On Saturday, February 10, education’s shining stars walked the red carpet during the annual St. Lucie County Education Foundation’s Night of the Stars gala. This annual event was broadcast live from Lincoln Park Academy’s grand auditorium. Each of the St. Lucie Public Schools (SLPS) distinguished honorees representing their respective schools was recognized for outstanding service, and honored with awards. As the envelopes were opened and names were called, Samantha Lamora stepped forward as St. Lucie County’s Teacher of the Year. She is a first grade teacher at Savanna Ridge Elementary School where she exercises her belief that she can be the difference in the life of a child and an influencer in the community. Joining her on the stage were School Related Employee of the Year Adela DellaCroce from Treasure Coast High School, Distinguished Minority Educator of the Year Katherine Christopher of White City Elementary, and Outstanding First Year Teacher of the Year Brianna Nowaski from Windmill Point Elementary.
Superintendent E. Wayne Gent said, “Outstanding teachers and caring adults help pave pathways for success in students’ lives. The individuals we honored this evening are remarkable, and I am extremely proud of all they do for our students every day.”
Education Foundation President Thom Jones said, “I look forward to this celebration each year. The Night of the Stars is an opportunity to honor our teachers and support professionals for the work they do each day for our students.” Jones went on to say that, “The Education Foundation’s mission is to recognize excellence in education and support teacher development. Event sponsors such as PNC Bank, this year’s Grand Benefactor, share our passion for recognizing excellence in education. MIDFLORIDA Community Credit Union sponsored the Teacher of the Year and Herff Jones honored the winner with a commemorative ring. Proctor Construction Company 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 of the Year. Jones offered a special thank you to the many other event sponsors.
Assistant to the Superintendent Dr. Kevin G. Perry said, “This event helps bring our distinguished honorees to our community. The Night of the Stars is one way in which we can truly honor and celebrate their commitment to providing for the individual needs of all students.”
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.
About the Teacher of the Year
Samantha Lamora is a first grade teacher at Savanna Ridge Elementary School with five years of teaching experience. For her, stepping into the role of a teacher is an answer to a lifetime career calling she deems “magical.” She enjoys helping students set and achieve their goals. Mrs. Lamora is inspired by her students desire to learn, grow, and celebrate their own successes.
Her students’ superior performance, her outstanding classroom practices, as well as other routines recognized as stellar led to Mrs. Lamora’s invitation to participate as a teacher leader and mentor. She values collaboration and looks for opportunities to extend that beyond the classroom where she begins by establishing solid partnerships between home and school. At the start of each year, she writes her parents a letter introducing herself, her educational philosophy, her expectation of success for her students, and her pledge to partner with them in their child’s academic journey to guarantee achievement. Her classroom is open to her parents on a number of occasions each year in order to celebrate the accomplishments of students. In the spirit of working collaboratively with her colleagues, she also helps produce a weekly newsletter to streamline communication from school to home, and she is an active member of the school’s PBIS, PTO, and Literacy committees helping plan events afterschool in an effort to bridge the gap between home and school – always seeking to make a positive difference for her students.
About the School-Related Employee of the Year
Adela DellaCroce is a clerk with 13 years of experience who manages a wide array of duties and responsibilities with enthusiasm. Ms. DellaCroce maintains meeting schedules, student attendance, and paperwork for the 700 strong junior class at Treasure Coast High School. In addition, she assists with maintaining discipline records, supporting the quarterly honor roll recognitions, organizing school assemblies, and coordinating faculty meetings.
There is no task too great or deemed outside of her role. She truly sees the entire school as an organization and understands the different roles that are necessary for it to function effectively. She helped established a campaign for aiding students in need of basic toiletries through Nick’s Necessities and for those who are food insecure, a healthy partnership with the Treasure Coast Food Bank is now viable on campus. With her ability to network, communicate, and advocate for Treasure Coast High School, Mrs. DellaCroce was a natural for the Volunteer Coordinator and Community Business Partner Liaison. In just one year, Mrs. DellaCroce is tipping the scales with nearly 30 business partners! Her next step from here is to help increase opportunities for internships so students can receive necessary work experience. She is moving forward in maintaining a dynamic and synergistic relationship between the school and its business partners.
About the Distinguished Minority Educator of the Year
Katherine Christopher is a 21-year veteran educator at White City Elementary who is dedicated to the success of her elementary students and embraces new opportunities to help them master content in creative, innovative, and interactive ways. When she chose to become a teacher, she made a commitment to be the best academic and ethical role model and to provide a well-rounded education for every student she encountered. She exhibits expertise in the subjects she teaches and, as a true professional, spends time honing her skills to ensure that she understands and implements new Standards with the highest level of fidelity.
Ms. Christopher goes beyond her classroom responsibilities to support the campus and community as well. She is a member of the White City Elementary’s PBIS team, supports fundraisers, and mentors new teachers. In the community, her dedication extends to leadership roles in Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., a sponsor of the MLK, Jr. Spelling Bee and other notable community organizations.
About the Outstanding First Year Teacher of the Year
Brianna Nowaski’s kindergarten classroom at Windmill Point Elementary School is the launchpad for her career in education, and according to her principal, this Outstanding First Year Teacher of the Year has taken off like a rocket. Ms. Nowaski was inspired to teach by two of her own teachers who motivated and encouraged her as a youth. In turn, she has established herself as a confident teacher with high expectations for students who are excelling in their work.
When reflecting on her professional collegiate experiences and student teaching, Ms. Nowaski confirmed her solid background and preparation in the practical aspects of teaching such as planning, classroom management, and prep work. However, she indicated the one thing that no amount of training could have prepared her for was the understanding of the love her students show her every day.