The Okaloosa School District recently selected Royal Preston, construction teacher at Okaloosa Technical College, as its Teacher of the Year recipient.
While Preston earned the top honor, he was one of many who received recognition.
Selected as Bluewater Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year, Brooke Laurick teaches reading and social studies.
“I know that the teachers from Bluewater Elementary are phenomenal, and I feel honored to be a Teacher of the Year,” Laurick said.
Born into a military family, Laurick traveled with her family around the world and then to Okaloosa County. She graduated Niceville High School, Northwest Florida State College and Florida State University.
At Bluewater Elementary School, Laurick said she loves igniting the student’s passion for reading by connecting them to stories that help them discover more about their world and their own imagination.
“I had a hard time in elementary school,” Laurick said, adding that she overcame her own reading challenges to achieve her goals.
“I want my students to see that if you work hard and set goals, you can achieve them,” she added.
As a military spouse with three children, Maria Lewis has spent 30 out of her 33 years as an educator in the Okaloosa County School District.
“It’s a huge honor to represent Edge (Elementary School),” Lewis said. “We have great teachers at this school, and it’s a great honor for them to choose me.”
Lewis began her career as a teacher; she transition into a media specialist, and she now serves as school counselor at Edge Elementary. Throughout her career, she has encouraged her students and their families, drawing on the examples set by her own parents as educators and lifelong learners.
“And it’s thanks to the mentors, from administrators and fellow teachers, that I am at this point in my career,” Lewis added.
Gerrianne Burnette is a wife and mother of three, and she is also the Plew Elementary School Teacher of the Year.
She earned her teaching certificate from Fontbonne University in St. Louis, and she has been teaching for 27 years.
Burnette moved to Okaloosa County with her husband in 2003, and she started teaching second grade a year later at Plew Elementary.
After that first year, Burnette moved up to third grade, and she has taught that grade level so ever since.
“I’m a third-grade teacher through and through,” she said.
“It really is an honor for me to be chosen by my peers,” Burnette continued to say, adding that it is truly an honor to represent Plew as Teacher of the Year.
Burnette also said that “I love it down here,” especially during the winter months.
Marchelle Tomassetti began her teaching career in 1989, initially as a marketing and business education teacher. She took a desire to communicate with the large community of Spanish speaking students and parents, so she learned Spanish.
As a military spouse, she taught both Spanish and business courses, but then she took a hiatus to raise her children.
In 2012, Tomassetti returned to the classroom at Ruckel Middle School, teaching both math and Spanish.
“Many of my students take my introductory class in sixth grade and decide to continue in seventh and eighth grade,” Tomassetti said. “I get to build those relationships with them.”
Tomassetti added that she is honored, humbled and fortunate to teach at Ruckel Middle School.
“They have a very supportive staff and administration,” she said.
A 1980 graduate of Niceville High School, Kelly Humphrey returned to her alma mater after more than 30 years as a journalist.
She now represents her school as its Teacher of the Year.
“As an English teacher and as the sponsor for our school newspaper, the “Eagle Echo,” I try to help my students understand the power of words,” Humphrey wrote in an email.
“I also want them to learn to appreciate all different forms of literature, from great novels and short stories to plays, poetry, essays and speeches,” she continued.
Humphrey said that as a student at Niceville High School, all the teachers were wonderful, but she said in particular that she appreciated the English teachers who stressed the importance of good writing.
“I credit them with helping me to hone my skills to the point where I was able to enjoy a career in journalism,” she wrote. Coming full circle, she passes on the knowledge and skills to her own students.
“I’m so grateful to our principal, Charlie Morello, for giving me this opportunity, and to my fellow teachers for selecting me for this honor,” she added.