Best in class

Gulf District Schools is honoring their school-level winners in their annual Teacher of the Year competition ahead of their announcement of this year’s overall winner.

The four nominees for Gulf District Schools’ Teacher of the Year will be observed by a three-person team of out-of-district administrators on November 16, said the schools’ Chief of Staff Lori Price. Then, a district winner will be selected based on the observation and a letter of recommendation from a colleague.

Nominated from each of the district’s four schools, teachers are selected 90 percent based on other teachers’ votes and 10 percent on the principal’s vote. 

This year’s nominees include Lisa Finney, an ESE teacher at Port St. Joe Elementary School; Jeannie Baumgardner, who teaches third grade at Wewahitchka Elementary School; Mitch Bouington, “Mr. B”, the band director at Port St. Joe High School; and Daphne Lister, the band and choir director and a U.S. history teacher at Wewahitchka High School.

The district winner will go on to compete in the 2022 Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year program. Selection criteria include a video, resume, essays, lesson plans, letters of recommendation and superintendent nomination letter.

For employee of the year, the non-instructional staff from each school as well as the maintenance/transportation department vote in a confidential ballot. 

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The four nominees for School-Related Employee of the Year, along with their immediate supervisors, will be interviewed by a three-person committee of retired educators for the district’s Employee of the Year contest on November 17.

A district winner is selected who goes on to compete in the state School-Related Employee of the Year competition. 

This year’s nominees are June Smiley, a food service employee from Port St. Joe Elementary School; Stephanie Easter and ESE paraprofessional at Wewahitchka Elementary School; Deborah Barnes a member of the office staff at Port St. Joe High School; and Shannon Jo Martin, a Gulf Academy employee at Wewahitchka High School.

The district’s overall winners for Teacher of the Year and Employee of the Year will be announced in the coming weeks.

This year, Gulf District Schools also recognized an itinerant employee of the year — Rynee Lynn, a staffing specialist for the district.

This is a district-level honor, and there is no corresponding state-level competition.

Meet the Editor

Wendy Weitzel, The Star’s digital editor, joined the news outlet in August 2021, as a reporter covering primarily Gulf County.

Prior to then, she interned for Oklahoma-based news wire service Gaylord News and for Oklahoma City-based online newspaper during her four years at the University of Oklahoma, from which she graduated in May with degrees in online journalism and political science.

While at OU, Weitzel was selected as Carnegie-Knight News21 Investigative Fellow among 30 top journalism students from around the country. She also was senior editor managing a 12-person newsroom in coordination with Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit news organization in eastern Oklahoma.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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