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February 2013

2013 School-Related Employees of the Year

The 2012-2013 School-Related Employees of the Year have been selected from each of the district’s 34 schools, along with six district representatives and one charter school. School-related employees enhance the educational experience for the children whose lives they touch, and they are essential to the successful operation of a school or school district office.

These nominees were chosen for the significant contributions they have made in their schools and community, and to the school district as a whole. Criteria for the award includes exemplary job performance, dedication on the job, interpersonal skills, leadership ability, in-service/training to upgrade skills and contributions to the school and school district environment.

A district-wide screening committee has reviewed all of the nominations and the winner of the St. Johns County School-Related Employee of the Year will be announced at a reception to honor all of the nominees scheduled on Tuesday, March 19 at 6 p.m. at First Coast Technical College. The St. Johns County nominee’s name will then be submitted to the state to compete at the regional level.

2012-2013 School-Related Employees of the Year

Patricia Alexander Academic Services Department
Nora Ruede Bartram Trail High School
Gloria Gatewood Budget Department
Elizabeth Spurgeon Creekside High School
Victoria Dickerson John A. Crookshank Elementary School
Debra Ives Cunningham Creek Elementary School
Carla Whitfield Community Relations Department
Beverly Lichty Durbin Creek Elementary School
Justin Lodish First Coast Technical ~College
Cindi Tranquellino Fruit Cove Middle School
Matthew Potak Gaines Alternative and Transition Schools
Diana Ray W. D. Hartley Elementary School
Vickie Gundlach Hickory Creek Elementary School
Julie Ritter Human Resources Department
Patience Atteberry R. B. Hunt Elementary School
Kyle Cooper Information Technology Department
Donna Hughes Julington Creek Elementary School
Stacey Gwaltney Ketterlinus Elementary School
Brett Butler Alice B. Landrum Middle School
Judith Rigsbee Liberty Pines Academy
James Kehr Otis A. Mason Elementary School
Karla Wilson Pedro Menendez High School
Andrea Jackson Mill Creek Elementary School
Charles Brown R. J. Murray Middle School
Kathy Bennick Allen D. Nease High School
Hector Lopez Ocean Palms Elementary School
Tami Lynn Treaster Osceola Elementary School
Joseph Burchett Pacetti Bay Middle School
Charles (Andy) Knight Palencia Elementary School
Kathleen Nightingale Ponte Vedra High School
Carol Whitty PVPV/Rawlings Elementary School
Donna Keller Gamble Rogers Middle School
Diane Cooper St. Augustine High School
Susan Lynch St. Johns Technical High School
Emanuel Oliver Sebastian Middle School
Terese Figliuolo South Woods Elementary School
Cynthia Casper Switzerland Point Middle School
Tracy Collins Timberlin Creek Elementary School
Dominic Tringali Transportation Department
Tim Lundquist Wards Creek Elementary School
Edgar Gonzalez The Webster School

Teacher and Rookie Teacher of the Year

Jessica Geronimo, an Autism Spectrum Disorder teacher at the St. Johns County School District’s (SJCSD) Transition School is St. Johns County’s 2012-2013 Teacher of the Year. The announcement was made by Superintendent Dr. Joseph Joyner at the annual Teacher of the Year and Rookie Teacher of the Year Banquet held on Thursday, February 21 at the Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village. She will go on to compete in the 2013 Florida Department of Education-Macy’s Teacher of the Year.

The evening’s events were presided over by emcee St. Augustine Mayor Joe Boles. The St. Johns County Education Foundation (SJCEF) presented the celebration to recognize excellence in the teaching profession with THE PLAYERS as the presenting sponsor for the event.

Geronimo has been with the SJCSD for three years and previously worked at Switzerland Point Middle School. Before accepting the position in St. Johns County, she taught in New Jersey. Her specialized training and caring nature make her the ideal teacher for her students at the Transition School. She regularly works with others in her field of expertise and recognizes that there is a particular system to working with students with autism. She also works closely with paraprofessionals in this area to provide them with knowledge and experience.

Placing an emphasis on real-world application that is thoughtful and relevant to her students is paramount to their ability to function outside the classroom and Geronimo goes above and beyond to ensure that life experiences are integrated into her instruction. She finds that her greatest joy comes from witnessing her students learn in their unique environment. Her instruction is varied and meets the individual needs of her students through meticulous tracking of target behaviors and successes.

“In my 26 years of education in St. Johns County I have worked with a variety of teachers,” said Gaines Alternative and Transition Schools Principal Tish McMahon. “Ms. Geronimo is an extraordinary example of the high standards that represent all teachers of St. Johns County. As a “family” member of the Transition School at the Evelyn Hamblen Center she models those attributes that make us all so very proud; creativity, patience, never give up attitude, and especially endurance. I think Mrs. Herskovitz summed it up so well when she stated that Ms. Geronimo is our present day version of “Annie Sullivan”.”

Geronimo has served as a big sister in the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization and has been a volunteer and a member of the Special Olympics both in New Jersey and in Florida. She also works as a volunteer for the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD).

In addition to recognizing the St. Johns County Teacher of the Year, the SJCEF honored Rookie Teachers of the Year. Since 2008, the SJCEF has recognized exceptional teachers with three years or less of teaching experience.

