On Friday, January 15th, Superintendent E. Wayne Gent, accompanied by School Board Chairman Debbie Hawley, School Board Vice Chairman Dr. Donna Mills, Board Member Jennifer Richardson, Board Member Jack Kelly, Assistant to the Superintendent Dr. Kevin Perry and last year’s Teacher of the Year Melissa Nelson, paid surprise visits to this year’s finalists for Teacher of the Year (TOY). Victoria Pease, a Math Master Teacher at St. Lucie Elementary School; Lauren Kappler, a Civics Teacher at West Gate K8; and Kristin Lee, a third-grade teacher at Morningside Elementary are the finalists who have the distinction of representing the School District at this year’s Night of the Stars event.
St. Lucie Public Schools (SLPS) Superintendent E. Wayne Gent said, “Our Teacher of the Year finalists represent what’s best about our team of 2,500 dedicated and committed teachers who change the lives of students every day in St. Lucie County. The impact they are making is evidenced by the School District’s continual academic growth.”
Locally, one of the three finalists will be selected as the SLPS Teacher of the Year during the Night of the Stars event scheduled for February 6, 2021. The winner will then represent SLPS in the Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year Program.
The local Night of the Stars annual event is sponsored by the Education Foundation of St. Lucie County. Thom Jones, president of the Education Foundation, explained that MIDFLORIDA Credit Union is the sponsor of the local Teacher of the Year category. “This is an exciting year. Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors we will honor our winners with very special recognitions this year.”
Victoria Pease, St. Lucie Elementary
Mrs. Pease’s influence and contributions were recognized immediately when she joined the team at St. Lucie Elementary School three years ago. Her instruction and leadership were a substantial contributing factor to the school’s success earning the highest percentage point gain of all the schools in St. Lucie County. It is refreshing to walk into Mrs. Pease’s classroom and see children authentically engaged in the lesson. Her students are turned on to, excited by and drawn into an academic vortex where questions are being asked and feedback is spontaneous. She often makes home visits to conduct parent conferences or to surprise students and their families with good news and rewards. Victoria Pease is a natural leader who has a knack for offering solutions to any problems that arise in her classroom, on her team, or in her school.
Lauren Kappler, West Gate K8
Mrs. Kappler’s kind and caring demeanor are unparalleled. She works diligently to help build students’ confidence and competence. She refuses to let any student fall behind. She is proud of each success and celebrates her students’ growth continuously. Her impact is not only felt by her students, but she has had a tremendous impact on the teachers at her school as well. With the shift to some classes being taught virtually this year, Mrs. Kappler has taken the lead to train the teachers at West Gate on Nearpod. This instructional platform makes virtual lessons extremely engaging for students and the teachers at her school have stated that the new skills that they have learned from her are a “game changer.” Lauren Kappler’s extraordinary knowledge, skills and ability to teach effectively make her most deserving of this recognition.
Kristin Lee, Morningside Elementary School
Mrs. Lee’s heart and soul lies in education. She has a strong knowledge base of differentiation and data tracking that aligns with the schools’ Single School Culture. In her role as a third-grade teacher, she supports her team with breaking down data to create small groups and to identify areas of opportunity for learning gains. Walking into Mrs. Lee’s class it is evident that students take responsibility for their learning by setting their own goals and tracking their own progress. She has high expectations for her students, and she does not let them “off the hook” but also pays close attention to their social emotional needs and is able to build relationships with them and their families. Kristin Lee is a kindhearted, passionate teacher who loves her job.