For Immediate Release

February 10, 2020

Contact: Lydia Martin

Phone: 772-429-5544

Education’s Shining Stars Announced

ST. LUCIE COUNTY — In a live broadcast from Lincoln Park Academy on Saturday, February 8, 2020, St. Lucie Public Schools (SLPS) and the Education Foundation of St. Lucie County announced this year’s line-up of educational superstars. Melissa Nelson took top honors as St. Lucie County’s Teacher of the Year.  She is an instructional mathematics coach and algebra teacher at Allapattah Flats K-8 School.  Joining her on the stage during the Night of the Stars gala were School Related Employee of the Year, Donna Haynes, from Manatee K-8 Academy, Distinguished Minority Educator of the Year, Rachel Lowe, from Fairlawn Elementary School, and Outstanding First Year Teacher, Samantha Bowman, from West Gate K-8 School.


Teacher of the Year Nelson attributes her inspiration to her students and her colleagues. Everything she does is because she wants to help students experience those ah-ha moments. She takes to heart the fact that students must learn and retain required mathematics to be successful in the next course, in college, and beyond.  “I believe that all students are capable of success, they just need to have that caring adult in their life to push them to reach their own goals and dreams,” said Nelson.  Based on that belief, she uses a variety of teaching styles and instructional tools in her coaching role to help others learn new concepts. She is inspired to be the best she can be so that she, in turn, can help others realize the potential within them to become the best versions of themselves.


Superintendent E. Wayne Gent said, “These outstanding individuals exemplify excellence in teaching and distinction in providing a positive teaching and learning environment in SLPS.  They represent what’s best about SLPS and why we are making great strides.”


Education Foundation President Thom Jones considers the Night of the Stars a highlight each year.  “Honoring our teachers and support staff for the work they do each day for our students is central to The Education Foundation’s mission which is to recognize excellence in education and support teacher development.”  Jones also points out that the corporate sponsors are just as focused on the mission.  MIDFLORIDA Credit Union sponsored the Teacher of the Year and Herff Jones honored the winner with a commemorative ring. Remnant Construction sponsored the School Related Employee of the Year, Keiser University sponsored the Distinguished Minority Educator of the Year, and Seacoast Bank sponsored The Outstanding First Year Teacher. Jones also offered a special thank you to the many other event sponsors.

Event Coordinator Dr. Kevin G. Perry said, “The honorees at this annual gala represent the high-quality educators and staff who support our students’ tremendous academic gains. Our distinguished honorees not only embody the mission of the District but go beyond and surpass expectations.”

St. Lucie County’s Teacher of the Year and School Related Employee of the Year will now move on to the state level competition.  In the category of Teacher of the Year, the State has a long-standing tradition that recognizes and honors the contributions of outstanding classroom teachers who have demonstrated a superior capacity to inspire a love of learning in students of all backgrounds and abilities. The state finalist for The Florida Teacher of the Year also serves as the Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education and represents the Florida Department of Education and teachers throughout the state.