By Chris Fish
BREVARD -- Atlantis Elementary School is now the home to its third Brevard County Teacher of the Year in less than a decade.
On Thursday, Jan. 30, Matthew Yount, a six-year veteran of Brevard Public Schools and a sixth-grade math teacher at Atlantis Elementary in Port St. John, was named the Brevard County Teacher of the Year.
Mr. Yount, who received the honor during the third-annual Applauding Brevard's Champions Awards ceremony at the King Center for the Performing Arts, marks the third time since 2007 that an Atlantis Elementary School teacher received this top honor.
"It's an unbelievable honor and blessing because I know what amazing teachers we have in Brevard County," he said. "I am humbled, yet excited, to represent such a hard-working, selfless and skilled group of people."
Mr. Yount said that growing up, he originally intended to be a lawyer, but his life took a different path.
"I originally went to school to become an Army JAG officer (lawyer) but realized God had different plans for me. I thought back to my childhood, and some of my fondest memories were working with my little sister, who has Down syndrome, and her classmates and friends," he said. "So, I decided to switch schools and change my major to pursue a degree in exceptional education."
Cynthia Adams, principal of Atlantis Elementary School, said that the award could not have gone to a more deserving educator, who she described as having a "wonderful sense of humor" and one who engages his students.
"Matt is a genuine person, who puts others and their needs before his own," she said. "That comes across in his relationship with students, as well as with his coworkers. The kids feel that he values and is interested in them because of that real connection he builds with his students."
Ms. Adams said that the school's recognition for producing some of the area's top teachers is a positive sign for the learning institution.
"We are the only school in Brevard that has multiple years of (winners), and what that means is a huge sense of pride of our faculty and staff," she said. "They are very professional, are constantly learning about new research and high-yield strategies, and they are always trying to engage their students."
Michelle Irwin, public information officer for Brevard County Schools, said that Mr. Yount received the recognition based upon a voting and ranking system by his peers throughout the school year.
After ballots were collected for the award's nominees, the Office of Recruitment and Retention calculated a ranking, selecting six finalists in November.
From there, each finalist was interviewed to determine why he or she would be the best candidate for the award.
To qualify for the state of Florida's Teacher of the Year award, applications must be submitted to the Florida Department of Education by March 3.
From there, a state selection committee will select its district finalists, and then a final decision will be made in the summer.
The last Brevard County educator to be named Florida's Teacher of the Year was Tracey Bailey of Satellite High School in 1993.
When asked if this honor would impact his teaching style, Mr. Yount remained humble.
"This honor validates my teaching philosophy that God has given us all unique and wonderful gifts to affect a positive change in the lives of others," he said. "Our job, as teachers, is to help students find those gifts and use them to make our world a better place."
For more information about the selection process, visit www.fldoe.org/profdev/yeartch.asp.