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February 2011

Teacher of the Year Celebration

  Beth Upchurch, a fourth grade teacher at Ketterlinus Elementary School (KES), is St. Johns County’s 2010-2011 Teacher of the Year. The announcement was made by Superintendent Dr. Joseph Joyner at the Twentieth Annual Teacher of the Year Celebration held Thursday night at the Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village.
The event was emceed by Melanie Lawson of WJXT-Channel 4. The St. Johns County Education Foundation (SJCEF) hosted the annual celebration to recognize excellence in the teaching profession.
Beth Upchurch is currently serving as a co-literacy coach and a fourth grade teacher at KES. She also mentors an Associate Teacher in her position as Lead Teacher in a co-teach classroom. Ms. Upchurch has taught in St. Johns County for the past 28 years, including nine years at R. B. Hunt Elementary School.  In 2006 she was also selected as their Teacher of the Year and as a district finalist.
Ms. Upchurch believes that all students can learn in a supportive, caring and challenging environment which supports differentiation. She is a strong proponent of the Accelerated Reader Program since it meets each student exactly where they are. Students in her class learn that they are valuable and unique as individuals and may have different learning paths from other students.
Ms. Upchurch involves her students in understanding data so they can chart their own educational progress. She feels this helps students develop a sense of ownership and a determination to improve. She also uses technology to make learning relevant and fun, and last fall she received a Horizon Grant from the SJCEF for an innovative program involving iPads and Ipod Touches. KES Principal Kathy Tucker says that the qualities she most admires in this year’s winner are her positive attitude and sense of humor. She notes that her classroom is always lively, upbeat and engaging. A colleague observed that watching Ms. Upchurch in the classroom is like watching the conductor of a symphony but with lots of humor thrown in. Her strong work ethic and dedication to children are also exemplary, and her love of helping others learn extends to the other side of the globe through her involvement with mission work in Tanzania, Africa. The other two finalists for the 2010-2011 Teacher of the Year were Lisa Haas of Liberty Pines Academy and Becci Smith of Pedro Menendez High School.
In addition to recognizing the District Teacher of the Year, the SJCEF honored Rookie Teachers of the Year. This was the fourth year the Foundation recognized exceptional teachers with three or less years of teaching experience.
The 32 candidates, nominated in most cases by their peers, completed a process similar to that used for Teacher of the Year. Each submitted an application packet and participated in an individual interview conducted by a panel of retired educators.
The 2010-2011 St. Johns County Rookie Teacher of the Year is Megan Miller, a social studies teacher at Switzerland Point School Middle School (SPMS). Ms. Miller attended SPMS, graduated from Bartram Trail High School and is in her second year of teaching. She said she is grateful to have been given the opportunity to teach in the same “top notch public education system” where she attended school from kindergarten through twelfth grade.
According to SPMS Principal Lisa Kunze, Ms. Miller has the energy, warmth, passion and natural talent that puts her above other rookie teachers.
“Megan uses creative, innovative practices in all her classes to empower each student and keep them engaged in their own and each other’s learning,” she added.
This rookie has learned the importance of focusing on the whole child. She discourages other teachers from providing background information about her students and said she would rather all students start with a clean slate in her class.
A student in her class said Ms. Miller is a good role model who handles herself very well in many different situations. She said she challenges her students every day and always make learning fun.
This year’s winner views a great education as being engaging and relevant to a student’s life. Her classroom focuses on cooperative learning, especially through the study of current events. Ms. Miller believes effective teaching “should aim to present curriculum through opportunities and experiences that encourage students’ personal growth, deep self-reflection and development of interpersonal skills.”  
In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Ms. Miller co-sponsors the SPMS Student Council and a running club for students. Through these activities she encourages students to participate in community service projects, and she also serves as a member of her school’s Relay for Life team.
Both the 2010-2011Teacher of the Year and the Rookie Teacher of the Year will be recognized at the March 8 School Board meeting.
THE PLAYERS Championship provided every teacher with tickets to the Tournament Players Championship and other benefits. The winning teacher also has the opportunity to bring her class to the TPC for a field trip. Honoring the Teachers of the Year is part of their tradition of giving back to the community.
Other corporate sponsors included The Bailey Group, Community First Credit Union, Flagler College, Florida Power and Light, Leonard’s Studio, Northrop Grumman, St. Augustine Record, St. Johns County Tax Collector and Vystar Credit Union.

