Teachers Who Inspire Us and Bring ‘Joy’


It’s been a little over a week since the Florida Department of Education recognized more than two dozen of the state’s top teachers, and from that group named Glades County fourth-grade math teacher Joy Prescott as the 2019 Teacher of the Year. But we are still smiling and feeling inspired at what these educators are doing for students across the state.

When you think about it, teaching is one of the only professions that can impact a child daily, and profoundly – setting the tone for how they learn, what they learn and what they decide to do for their postsecondary education. This is why Florida Prepaid is so proud to be the Presenting Sponsor of the Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year Program.

It’s our way of saying thank you to Florida teachers, who are preparing students academically while we help their families prepare financially for college. The Friday night gala in Orlando brought together 74 Teacher of the Year nominees from across the state, with five of them, including Mrs. Prescott, being finalists for the grand title.

“You five are truly amazing people. I want you to know choosing only one of you has truly been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.” – Education Commissioner Pam Stewart

We wanted to share a little bit about each of the five finalists, so you can be as inspired as we are!

  • Joy Prescott, 2019 Teacher of the Year: The teacher at Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School focuses on building her students’ confidence in themselves overall – not just in math. She describes her classroom as a student-centered one, where meaningful dialogue is encouraged. She has been an educator for 17 years. Over the past five years, she has participated in more than 25 student-focused professional development programs to enhance the instruction she provides her students.
  • Kyle Dencker, a computer science teacher at Timber Creek High School in Orange County, has played a critical role in developing and expanding computer science courses at Timber Creek High School, where the computer science program has grown to include more than 380 students. He also encourages female students to find passion in STEM work. In 2013 and 2017, he received the National Center of Women and Informational Technology Educator Award.
  • Patrick Farley is a third- and fourth-grade gifted teacher at Crystal Lakes Elementary School, where he has taught a variety of grade levels since 2013. His principal credits his commitment to students and to mentoring other teachers with the school’s grade improving from a “C” to an “A” last year.
  • Samantha Neff, math coach at Idyllwilde Elementary School in Seminole County, is known among students and peers as “Suzy Sunshine” for her positive spirit and giving approach to fellow teachers who want to improve their craft. She’s also an adjunct professor at the University of Central Florida, her alma mater, and does math-education training for teachers nationwide.
  • Molly Winters Diallo serves as the Social Sciences Department Chair at Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High School in Miami-Dade County. She teaches Honors U.S. History, Advanced Placement (AP) Psychology and AP Human Geography. Since the inception of the U.S. History end-of-course assessment, her students’ pass rate has averaged 90 percent, with last year’s rate being 98 percent. Diallo also mentors new teachers and has been recognized by the Bezos Family Foundation and Stanford University for her innovative approaches and rigorous instruction.

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