Local Teacher of the Year Finalists Announced

The only thing missing was the red carpet as a parade of well-wishers honored the three finalists for St. Lucie Public Schools’ (SLPS) Teacher of the Year. On Monday, Sandra Oliveira (St. Lucie West Centennial High School), Heather Knab (Floresta Elementary), and Jeffrey L. Johnson, Sr. (Dale Cassens Education Complex) were surprised with the news, flowers, and balloons by a team from St. Lucie’s Education Foundation and School Board.

In his first year as the Superintendent of Schools, E. Wayne Gent commented that he could not be more proud to serve in any other District. “Our Teacher of the Year finalists embody the finest qualities of educational professionals. They represent the unique team who lead the learning in our classrooms and who have the talent to captivate and inspire our students because they believe in our students,” he said.

Locally, one of the three finalists will be selected as the SLPS Teacher of the Year during the Night of the Stars gala scheduled for February 20, 2016, at Lincoln Park Academy’s auditorium in Fort Pierce. This person will represent SLPS at the state level.

The Night of the Stars annual event is sponsored by the Education Foundation of St. Lucie County; The Morganti Group, Inc. is the sponsor of the local Teacher of the Year category. Brian Garcia, senior project executive and regional purchasing agent for Morganti as well as immediate past president of the Education Foundation said, “We look forward to this opportunity each year. Core to the mission of the Education Foundation is recognizing excellence in education and supporting teacher development.”

The State’s Teacher of the Year Program is 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.


About the Teacher of the Year Finalists

Sandra Oliveira

Mrs. Sandra Oliveira is an instructor in the Law Academy at St. Lucie West Centennial High School where she dedicates herself to helping her students advance their learning in the areas of law, criminal justice, reading and writing. Her analytical strengths play an important role in determining her students’ strengths and weaknesses as do her skills in working collaboratively with her fellow professional educators to plan and facilitate instruction for her ninth through twelfth graders. She uses a variety of instructional teaching aids to create an environment for learning that is challenging and interesting.


Mrs. Oliveira has high expectations for all of her students and appreciates the fact that, as a Law Academy teacher, she has the opportunity and privilege to work with her students for three and sometime four years. Developing positive relationships with her students, understanding their needs, and knowing their goals allow her to differentiate her lessons, push and challenge her students, and monitor the progression as they grow intellectually, socially, emotionally, and academically. She believes in them and ensures that when her students leave her classroom, they are college and career ready.


As a teacher leader and innovator, Mrs. Oliveira also assumes many roles outside of the classroom. Working alongside her school’s administrative team, she supports the implementation of quality school programs to enhance student learning. This includes the implementation of the Framework for Quality Instruction. Other areas that Mrs. Oliveira enjoys supporting are mentoring new teachers, assisting with technology, and serving as a resource for assisting others in the implementation of instructional strategies.


Her momentum does not stop there. She is active as an advisor for student groups as well. To mention a few, she serves as the National Honor Society Co-Advisor, a Teacher Advisor, and coordinates the publication of the school’s monthly newsletter. Her involvement is a reflection of the importance she places on communicating and developing partnerships with all stake holders including parent and community organizations.


Mrs. Oliveira attributes the enthusiasm she has for teaching to her students. They inspire her through their own enthusiasm and eagerness to learn. As an educator, she appreciates the fact that she is affecting their future. She sees today’s students in tomorrow’s destiny, and she is excited to help mold young minds of today to build the society of tomorrow. This educator reaps great satisfaction from knowing that she is contributing to help students achieve their aspirations and build the future society for our world.   Ms. Oliveira believes the positive influences she makes on her students today can have a long-term impact on their future.


Heather Knab

Floresta Elementary’s Heather Knab serves the elementary school as a literacy coach for grades K through five. In this role, she happily finds herself wearing many hats throughout the day. Whether it be modeling, coaching, collaboratively planning with teachers, analyzing data, conducting a literacy meeting, or coordinating the Title One tutorial program, she embraces them all with enthusiasm and is dedicated to providing a remarkable environment for students to have exceptional learning opportunities.


