Four finalists for the 2011-2012 St. Johns County Teacher of the Year have been chosen from 34 nominees representing each school in the St. Johns County School District. They are Tiffany Cantwell of Ponte Vedra-Palm Valley/Rawlings Elementary School (PVPV/RES), Emily Senko of Pacetti Bay Middle School (PBMS), Gwen Westfall of Pedro Menendez High School (PMHS), and Jeffrey Nethery of Ponte Vedra High School (PVHS). Superintendent Joseph Joyner, School Board Chair Bev Slough, School Board Member Bill Fehling and School Board Member Bill Mignon, along with school district staff and representatives from the St. Johns County Education Foundation (SJCEF), surprised the finalists today in their classrooms. The winner, in conjunction with the Rookie Teacher of the Year, will be announced on Thursday, February 9 at the Teacher of the Year and Rookie Teacher of the Year Celebration at the Renaissance Resort at the World Golf Village.
Tiffany Cantwell, a fourth-grade teacher at PVPV/RES, has been teaching for 11 years. Her years of teaching have all been within St. Johns County Schools, and she has been at PVPV/RES since 2005. Early in her career, she received her certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Ms. Cantwell also serves as a team leader at her school and as the chairperson of the School Advisory Committee. She credits her ability to create a bond with each of her students as having the greatest and most direct impact on their achievements in the classroom.
Emily Senko has been the Spanish teacher at PBMS since 2009 for grades 6-8. She possesses eight years of teaching experience with three in St. Johns County. Having completed the International Baccalaureate training, Ms. Senko facilitates the integration of this philosophy by leading meetings and training sessions throughout her school. She also serves as a Professional Learning Community Leader, organizing professional growth and vision for others. Her emphasis on real-world application by integrating history and culture into language lessons helps her students to increase their linguistic fluency.
Gwen Westfall teaches physics and physical science at PMHS. She possesses 22 years of teaching experience and has been at PMHS since 2010. She previously taught for Flagler County Public Schools in Florida; and the Hilliard City Schools and Columbus City Schools in Ohio. She is a long-time member of the American Association of Physics Teachers and serves as the science department chair at her school. She places an importance on high quality professional development and credits this with her ability to maintain enthusiasm and originality in her instructional practices.
Jeffrey Nethery, a history teacher at PVHS since 2008, has 26 years of teaching with 25 of those years in St. Johns County. Mr. Nethery also received certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. For the last three years, he has mentored and conducted workshops for the “Teach First Coast” program at Florida State College in Jacksonville. In addition, he has mentored numerous teaching interns from Flagler College and the University of North Florida. Mr. Nethery’s philosophy of teaching is based on the belief that students at all levels can be taught the strategies needed to succeed within school.
The annual Teacher of the Year and Rookie Teacher of the Year Celebration is sponsored by the SJCEF to recognize excellence in the teaching profession. For more information on the SJCEF visit www.sjcef.com.