By Martie Thompson

In October, individual public schools across Duval County named their Teachers of the Year. Principals nominated these outstanding educators for the district’s top teaching honor of 2022 VyStar Duval County Teacher of the Year. The school winners will go on to be considered as semi-finalists and finalists for the county’s top teaching honor and they will be invited to apply for the Jacksonville Public Education Fund’s Teacher Leadership Initiative, a professional learning community that connects teacher leaders with best practices in equity and school quality, to drive measurable improvements in their schools. 

In Mandarin, the following educators were nominated by their principals for their school’s Teacher of the Year honor:

Mandarin High School: Dawn Holcomb, Lead ESE teacher

Mandarin Middle School: Lindsay Schaeffer, Gifted teacher for sixth, seventh and eighth grades

Bartram Springs Elementary School: Jennifer Rogers, Fourth grade teacher

Crown Point Elementary School: Amanda Hildenbrand, First grade teacher
Greenland Pines Elementary School: Miranda Murdock, Kindergarten teacher

Loretto Elementary School: Samantha Fox, Autism Spectrum Disorder CSS teacher
Mandarin Oaks Elementary School: Candice Lilly, Kindergarten teacher

Sara Bravo, principal of Mandarin High School (home of last year’s Duval County Teacher of the Year, Jim Schmitt) had this to say about this year’s nominee: “I am thrilled and proud to know that Dawn Holcomb was voted upon by her peers to be the ‘21 – ‘22 Mandarin High School Teacher of the Year. As our ESE Lead Teacher, Ms. Holcomb serves a very special population of students. As a parent of a student with learning differences and a principal who has a special place in her heart for ESE students and teachers, it is deeply encouraging to know that our Mandarin teachers value the work done by Ms. Holcomb and see the importance of this work for our students.”

Similarly admired is Amanda Hildenbrand of Crown Point Elementary. Her fellow teachers described her as a loving, caring and knowledgeable teacher who goes above and beyond for her school. In addition to her duties as a first grade teacher, she is in charge of social media, seeks business partners and donations for the school and plans events for teachers. 

Over at Greenland Pines Elementary, kindergarten teacher Miranda Murdock was chosen because of her dedication to meeting students’ needs both educationally and emotionally. She is known as a leader among peers who serves beyond the classroom in programs to support positive outcomes around campus by mentoring others, serving with the PTA, and dropping positive notes in teacher mailboxes. 

Another impressive kindergarten teacher is Candice Lilly of Mandarin Oaks Elementary, whose creativity and love for her students shows in everything she does. Recently she put her overalls on to read “Johnny Appleseed.” Not only did she dress up for the occasion, but the students had a taste test, compared and contrasted different colored apples, charted their opinions in a bar graph and ate “everything” that has apples as the main ingredient.  

The Jacksonville Public Education Fund will host the EDDY Awards on Jan. 22, 2022. The event will take place as an evening gala and an hour long TV special, where the winner of the top honor will be announced as school communities tune in to watch across the county.

“As our community and country are seeing, like never before, the critical role our schools and teachers play in our lives and in our economy, we are so proud to celebrate teachers this year,” said Jacksonville Public Education Fund President Rachael Tutwiler Fortune. “We are also so proud to support them through a professional learning community as they take on new challenges.”

School-level Teachers of the Year will be eligible to apply for the county-wide honor of 2022 VyStar Duval County Teacher of the Year. The winner of the Duval County title will go on to compete for the state-wide Florida Teacher of the Year.

Photo courtesy Sara Bravo
Mandarin High School Teacher of the Year Dawn Holcomb with last year’s honoree, Jim Schmitt

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