Brevard County Teacher of the Year Finalists Announced

By  //  November 25, 2014

winners will be announced Jan. 28


BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Six Brevard Public Schools teachers recently found out they were selected as finalists for the 2015 Teacher of the Year.

The finalists are: Rebecca Carlson-Burke, Christa McAuliffe Elementary; Cindy Washington, Stone Middle; Shelley Ruiz, Cambridge Elementary; Vanessa Skipper, Cocoa Jr./ Sr. High; Amy Parsons, Tropical Elementary, and Michael Coppola, Astronaut High.

These individuals were selected from among the 89 district Teacher of the Year nominees by a panel of judges comprised of principals and teachers from the north, central and south areas. Finalists were measured against a rigorous set of criteria that include teaching philosophy and practice, leadership, professional development and parental engagement in the learning process.

Brian Binggeli

“These outstanding teachers exemplify the skillful and inspired work taking place in Brevard’s classrooms every day,” said Brian Binggeli, BPS superintendent.  “Their service provides incredible learning opportunities and success for the children of this community.”

The 2015 BPS Teacher of the year will be chosen by a committee composed of education and civic leaders in the formal selection process and will be announced in the ceremonies at the ABC Awards Gala on Jan. 28, 2015 at The King Center in Melbourne.  The winner will be Brevard’s representative in the state’s 2015-16 Florida Department of Education-Macy’s Teacher of the Year.

Additional information on the six finalists follows:

Rebecca Carlson-Burke, Christa McAuliffe Elementary

Employed with the district for 19 years, Rebecca Carlson-Burke has taught first grade at Christa McAuliffe Elementary in Melbourne for 17 of those years. As a primary teacher, Carlson-Burke enriches the lives of her students by always encouraging them to persevere through their hardships. Just as she provides guidance to her students, Carlson-Burke also serves as a role model to her peers as she strives to emulate the most current and best teaching practices by facilitating trainings on Common Core strategies, grade level standards, and additional learning strategies. She is also a mentoring teacher.  She volunteers outside the classroom by providing literacy programs at public libraries and helped initiate Christa McAuliffe’s Title I program. Carlson-Burke is a national board certified teacher and is currently pursuing a master’s of education in curriculum and instruction with a focus on reading from Grand Canyon University.

Cindy Washington, Stone Middle

At Stone Magnet Middle in Melbourne, Cindy Washington has taught seventh grade language arts for the past six years.  Washington holds a bachelor’s of science in both English and social studies, and is a board certified teacher in English language arts/early adolescence.  In addition to her teaching role, Washington serves as the department chair, is a district B.E.S.T. trainer and is a member of both the AVID and CTE learning professional teams. Focusing on well researched and practical subject area teaching strategies, Washington’s expectations of students include having them create meaningful textual connections, critically assess the content of each connection and implement them by fostering active engagement across curriculums.  To reinforce these practices, Washington works diligently with her interdisciplinary team to collaborate on meeting these standards.

Shelley Ruiz, Cambridge Elementary

As an educator for the past five years, Shelley Ruiz inspires the love of learning science to students at Cambridge Elementary in Cocoa in her position as Title I teacher and coordinator. Ruiz directs the school’s science lab, where she incorporates the latest research on inquiry, differentiation, teaching styles, technology, collaboration and higher level thinking.  Winner of the 2014 Exemplary Science Teacher award, Ruiz models instructional strategies, provides materials and resources to teachers and parents, and mentors teachers in all grade levels.   In addition to her primary role, Ruiz is vigorously involved in school initiatives by acting as the sponsor for the safety patrols, energy patrols, recycling team and is the science fair coordinator.  She has a bachelor’s of science degree in early childhood education and a master’s of art in varying exceptionalities.

Vanessa Skipper, Cocoa High

Employed by the district for eight years, Vanessa Skipper has spent the last five teaching Language Arts III and English III Honors courses at Cocoa High.  Fueled by her desire to integrate as many different classroom strategies as possible to reach multiple learning styles, Skipper inspires her students to become active participants in their education.  Through her involvement in various professional learning development conferences, courses and trainings, Skipper consistently blends her commitment to strong standards-based education, with her ability to engage and support even the most struggling learner. The same level of commitment to Skipper’s students is also seen within the school community as she is the English Department Professional Development facilitator, a member of the Superintendent’s Advisory Council and is actively involved in the Brevard Federation of Teachers organization.  Skipper has a bachelor’s of art in advertising and public relations and a master’s degree in English and language arts education.

Amy Parsons, Tropical Elementary

Sixth grade teacher, Amy Parsons at Tropical Elementary in Merritt Island, calls upon her excellent public speaking skills to present at many professional development and learning community activities.  She has been with the district for 11 years and has served as Tropical’s sixth grade team leader and social studies contact.  She has been a member of BPS’ VIPS team, the Florida standards team, and served as a peer coach for other teachers.  Parsons actively pursues professional growth and can always be found reading a new professional book or participating in various learning opportunities, deepening her already extensive knowledge base.  She has two degrees from The University of Central Florida including a bachelor’s of art in business administration with a minor in education and a master’s degree in elementary education.

