Rookie Teacher of the Year is a teacher with less than three (3) years’ experience who exhibits those natural skills and techniques for being a great educator. This year the nominee chosen was Ms. Devin Lipe. A native of DeSoto County and a graduate of DeSoto High School, Ms. Lipe believes that an outstanding teacher should be able to positively interact with their students. “They need to form positive relationships with students and keep their best interest at heart,” she stated in her application. She noted that a great teacher should have the ability to be patient, excited about the subject matter, multi task, and be flexible to change the presentation of material at a moment’s notice to best teach the material.
Perla Barajas, Family Service Center’s Testing Specialist, was chosen from a distinguished group of nine (9) district nominees as the School Related Employee of the Year. “I was shocked and honored to be chosen by my school and even more for the entire school district,” Mrs. Barajas said. “It was very much a surprise”. Mrs. Barajas first came to the Family Service Center as a student, passed her GED exam, gained Citizenship, completed the 1050 hour Administrative Assistant program and received her ParaPro Certification in 2010. “I am honored to be representing DeSoto County,” she said.
The gala celebration and recognition of these employees was hosted by the DeSoto County Education Foundation at the Turner Agri-Civic Center. “Because of our Platinum Sponsors; MidFlorida, Mosaic, Ryals Cattle Company and Suncoast Schools Credit Union,” stated Martha Jo Markey Executive Director the foundation, “we are able to host a function worthy of the employees that were are recognizing. Our annual event Sponsors: Albritton Insurance Services, McDonald’s, VALIC Financial Advisors and Womack Sanitation, are extremely generous with their funding of gifts for the winners. MidFlorida awarded a $5,000 check to the Teacher of the Year and a $2,500 check to the School Related Employee of the Year. Suncoast Credit Union awarded $1,000 to the Rookie Teacher of the Year. All three (3) winners received specialty pens, a $100 check from VALIC and a stipend check from the school district. In addition, the Teacher of the Year and the Rookie Teacher of the Year received a $500 Classroom Grant from McDonald’s and Womack Sanitation respectively. The School Related Employee of the Year received a $500 gift card from Albritton Insurance Services and the Teacher and Rookie Teacher also received gift cards from Albritton Insurance. We are so grateful for our sponsors support and the generous contributions to this recognition event. All of the nominees are so deserving!”