By Martie Thompson

Julington Creek Elementary School first grade teacher Amy Grimm has been named the 2017 – 2018 St. Johns County Teacher of the Year. She had been named the Teacher of the Year for Julington Creek Elementary once before, in 2002 – 2003, and said she was surprised to be nominated at the school level again since she had previously won. This year, however, she learned that she was one of four finalists for the entire county via a surprise classroom visit and celebration by district administration just before Winter Break.

The next step was an unannounced observation visit to her classroom by the panel of district judges. Before attending the annual Teacher of the Year Banquet on Jan. 24, Grimm said each finalist was asked to bring a student or former student to introduce their teacher. Grimm loved this idea and was pleased to invite former student and current fourth grader, Sarah Rose, to accompany her.

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“My job as a teacher is about the kids,” Grimm said.

Beaver Toyota gifts a car to the Teacher of the Year, and Grimm said she is grateful for this.

“Our older Camry was starting to leak a little oil over the holidays, so we will definitely take advantage of this generous gift,” she said.

Grimm will now advance to the state level Teacher of the Year competition, with the winner announced sometime in July.

Grimm, who grew up in Cumberland, Md., received her bachelor’s degree in early childhood and elementary education from Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Md. She then moved to Florida with her parents and accepted her first teaching position as a first grade teacher at Ketterlinus Elementary School in St. Augustine in 1995. She married her high school sweetheart, Jason Grimm, in 1997 and they have two children: Ethan, a ninth grader at Creekside High School and Natalie, who attends the dance magnet program at Murray Middle School.

1) What do you like most about teaching first grade?

The wonder and the joy that the students experience. They are so excited about learning and there is so much growth in this year, especially as they become readers. They come in to my classroom dependent and blossom into confident learners by the end of the year. I always say first grade is a magical year.

2) What is your favorite subject to teach?

I like science, especially the exploratory and investigative nature of it. But I like to pair it with reading and math and social studies, with all subjects integrated. That’s where kids learn the most.

3) What is the most challenging part of your job?

The last day of school! Everyone is so sad to leave. We all bond so much. A lot of teachers might say testing is the most challenging part, but I don’t get wrapped up in that. I feel like we have to focus on what we can control — and that is the love of learning. This love of learning is a big reason why I try to support the students’ extracurricular passions as well. I try to attend one activity per student in my class each year.

4) Where do you see yourself in five or even 10 years?

Still in the classroom. I love being with the kids and I feel like this is my gift. I have no desire to go into administration. I do feel like I have a calling to advocate for other teachers as well. So I do some mentoring and have leadership roles within the school, such as serving on the SAC committee.

5) If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things (not people) would you take with you and why?

I’d take a camera, so I could document my experience and also a book or maybe a journal to write in. I’d also take a bathing suit so I could take a swim. It’s a beautiful warm island, right?


Photo courtesy Kelly Benson Photography

Amy Grimm


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