The 34 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 2012-2013 St. Johns County Rookie Teacher of the Year is Kelly Thigpen, a first-grade teacher at Crookshank Elementary (CES). Thigpen is the first person in her family to graduate college and grew up on a farm in Bushnell, Florida. Her philosophy for teaching is embodied by the word, garden. She believes that every child who enters her classroom has the ability to learn and it is her purpose to help them grow to achieve their goals.

She started her career at CES in 2010 as a paraprofessional after graduating from Flagler College. Thigpen always looks for ways to further her professional development and plans to seek a master’s degree in educational leadership.

2013 Science Fair Winners

Caroline Snowden of Ponte Vedra High School won top honors in the Senior Division of the 2013 River Region East Science Fair held last week at Sebastian Middle School. “Epigenetic Differences in Fetal Murine Liver Associated with Transgenerational Inheritance of Metabolic Disease” was the title of her project.

Adam Snowden of Landrum Middle School won best overall in the Junior Division. Adam’s project was entitled, “Creating a Microprocessor-Based Sound Exposure Meter to Ensure Auditory Safety.”

Approximately 125 science projects represented by 156 participants were involved in the River Region East Science Fair. The overall winners will be recognized at the School Board Meeting on Tuesday, March 12.

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), Cathedral Parish School (CPS), and the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB).

Participating high schools were Bartram Trail High School (BTHS), Creekside High School (CHS), 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 Science 1st Place- Wilson Erickson, PVHS 2nd Place- Priyam Patel, SAHS 3rd Place- Farrell Erickson, PVHS Honorable Mention- Team of Kenzie Tustin and Summer Perritt, PMHS

Biochemistry/Chemistry/Medicine and Health 1st Place- Caroline Snowden, PVHS 2nd Place- (Chemistry) Conner Clukey, NHS 2nd Place- (Medicine) Team of Rina Samant and Sonia Samant, PVHS 3rd Place- Yoree Ha, PVHS

Engineering/Math/Physics 1st Place-Michael Cusick, SAHS 2nd Place-(tie) Brighton Ancelin, CHS and Erol Bahadiroglu, SAHS 3rd Place- Maxwell Kline, SAHS Honorable Mention-(tie) Matthew Emerick, SAHS and Cristo Silva, SAHS Zoology/Botany/Environmental 1st Place- Team of Kelsey Tatum and Amanda Meihofer, PVHS 2nd Place-Kiernan Mullin, PVHS 3rd Place- Team of Connor Bradley, Jeremy Zhang and Samir Shah, CHS Honorable Mention-Harrison Ballard, NHS


Behavioral Sciences 1st Place-Harrison Snowden, LMS 2nd Place- Clay Welch, PCA 3rd Place- Kenan Carames, CPS Honorable Mention-Madeleine Ross, FCMS

Biochemistry/Chemistry/Microbiology 1st Place-Danielle Haddock, FCMS 2nd Place-Jordan Bartfield, LMS 3rd Place-Audrey DuBose, FCMS Honorable Mention-Team of Hallie Murta and Katherine Dykstra, LMS

Math, Engineering Sciences and Computer Science 1st Place-Adam Snowden, LMS 2nd Place-Perry Bechtle, LMS 3rd Place-Patrick McCormick, PCA Honorable Mention-Coleman Mosher, SPM

Environmental 1st Place-Megan Wolf, FCMS 2nd Place- Duncan Van Kouteren, LMS 3rd Place-Abby Moritz, PCA

Medicine and Health 1st Place- Becky Volk, CPS 2nd Place-Ava DuBose, FCMS 3rd Place-Chase Hunt, LPA Honorable Mention-Tanner Aichele, LPA

Physics and Astronomy 1st Place-Daniela McCarty, SPMS 2nd Place-Aya Kusumoto, LMS 3rd Place-Erin Kirsche, SPMS Honorable Mention- Kaitlin Haines, LPA

Zoology/Botany/Earth Space 1st Place Gracie Glatting, LMS 2nd Place- Emmie Smith, SPMS 3rd Place-Team of Ashley Kuhn and Danielle Earl, SPMS Honorable Mention-John Fox, LMS

Twenty students representing seven schools have been selected to compete at the State Science & Engineering Fair of Florida scheduled for March 26-28 in Lakeland. Science Fair Director Mark Lewis is coordinating the trip. The participants are Brighton Ancelin, CHS; Erol Bahadiroglu, SAHS; Perry Bechtel, LMS; Michael Cusick, SAHS; Wilson Erickson, PVHS; Gracie Glatting, LMS; Danielle Haddock, FCMS; Maxwell Kline, SAHS; Daniela McCarty, SPMS; Amanda Meihofer, PVHS; Keirnan Mullin, PVHS; Priyam Patel, SAHS; Rina Samant, PVHS; Sonia Samant, PVHS; Adam Snowden, LMS; Caroline Snowden, PVHS; Harrison Snowden, LMS; Kelsey Tatum, PVHS; Becky Volk, CPS; and Megan Wolf, FCM.

Caroline Snowden was also selected to represent St. Johns County at the International Science and Engineering Fair scheduled for May 12-17 in Phoenix, AZ. FPL is donating $300 to defray the cost of travel for Caroline and her chaperone to attend this event.

This annual academic competition is designed to challenge students to meticulously 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.