Michael Coppola, Astronaut High

Michael Coppola’s dedication to Astronaut High in Titusville can be measured by the number of seniors who mention Coppola in their graduation speeches.  Many of his students go on to pursue arts-related jobs and later call on Coppola’s expertise for a resource.  He always has 70 or more students enrolled in his choral program and is the chair of the fine arts department.  He has taught in BPS schools for 17 years and is a mentor and peer counselor to other teachers.  Coppola is extremely involved with the school’s drama department and can also be found at the Titusville Playhouse as its music director.  He has a bachelor’s of science degree in music education degree from Western Connecticut State University.

BPS Teacher of the Year Nominees are listed by school area.

Finalists are highlighted.

South Area    
Discovery Elementary Genise Wanza
Turner  Elementary Carol Fallace
Port Malabar Elementary Valeri Gilstad
Palm Bay Magnet High Lauren Feronti
Bayside High Rhonda Kaleel
South Area Alternative Learning Center Sebastian Piccione
Central Middle Glenn Webb
Hoover Middle Martha  Jane St. Denis
West Shore Jr./Sr. High James Finch III
Riviera Elementary Brad Thomsen
Heritage High Cole Mannes
West Melbourne School of Science Elementary Rebekah Villanueva
Westside Elementary Nicole Turner
Palm Bay Elementary Dona Kim Ogborn
University Park Elementary Brooke Link
Meadowlane Primary Elementary Janell Jones
Melbourne High Julie Conlon
Harbor City Elementary Stephanie Thron
Roy Allen Julia Barnhouse
Columbia Elementary Danielle Holmes
Indialantic Elementary Teatanya Watson
Gemini Elementary Anne Nichols
Stone Magnet Middle Cindy Washington
Southwest Middle Valeria Dunkleman
Jupiter Elementary Brittany Erekson
Meadowlane Intermediate Gabrielle Bollaert
Lockmar Elementary Sharon P. Latner
Christa McAuliffe Elementary Rebecca Carlson-Burke
Sunrise Elementary Alicia Gillaspie
South Area Head Start Cassandra Kuhn
Central Area    
Sea Park Elementary Rochelle Schneider
ESE Program Support Theresa Bradley
Quest Elementary Paul Schryer
Johnson Middle Deidre M. Carroll
Viera Charter Susan Nardelli
Cambridge Elementary Magnet Shelley Ruiz
Saturn Elementary Lisa Rossiello
DeLaura Middle Andrea Smith
Suntree Elementary Pamela Bradford
Sherwood Elementary Anita Winslow
Viera High Danielle Gee
Golfview Elementary Magnet Sharon Murray
Manatee Elementary Laura Gravina
Adult Education Center Mercedes Alvarez
Holland Elementary Donna Pfleuger
Hans Christian Andersen Terri Tomassi
Longleaf Elementary Tracy Pogue
Rockledge High Jacqueline Insalaco
McNair Magnet Middle Janice B. DeLoach
Fairglen Elementary Kasey Hallock
Cocoa High Vanessa Lorraine Skipper
Croton Elementary Cristin Taylor
Sabal Elementary Carolyn Godfrey
Satellite High Greg Smith
Eau Gallie High James Bradley Lustic
Endeavour Elementary Betsy Gross
Ocean Breeze Elementary Margret M. McNally
Ralph Williams Elementary Vicki Long Sibbitt
Surfside  Elementary Annette Jankowski
Creel Elementary Stacy Gooch
Kennedy Middle Darren DeGennaro
North Area    
Freedom 7 Elementary Lisa Enrique
 Imperial Estates Elementary Linda Mikell
Lewis Carroll Elementary Amelia Eastes
Roosevelt Elementary Cindy S. Maytrott
Titusville High Eileen Serridge
Virtual Instruction Programs Laurie Pattillo
Cape View Elementary Linda Kay Gunde
Astronaut High Michael T. Coppola
Cocoa Beach Jr/Sr High Betsy B. Butler
Merritt Island High Abby Saul
Atlantis Elementary Erin Dunne
Andrew Jackson Middle Angela Bentley-Henry
Apollo Elementary Maria Greenwell
Edgewood Jr/Sr High Jeremy Moore
Audubon Elementary Lauren Singer
Pinewood Elementary Courtney Amick
Oak Park Elementary Kimberly Harris
Space Coast Jr/Sr High Karrah Hudkins
Enterprise Elementary Jackie Dawn Gould
Challenger 7 Elementary Jessica Olds
Sculptor Charter Patricia Lapentti Bean
Coquina Elementary LaDonna Hanks
Mila Elementary Rebecca White
Thomas Jefferson Middle Heather Mason
Robert Louis Stevenson Elementary Laurie Sargeant
Tropical Elementary Amy Parsons
Madison Middle Carolyn McClellan
Mims Elementary Allyssa Emmons