With strong data to support her students’ growth in reading, Mrs. Knab finds great value in assessing students’ individual needs and monitoring their growth trends. As a literacy coach, she has the whole school under her wing, and therefore, has the opportunity to work with groups of children each day to support their varying ranges of literacy needs. She begins her work with each child by setting attainable and meaningful reading goals so they know where they are as readers. Together, she and her students practice reading skills, foster a love of reading, and celebrate positive growth toward their literacy goals.


Supporting the school-wide implementation of the Daily 5 literacy routine is a priority focus for Mrs. Knab. She works collaboratively with her colleagues to support the implementation of explicit teaching practices, infusion of resources, and understanding of the rigorous English/language arts standards. She partners with her fellow teachers in planning lessons and monitoring the progress of all students for positive growth in their reading journey – a journey that does not end at the close of a regular school day.


This is evident in the passion Mrs. Knab demonstrates for involving parents and families in their students’ education. Feeling it is her duty to provide a variety of opportunities for families, students, and teachers to unite for literacy, she has organized a school-wide reading stamina challenge, facilitated a vocabulary parade, hosted FSA parent game nights, and is currently planning for Floresta’s premier dinner and bedtime story event.


For this educator, inspiration and motivation comes from understanding the impact she has on “her students” whether it is a single class or an entire school of students, she embraces them as “her students.” As a mother herself, she knows that “her students” are someone else’s daughters and sons and they have entrusted her to teach them. So, as she would for her own son, Mrs. Knab is inspired to give only her very best to “her students.”

Jeffrey Johnson, Sr.

Mr. Jeffrey Johnson, Sr. provides structure, academic regimes, and a focused climate on achievement for his middle school students transitioning to high school at Dale Cassens Education Complex. He supports his students’ studies in grade level mathematics and science as well as the facilitation of course recovery to support students in meeting their on-time graduation goals.


He is a highly successful educator with achievement data and factors relating to positive behavior measures surpassing respective student cohort groups across the state. Mr. Johnson attributes his success to his foundational belief in building strong relationships with his students. He invests the time to begin with personal interviews, surveys, and pre-tests to determine his students’ strengths, styles, and preferences. This valuable insight is coupled with the establishment of expectations for the classroom and beyond. His students reap the benefits, for he then constructs personalized and balanced plans for each students’ success.


Mr. Johnson also appreciates the value of including a strong support network for his students, which is why he is passionate about including parents, coaches, pastors, and after-school organizations in the lives of his students. He endeavors to build strong bridges to solidify the home-to-school continuum for he believes that the cohesion of students, parents, community, and teachers maximize his students’ learning, provides his students with a greater sense of belonging, and inspires a subsequent desire in his students to participate in the lifelong learning process. He promotes a classroom culture that is dynamic, safe, and open for the sharing of thoughts and ideas.


As a recognized leader of teachers, Mr. Johnson generously shares his time with others to discuss best practices and model instructional strategies for his colleagues. He also supports the overall campus as a teacher mentor, a check-in/check-out support for students, lead teacher, and committee chair. As evidenced by his standards and practices of teaching, Mr. Johnson believes that if one is to lead, one cannot lead from the back or sideline. One has to be front-and-center to model, demonstrate, and replicate.


He is motivated by an instinctive and intrinsic learning mind-set that stretches back to his early childhood years when he used to bring schoolwork home and teach his younger siblings. Teachers throughout his life whom he emulates have taught him to understand that the fundamental responsibility of teachers is to create an environment wherein students are safe and inspired to learn.


About St. Lucie Public Schools

The mission of St. Lucie Public Schools is to ensure all students graduate from safe and caring schools equipped with the knowledge, skills and desire to succeed. For more information visit, www.stlucieschools.org or contact Kerry Padrick at kerry.padrick@stlucieschools.org.