Science Fair Winners

  Caroline Snowden of Ponte Vedra High School won top honors in the Senior Division of the 2011 River Region East Science Fair held last week at First Coast Technical College. Her project was entitled “Developing a Cipher Based on Conversions of Non-base 10 Number Systems.”
William Paul of Landrum Middle School won best overall in the Junior Division. William’s project was entitled, “Proteomic Comparison of Cyanbacteria Species Suited for Life in a Low Pressure Carbon Dioxide Environment: Terraforming Mars Part III.” William also tied for best overall project in the Junior Division at last year’s Science Fair.
Approximately 132 science projects representing 142 participants were involved in the annual science fair.  The overall winners will be recognized at the March 8 School Board meeting.
Participating middle schools included Fruit Cove Middle School (FCMS), Landrum Middle School (LMS), Liberty Pines Academy (LPA), Murray Middle School (MMS), Pacetti Bay Middle School (PBMS), Gamble Rogers Middle School (GRMS), Sebastian Middle School (SMS) and Switzerland Point Middle School (SPMS). Also participating were Palmer Catholic Academy (PCA) and Cathedral Parish School (CPS).
Participating high schools were Bartram Trail High School (BTHS), Pedro Menendez High School (PMHS), Nease High School (NHS), Ponte Vedra High School (PVHS) and St. Augustine High School (SAHS).
The category winners are listed below.
Behavioral Sciences 1st Place – Marissa Rice and Jenna Copenhaver, PVHS 2nd Place – Annika Goldman, PVHS 3rd Place  – Grace O’Hara, PVHS Honorable Mention – Madison French, BTHS
Engineering Sciences 1st Place – Caroline Snowden, PVHS 2nd Place – Phoebe Fleming, SAHS 3rd Place – Leila Sabet, PVHS Honorable Mention – Sierra Moody, SAHS
Environmental Science 1st Place – Maya Goldman, PVHS 2nd Place – Monica Connelly, PVHS 3rd Place – Isabel Nunez, SAHS Honorable Mention – Robert Aspinwall, PVHS
Medicine and Health Sciences 1st Place – Andrew Yurko, NHS 2nd Place – William Meadow, PVHS 3rd Place  – Lagan Mullin, PVHS Honorable Mention – Luke Smith, NHS
Physics and Chemistry 1st Place – Matthew Carter and Kiel Parker, PMHS 2nd Place – Justin Hartley, NHS 3rd Place  – Julianna Pettinger, BTHS Honorable Mention – Teddi Koppelberger and Alex Macy, PMHS

Behavioral Sciences 1st Place – Wilson Erickson and Sam Still, LMS 2nd Place – Charis Wang, FCMS 3rd Place – Mark Davey and Davis Massey, LMS Honorable Mention – Michael Peil, Jr., GRMS
Chemistry 1st Place – Sanjana Bhargava, MMS 2nd Place – Mughil Sriram, LMS 3rd Place – Suzanne Scheuble, PCA Honorable Mention – Robert Schrader, FCMS
Earth/Space 1st Place – William Paul, LMS 2nd Place – James Carpenter, FCMS 3rd Place – Kylie Napier, MMS Honorable Mention – Brittany Brown, FCMS
Engineering Sciences 1st Place – Alexa Burch, LMS 2nd Place – Zach Anastasiadis, LMS 3rd Place – Adam Snowden, LMS Honorable Mention – Reece Dantin, PCA
Medicine and Microbiology 1st Place – Audrey and Ava DuBose, FCMS 2nd Place- Lauren Wisniewski, FCMS 3rd Place – Alexandra Bechtle, LMS Honorable Mention – Abigail Miller, LMS Physics 1st Place – Delany Bolton, CPS 2nd Place – James Hoelle, LPA 3rd Place – Lindsay Freeman, PCA Honorable Mention – Reemsha Basrai, SPMS
Zoology and Botany 1st Place – August Williams, SMS 2nd Place- Rachel Winer, LMS 3rd Place – Hannah Shaffer, LPA Honorable Mention – Hannah Dubose, SMS
Twenty-four students representing nineteen projects were selected to go on to compete at the State Science Fair scheduled March 23-25 in Orlando. Science Fair Program Specialist Mark Lewis will be coordinating the trip.
The participants are listed below: Cathedral Parish School – Delany Bolton
Fruit Cove Middle School – James Carpenter, Audrey DuBose and Ava DuBose
Landrum Middle School – Alexandra Bechtle, Alexa Burch, Wilson Erickson, William Paul, Sam Still and Rachel Winer
Liberty Pines Academy – Hannah Shaffer
Pedro Menendez High School – Matthew Carter and Kiel Parker
Murray Middle School – Sanjana Bhargava
Nease High School – Justin Hartley and Andrew Yurko
Ponte Vedra High School – Jenna Copenhaver, Maya Goldman, William Meadow, Lagan Mullin, Marissa Rice and Caroline Snowden
St. Augustine High School – Phoebe Fleming
Sebastian Middle School – August Williams
Caroline Snowden was also selected to represent St. Johns County at the International Science and Engineering Fair scheduled May 8-13 in Los Angeles, California. Florida Power and Light is donating $400 to defray the cost of travel for the winner and chaperone to attend this event.
The Science Fair is an academic competition designed to challenge students to rigorously apply science process skills and content knowledge in order to investigate scientific questions of their own choosing. Participants also experience the importance of practicing science ethics and responsibility on a personal level.

