DeShazo named ‘New Teacher the Year’
A Caloosa Middle School teacher was surprised this week with the school district’s inaugural New Teacher of the Year award.
Junior Leadership Instructor Daniel DeShazo was presented the commendation Monday by a contingent that included district officials and administrators as well as fellow teachers.
“I was surprised when I was nominated because I am actually the only first-year teacher at my school,” DeShazo said. “I never really had anybody to compare myself to. I do the best job I can.”
Although he thought his interviews went well, he was still surprised to be named the 2019 New Teacher of the Year. School administrators nominated the teachers and a selection committee picked five finalists who then were interviewed before the inaugural award winner was chosen.
“The Division of Human Resources wants to positively highlight the teaching profession,” Chief Human Resource Officer Dr. Angela Pruitt said in a prepared statement. “Since it is a critically important time to hire great teachers for our children, we want to shine a light on a deserving beginning teacher to assist with recruitment and retention into the field of education.”
This is DeShazo’s first year of teaching.
Before joining the Lee County School District, he was in the U.S. Marine Corps for five years, where he started to develop the skills of training and teaching Marines.
“I wanted to do something to make a difference in my community, my country. I worked very briefly as a firefighter way back before the economy crashed. That was my first goal. When that didn’t work out I joined the Marine Corps,” DeShazo said. “I believe in public service. I decided to make a difference in the community and society and be easier on my body.”
He was hired by Caloosa Middle School during a district career fair last year.
The decision to become a teacher was one that came relatively easy: his parents and sister work in education.
“It was always kind of there. It seemed like a good thing to get into after my time in the Marine Corps,” DeShazo said.
He became the Junior Leadership Program (JLP) teacher, a middle school version program of JROTC, that was launched at Caloosa Middle this year.
“There are a few schools in the Lee County School District,” DeShazo said of having JLP. “(Caloosa) is the only one in the West Zone. The others are in Lehigh. It’s Caloosa’s first year of having the program and my first year of teaching.”
The program, he said is awesome, one that is making a difference with the students.
“Mr. DeShazo has taken this opportunity and embraced it with open arms,” Caloosa Middle School Assistant Principal Melissa Booth said in prepared statement. “He quickly demonstrated a natural ability to build and foster relationships with students while embodying our school’s vision of inspiring a passion for learning and leadership.”
The Junior Leadership Program touches upon character development, drill and ceremony and physical training. It is a semester- long course, which attracted 250 kids for each semester.
“It does allow me to meet all the kids at the school. I have got to know a lot of them. I’ve developed relationships and connections with a wide reach of students here,” he said.
The character development helps middle school students make the transition from elementary school, and later into high school. The program focuses on leadership traits and skills, as well as different strategies to deal with challenges that come with life.
The drill and ceremony component focuses on military drills, physical fitness and training through exercises and games.
DeShazo said he has received really positive feedback from the students. Although the program is not for everybody, he said he has had a number of students ask how they can be a part of the program next semester.
“They are responding really well. I’m teaching them how to become better people. The main objective is to produce better citizens,” DeShazo said. “They want to be better and more successful people. They are learning how to cope from being a little elementary 10-, 11-year-old to being a young teen and adolescent.”
The context and curriculum is focused on relativity with such topics as peer pressure and time management.
“All of these topics that they face on a daily basis, they see an immediate connection to that,” DeShazo said.
The Junior Leadership Program is expanding next year to an advanced year-long version. The program will be divided more by grade level, as well as focused on community outreach and community service.
He said they will work more with movement, drill and marching, as well as have more opportunity to dive into leadership through a structured chain of command.
Students will have the opportunity to participate in team building activities, help in guiding curriculum and fundraisers.
DeShazo said he will be sitting at the top of the chain of command, but the students will be allowed to take more responsibility.
The opportunity to build relationships with students and faculty has been what DeShazo has enjoyed the most.
“I have a great administration at Caloosa. My co-workers and peers have helped me out. As a first-year teacher I am seeking advice constantly. I have been blessed to build relationships with people I work with and students too. Some of the advice I have gotten from co-workers . . . building those relationships with the kids. That to me rings very true. They are not going to care how much you know until they know how much you care,” DeShazo said. “It’s been good to come in the first year and immediately start forming those relationships and bonds with the students.”