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ORLANDO – A Gilchrist County teacher has been named a finalist in Florida’s Teacher of the Year. Trinity Whittington, a fourth-grade English language arts and social studies teacher at Bell Elementary School in Gilchrist County, is among five finalists vying for the award.

On Tuesday, Governor Ron DeSantis attended Florida’s annual Teacher of the Year Conference in Orlando to recognize the best educators in the state. At the event, Governor DeSantis highlighted five teacher of the year finalists and awarded each one with a $15,000 bonus. Governor DeSantis also highlighted Florida’s continuing education achievements over the past year, including Florida’s ranking as third in the nation for K-12 achievement according to the latest Quality Counts report.

“Florida is the education state not just because we have good policies, but because we have great teachers who go above and beyond for their students,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “It was great to join some amazing teachers today and to show our appreciation for their hard work and sacrifice. We will continue to invest in our schools and educators, while putting policies in place that improve outcomes for students.”

The five teachers who are finalists for Teacher of the Year and were awarded $15,000 bonuses by Governor DeSantis are:

  • Melissa Matz, a seventh-grade math teacher at Lakeside Junior High School in Clay County.
  • Trinity Whittington, a fourth-grade English language arts and social studies teacher at Bell Elementary School in Gilchrist County.
  • Jennifer Jaso, a social studies teacher at Sarasota Middle School. 
  • Deelah Jackson, a fourth-grade teacher at Samoset Elementary School in Manatee County.
  • Seema Naik, a fourth-grade teacher at Eagle Ridge Elementary School in Broward County.

The five finalists were chosen for 2023 Teacher of the Year from nearly 185,000 public school teachers throughout the state. After each school district selects its teacher of the year, a selection committee representing teachers, principals, parents, and the business community reviews each district application on the basis of outstanding ability to teach and communicate knowledge of the subject taught, professional development, philosophy of teaching, and outstanding school and community service. The winner will serve for one year as the Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education, promoting the positive aspects of teaching as a career.

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