Kindergarten Pre-registration

 The St. Johns County School District will hold pre-registration for children entering kindergarten and students new to St. Johns County and/or public schools from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, February 23, Tuesday, March 15 and Thursday, April 28.  
To be eligible for public kindergarten in St. Johns County, children must be five years old on or before September 1 and must reside in St. Johns County. To register for first grade, children must be six years old on or before September 1 and have documentation of successful completion of kindergarten.
“Parents must register children at the school where they have been zoned for the 2011-2012 school year,” according to Sallyanne Smith, Director for Student Services. “They must provide two proofs of residency: a current mortgage statement, lease or rent agreement and one other form of residency documentation, such as a current electric bill.”
An attendance zone locator is available on the school district website at under Featured Links.
Florida law requires any student entering a Florida school for the first time to show proof of required immunizations documented on the HRS Form 680. Proof of a physical examination that has been obtained within one year prior to enrollment in school is also required. Physical examinations can be performed by either a private physician or by the county health department.
Students can be registered throughout the spring and summer for the 2011-2012 school year.  However, parents are encouraged to register during these three designated dates so schools can adequately prepare for the new school year. Additional information regarding registration and school attendance zones may be obtained from the Student Services Office at 547-7598.

Sunshine State Scholar

   The Sunshine State Scholars Recognition Program for high school students was initiated in 1997 to recognize excellence in mathematics and science. It has evolved into a program designed to recognize Florida’s top high school science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students and recruit them to pursue their postsecondary education in Florida. This year’s St. Johns County recipient is Monica Resto of Creekside High School. She is the daughter of M. Janet Robles and Javier Resto.
Monica would like to pursue a career in Environmental Engineering.  Her interests were sparked by her geography teacher who was passionate about environmental responsibility.  She has begun a project with her father converting a broken-down Ford Escort into an electric car and has designed a system to power the car.  Monica has been able to apply what she is learning in her physics and calculus classes to this project.  Her goal is to finish the car this year.  
Monica will represent St. Johns County at the annual Sunshine State Scholars event later this month. The scholars event, which will take place February 17-18 in Orlando, recognizes the best and brightest STEM students. These scholars, as well as their parents and teachers, will meet with representatives from Florida’s colleges, universities and STEM industry leaders, and will learn about STEM research initiatives, degree programs and internships.
As St. Johns County’s Sunshine State Scholar, Monica was the recipient of the annual Elaine Crutchfield Math and Science Scholarship for $100. Elaine Crutchfield worked for the school district for 29 years, serving as both a math and science teacher before being named the district curriculum coordinator.
In recognition of Ms. Crutchfield’s contributions to math and science education, the Curriculum Department created a special scholarship fund with the St. Johns County Education Foundation in her honor. It was decided that the Elaine Crutchfield Math and Science Scholarship would be presented annually to the district’s Sunshine State Math and Science Scholar.
Mitchell Zhang from Bartram Trail High School was selected as the alternate and received a $75 scholarship. The other school nominees received $50 scholarships. They are Maxine Weiss from Pedro Menendez High School, Anthony Janocko from Nease High School, Megan Connors from Ponte Vedra High School and Phoebe Fleming from St. Augustine High School.
All of this year’s nominees have a weighted GPA greater than 4.3 and are in the top two percent of their graduating class.