One of Brevard's best will represent the county for statewide award
By Meagan McGone
BREVARD -- Six area teachers have been selected as finalists for Brevard Public Schools 2013 Teacher of the Year.
The finalists, which include teachers from three elementary and three secondary schools, were chosen out of 90 Teachers of the Year from individual schools throughout the county.
"These six exceptional teachers represent the talent and dedication illustrated by teachers throughout the district," said Brian Binggeli, superintendent of Brevard Public Schools, in a press release. "When you read their nominations for this award - made by colleagues - you can't help but see the passion that these individuals bring to providing children with the highest quality education possible."
A committee of education, business and civic leaders will choose the Brevard Public Schools' Teacher of the Year, and the decision will be announced in January. In addition to representing Brevard in the state's 2013 Teacher of the Year competition, the winner will also receive more than $3,000 in cash and prizes.
This year's finalists include:
Joanna DiPeppe, an AP English and Composition teacher at Satellite High School: Ms. DiPeppe is a National Board Certified teacher, and she has been with Brevard Public Schools and Satellite High School for 12 years.
"She is just an amazing teacher and woman," said Lexie Byers, a Satellite High School graduate and former student of Ms. DiPeppe. "I always loved writing, but she taught me so much, and I saw a huge improvement in my skills. She made me so confident in my abilities as a writer that I decided to major in public relations, making me a student of the College of Journalism and Communication at the University of Florida. She is brilliant and so caring, and I truly aspire to be like her, as do many of her students."
Susan French, a sixth-grade teacher at Sherwood Elementary School: Of her 23 years of teaching in Brevard County, Ms. French has been at Sherwood Elementary School for the past nine of them.
"She has the characteristics that are necessary to be a great teacher: She inspires students to do their best; she creates a community within and outside her classroom; and she loves to learn and share new ideas," said Sherwood Elementary School's principal Cindy Wilson.
Debra Milliken, a third-grade teacher at Oak Park Elementary School: Ms. Milliken has been a teacher for more than 20 years, and she has taught at Oak Park Elementary School since 2009.
Oak Park Elementary School principal Ron Dedmon said Ms. Milliken is a strong force in education.
"Her dedication, cooperation and commitment to students are commendable," Mr. Dedmon said. "I strongly endorse Ms. Milliken to represent the District as our Teacher of the Year."
Jason Schack, a Physical Education teacher at Melbourne High School: Mr. Schack has been at Melbourne High School for eight of the nine years he has taught in Brevard.
Melbourne High School's principal James Willcoxon said Mr. Schack is an outstanding role model for his students.
"He is a shining example of what a great teacher should represent each and every day with his students and colleagues," Mr. Willcoxon said.
Amber Thibedeau, a Title I Science teacher at Sunrise Elementary School: Ms. Thibedeau has been at Sunrise Elementary School since it opened six years ago. School principal Barry Pichard said Ms. Thibedeau, a nine-year teacher, is a true professional.
"Amber is a leader by example, very enthusiastic and excited about her students and her responsibilities," he said.
Jill Whitacre, a seventh-grade math teacher at West Shore Jr./Sr. High School: Ms. Whitacre has taught at West Shore Jr./Sr. High School for two of the 12 years that she has served the district.
"Every once in a while in our profession, someone comes along that has a special gift for teaching and learning, and inspiring others to do the things they thought they never could," said the school's principal, Rick Fleming. "Here at West Shore, that special person is Jill Whitacre."