Teacher of the Year awards event set for Jan. 20


INK! (Investing in Kids), the direct support organization benefiting St. Johns County School District, announced the five finalists for the 2021-22 Teacher of the Year award on Dec. 21 in a countywide “Prize Patrol” visit to each of the finalists’ schools.

INK! promotes academic success for all St. Johns County public school students through innovative programs, classroom grants and teacher support initiatives. The annual Teacher of the Year celebration is a special recognition program to honor educators in the county. The teachers were nominated by their peers from every school in St. Johns County.

On Jan. 20, INK! board members, staff and volunteers along with St. Johns County School District Superintendent Tim Forson and officials will recognize veteran and rookie teachers during an event to announce the winning Teacher of the Year and Rookie Teacher of the Year.

Nominees will also be in attendance for their outstanding demonstration of instructional skills, student interaction, professional excellence and importance in the lives of hundreds of students. The recognition will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a banquet and program at World Golf Village Renaissance St. Augustine Resort, 500 S. Legacy Trail in St. Augustine.

Teacher of the Year finalists include Andrew Burk, band director at Valley Ridge Academy; Veronica Fuata, second-grade teacher at Cunningham Creek Elementary School; Robie Hagan, instructional literacy coach at Wards Creek Elementary School; Patricia McElhone, academic interventionist at St. Johns Virtual School; and Sharon Warwell-Murden, fifth-grade teacher at R.B. Hunt Elementary School. The countywide awards program will commemorate recipients as local scholastic leaders who help to build community awareness of the region’s best educators.

All finalists were honored during the surprise visits in December by school officials and 2020-21 St. Johns County Teacher of the Year Ali Pressel from Creekside High School. Visits also included program sponsors and supporters who provided flowers, applause and accolades at each school with school principals, staff members and students. Beaver Toyota St. Augustine hosted the day with its Bucky the Beaver mascot on prize patrol. Old Town Trolley Tours provided transportation with Leonard’s Photography donating photographs.

The educator named as Teacher of the Year 2021-2022 will have an opportunity to apply for the Florida Teacher of the Year program and receive various awards, including a new car to drive from Beaver Toyota St. Augustine.

“We invite the community to be a part of the honors by supporting INK!'s annual Teacher of the Year celebration,” said Donna Lueders, INK!’s executive director. “This year highlights our teachers who bring out the brilliance in students. During the event, we will recognize and revere the contributions of outstanding classroom teachers who are dedicated and contribute to the future of our children.”

Sponsorships are available with a variety of benefits including reserved tables and guest tickets, name and brand recognition, signage, program opportunities, and more, starting at $375. For information, contact Lueders at 904-547-7120 or email Donna.Lueders@stjohns.k12.fl.us.

Investing in Kids (INK!) provides innovative resources to support academic success for all St. Johns County public schools to benefit 44,000 students and approximately 2,785 teachers. The office is located at 1 Christopher St. in St. Augustine. For more information, go to ink-stjohns.org.


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