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Three finalists selected for Teacher of the Year

Three finalists selected for Teacher of the Year The last day of school for the second grading period brought some exciting news for three classrooms in Lake County Schools as officials from the School District and the Educational Foundation of Lake County surprised three teachers who were chosen as finalists for the Lake County Teacher of the Year.

Lake County Schools Superintendent Dr. Susan Moxley, School Board Member Rosanne Brandeburg and School Board Chair Kyleen Fischer were joined by Educational Foundation Board Members Bill Giffing, Barbara Wilson-Smith and Peggy Campbell, as well other staff, to officially deliver the news to finalist candidates: Jonathan Stalma at East Ridge High; Noris Aguayo at Groveland Elementary; and April Von Maxey at Tavares Elementary.

Three judges will conduct a site interview with the finalists before making a final choice. Lake County Schools’ Teacher of the Year will be announced at a celebration dinner presented by the Educational Foundation of Lake County and sponsored by Progress Energy on Saturday, Feb. 23, at Lake Receptions in Mount Dora. Tickets can be reserved by calling (352) 326-1265.

JONATHAN STALMA — With seven years of experience as an English teacher at East Ridge High, Stalma has built a rapport with his students, according to East Ridge High Principal Julie Robinson-Lueallen. “His first priority is about the kids,” she said. “He wants the kids to learn everything and he brings out the best in them.” Education is more than obtaining knowledge for certain standards or benchmark skills, for Stalma it’s about creating a foundation for lifelong success. “The role of an educator is more than simply disseminating reading, language and literature skills to students,” he wrote in his application for Teacher of the Year. “The role of educator transcends to the greater goal of generating creative, confident, and competent individuals who can be leaders in the world around them.

NORIS AGUAYO — For six years Aguayo has been teaching third graders at Groveland Elementary and she continues to find new ways to teach her students, says Groveland Elementary Principal Kimberly Sneed Jarvis. “She is an innovator,” she said. “She finds a way to reach all students. She participates in staff development and is willing to learn new things. She’s very creative in her approach to teaching.” According to Aguayo, a strong, nurturing relationship between teacher and student can make a world of difference in their education. “A teacher’s primary goal should be to develop a relationship with each student, regardless of their circumstances,” she wrote in her application. “I personally get to know each and every one of my students. I have laughed and cried with them. Through my experiences, it has become apparent in recent years that students perform better when the teachers take the time to get to know them.”

APRIL VON MAXEY — Her application may state eight years of experience, but this Tavares Elementary graduate has been preparing her whole life for her role as a fourth grade teacher. “Teaching is not a career, it is a lifestyle and I live to be a teacher,” Von Maxey wrote in her application. “Fewer things make me happier than when I am writing curriculum and researching strategies for my next science unit or when my STEM Club teams solve a math task after working together with determination.” Her passion for teaching goes beyond her classroom, said Tavares Elementary Principal Letizia Haugabrook. “In one word she is awesome,” she said. “She goes above and beyond teaching. She foresees an issue that may happen and begins finding solutions.”