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Teacher of the Year finalists announced

By Staff | Nov 27, 2015

The Lee County School District has announced the finalists for its annual Teacher of the Year award.

Every year the Lee County School District has a difficult task of naming the recipient of the Teacher of the Year award. What makes it so difficult is the fact that only one of the many devoted and dedicated teachers across the district can be chosen. The district would like to recognize the following seven teachers as finalists for this year’s award they embody the district’s vision of being a world-class school system through their work in our schools each day.

Chasey Niebrugge, River Hall Elementary

Ms. Niebrugge is a teacher that encompasses all of the components of a model teacher. She is a 4th grade inclusion teacher at River Hall Elementary. This is her sixth year teaching, her second in Lee County. Ms Niebrugge has an in-depth knowledge of curriculum and instructional strategies, but most of all she teaches with heart. She takes all of her knowledge and creates a learning environment that is rich with solid teaching practices that motivates students. Her love and passion for her students shines through in every aspect of what she does and her high level of commitment to this profession. Ms. Niebrugge continues to educate herself and evolve to higher standards and expectations to be the highest example of a mentor, teacher and individual.

Denise Fenicle, North Fort Myers Academy of the Arts

Ms. Fenicle is a teacher that performs at extremely high levels in all her responsibilities as a second grade teacher at North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts. She is a masterful teacher that strives for perfection in and out of the classroom. Ms. Fenicle is extremely knowledgeable in all facets of elementary operations and curriculum. Over the past 30 years, she has maintained a record of superior teaching. Ms. Fenicle provides a positive classroom environment, developing innovative lessons for her students, and exhibits excellent communication skills. She consistently completes well-designed lesson plans which encompass a variety of instructional strategies including the integration of hands on activities, cooperative learning, direct instruction, and group work.

Heather Dunn, Orange River Elementary

Walking into Ms. Dunn’s classroom is like taking a breath of fresh air. Children are always engaged in activities that are relevant and meaningful and Ms. Dunn, smilingly is in the midst of the learning. Entering her room you are immediately drawn in. There are always many examples of children’s written work on the walls, charts that Ms. Dunn has made as teaching tools, poetry centers, reading corners, writing centers, computer work, vocabulary games, and science research. Her students perform very well academically, because of Ms. Dunn’s dedication to these children. Her lesson plans are exemplary and it is evident that she spends time creating engaging activities for her students based on the Florida Standards.

Jacqueline Curls, North Fort Myers High School

Mrs. Jacqueline Curls has been a teacher at North Fort Myers High School for ten years. During that time, she has been instrumental in bringing us more Science Fair Awards than those of any other school in Lee County. She has also contributed greatly to the articulation of the science curriculum between the middle school and high school, thereby contributing in some measure to their Science Fair accomplishments, too. More important than the awards, of course, is her ability to turn students on to Science. Her caring attitude and superior knowledge of the subject make her effective with students at all levels of ability. She is constantly broadening her knowledge, improving her skills, and sharing with her peers what she has learned.

James Johnson, Cypress Lake High School

Mr. Johnson believes that teachers need to constantly learn new techniques, skills and knowledge to become better. In an effort to remain well trained in his subject area, he regularly attends institutes, in-services, and workshops for chemistry, physics, Advanced Placement, reading strategies, and learning strategies. Mr. Johnson is always willing to do, find, or use whatever will work to engage his students. As a classroom teacher, Mr. Johnson holds his students to the highest standards. He approaches his classroom as a place for students to become effective critical thinkers, better at analyzing and problem solving. His expectations are so high; his belief in success is so unswerving; and his method is so persuasive that his students find themselves believing that it is possible that they can succeed and then do it.

Matthew Kaye, North Fort Myers High School

Mr. Kaye goes above and beyond the expectations of even the most demanding of critics. He serves as a highly effective Social Studies PLC Department Chairman. His colleagues see him as their instructional leader because of his wealth of knowledge in professional development and best practices. He is currently working on his doctoral degree from Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) specializing in Educational Leadership. Mr. Kaye demonstrates superior ability to foster excellence in education and contribute to the continuous improvement of student learning and the school environment. He engages parents/families in the learning process to enhance student achievement. He participates in peer coaching and mentoring students who are experiencing difficulties, regardless if they are his own students.

Sarai Dutton, South Fort Myers High School

Mrs. Dutton is an outstanding teacher; she creates an environment of compassion, respect and academic success. Her love of teaching is clear when you walk into her classroom. Students are truly engaged in the lesson content and enjoy the learning process. She has mastered the delivery of quality instruction techniques including timely hooks, transitions and formative assessments. Her magnetic personality allows for powerful discussions and critical thinking. Mrs. Dutton understands the importance of being an instructional leader, taking on roles as the Social Studies Department Chairperson and Academic Coach. Her coaching abilities are evident, mentoring first year teachers and hosting interns from Florida Gulf Coast University. She is the very essence of a model teacher, working cooperatively with other educators and unselfishly sharing best practices.

The district will surprise the winner of this year’s Teacher of the Year award during a special ceremony on Tuesday, Dec. 8. The time and location will be announced.