By Martie Thompson
Amanda Hildenbrand, first grade teacher at Crown Point Elementary, is her school’s Teacher of the Year — in addition to being one of five finalists for the Duval County Teacher of the Year. Despite not being selected for the county designation, she calls the honor “amazing.” Hildenbrand was born in New York, but grew up in Brevard County. She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Central Florida and her master’s degree in reading and elementary education from Grand Canyon University. She began her teaching career back in Brevard County and taught for five years before moving to Jacksonville with her soon-to-be husband, Kyle. She started working at Crown Point as a kindergarten teacher in 2018 and then looped up with her class to first grade, where she has remained. She and her husband have a hound-mix dog, Vinny, and are excitedly expecting their first child in April.
Q: How did you know you wanted to be a teacher?
A: My parents always gave back to the community, which they thought was important. They were part of the Jaycees as I was growing up and felt it was important to make a positive impact where you lived. I have two brothers, one older and one younger, and both are police officers. I decided at a young age that I could give back and make a positive impact by being a teacher. I think the personal connections you can make with students as well as making learning fun are so important.
Q: How did you meet your husband?
A: He was from Iowa, but came to my hometown for a wedding. We were actually introduced and set up by the bride. We had a long distance relationship and then he moved to Jacksonville, where he got a job — so we still had a distance relationship, just not quite as long. One year later, I moved to Jacksonville, too.
Q: What is one of your favorite things about teaching first grade?
A: One of my favorite things that this age group likes is when I do room transformations. I’ve had a “Star Books Cafe” room (and Starbucks even donated cups and drinks!) and Spy Lab, which contained 100th Day of School activities. It’s an honor to make these memories with my students.
Q: How did you find out you were a finalist for the Duval County Teacher of the Year and did you get to know the other finalists at this time?
A: First of all, when I came to school on announcement day, I noticed the celebratory pom poms in the hallway! I started teaching my class and then in walked everyone — Superintendent Greene, my colleagues, Jaxson de Ville and the cheerleaders and then my husband. I was so thankful I could share this with my students. Their smiles were everything to me.
After all the finalists were named, I emailed them all to reach out and introduce myself. We all got together a couple of times and had dinner before the Teacher of the Year banquet. They were such a supportive team and we all learned from each other. We shared throughout the process and calmed each other’s nerves. They really made it so special and we plan to continue to stay in touch.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: Well, my hobbies will be changing at the end of April [when the baby is due]! But Kyle and I like being outdoors a lot. We enjoy walking and I like to cook, especially chicken piccata. I also like to eat out!
Photo courtesy Leonard’s Studios
Amanda Hildenbrand with husband Kyle at the EDDY Awards.