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Tips from New Teacher of the Year, a former Florida Prepaid kid

Florida’s new Teacher of the Year didn’t plan on a career in the classroom. She actually resisted it. Krista Stanley said her parents and older sister are all educators, and everyone told her teaching was her destiny—which is why she majored in business administration at Florida State University.

“I just fought it and fought it,” she said with a laugh. “When I graduated, I realized they were all right.”

Stanley has been a sixth-grade teacher for the past four years at Yearling Middle School in Okeechobee County, where she grew up, and serves as the school math representative and mentor for new teachers.

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran recently announced that Stanley was chosen from among five finalists to serve as the 2021 Florida Teacher of the Year – an honor that will have her serving as a sort of ambassador and mentor to  teachers around the state for the next 12 months.

Straight from our FAQs: If the future cost of college is less that what you paid for your Florida Prepaid Plan, you may request, and you will receive, a refund for the difference between what you paid for your plan and the benefits paid by your plan.

Stanley is passionate about ensuring that students at her diverse, rural school have what they need to be successful. Parent support is at the top of that list, and she gives credit to her own parents for purchasing Florida Prepaid plans for herself and her three siblings. By taking dual enrollment classes in high school, finishing her associate degree with a year at Indian River State College, and completing her bachelor’s degree within two years at FSU, Stanley actually ended her college career with Prepaid funds left over (which her parents then gifted to her).

“We’ve all been blessed by having Florida Prepaid set up for us,” Stanley said of herself and her siblings.

Stanley chatted with us recently and shared a few tips for parents who want to create an ideal learning environment:

  • Stay positive about school and communicate with your child’s teachers. “If a student is hearing the same thing from the parent and the teacher, they’re being held accountable in more ways than one. It really does open up that dialogue.” Be sure to celebrate good days and small successes, too.
  • Teach them what they love. For a frustrated or disinterested child, just provide them with content they enjoy, even if it’s below grade level. “I feel like the kid needs to find something that connects them to education. If they’re interested, they’ll be more invested.”
  • Connect math to the real world. Students love her “Stanley’s Diner menu,” which she uses to ask questions like, “Bob has a 20-dollar bill and bought a pizza, soda and a cookie. How much does he get back in change?” Parents can reinforce this Florida Standard when dining out with their kids; it’s the perfect time because everyone is relaxed and has time to give that math a try. “When they see the real-world connection, that makes all the difference.”
  • Stay engaged even from home. If your child is taking classes digitally this year due to the pandemic, help them stay engaged with their teacher. Go over their schedule with them and encourage them reach out to teachers with questions. “During office hours, students can go get help. They can pop on and tell the teacher they need help virtually. Students can’t do it all on their own. It’s really about maintaining that engagement.”

Over the next year as the Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education, Stanley plans to create greater public awareness of Florida’s exceptional teachers and wants to inspire future educators.

“I’m just honored and so excited to represent Okeechobee,” she said. “I have to keep reminding myself that this is real.”

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