Teachers of the Month and Employees of the Month for December were honored at the Wakulla County School Board Meeting on December 18, 2017.
Teachers Tracy Dempsey and Mari Kimbrel and employees Joanne Hernandez and Patricia Baker were selected by their peers to be recognized for their positive impact on Wakulla County students, staff, and community.
Tracy Dempsey is in her 23rd year of working in Wakulla public schools’ Exceptional Student Education program as an ESE teacher, an At-Risk Specialist, and in her current position as Staffing Specialist.
She attended Crawfordville Elementary, Wakulla Middle, and graduated from Wakulla High School. Next, she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in ESE from Florida State University.
Dempsey says, “I was raised and educated in Wakulla County Schools. I wanted to give back to the schools and raise my family here.”
She enjoys “seeing students receive the support and services they need, and providing assistance to the teachers and administrators in the schools I work with.”
Looking forward to the Wakulla Special Olympics every year, she notes, “It’s an opportunity to bring all of our children with special needs together and celebrate them with the community.”
Dempsey also has coordinated the Florida Youth Survey for 14 years, and is the original lead teacher for the newly implemented Wings Program.
Says Executive Director of ESE and Student Services Tanya English, “Tracy always rises to meet a new challenge. When I asked her to develop a peer mentor program at WHS, the Wings Program was born. She is an integral part of our team and does whatever it takes to take care of our students.”
Riversink Elementary School 4th Grade teacher Mari Kimbrel was chosen by her peers as their December Teacher of the Month.
Originally a Tallahassee resident who graduated from Lincoln High School, she earned her bachelor’s degree in Education from Flagler College. She is certified in both Elementary Education and Exceptional Student Education.
She spent 9 years as a 3rd Grade teacher in Leon County, then in 2013, she and her husband built a house close to Riversink Elementary. Now entering her fourth year at RES, she was first hired as a Resource Teacher, and has been teaching 4th Grade for the past three years.
Kimbrel notes, “The most enjoyable aspect of my job is seeing life through the eyes of my students. Interacting with them and opening their minds to the importance of life-long learning is a thrill that keeps me teaching.”
Sharing an amusing experience when Sheriff Miller came to her classroom recently, she tells of a student who said, “Sheriff Miller, meeting you is just like meeting the President of the United States and it’s like Mrs. Kimbrel is the First Lady!”
Kimbrel adds, “We all had a good laugh, but the realization of the importance of how much I mean to my students really hit me. My students will never have another 4th Grade teacher, and I am determined to make this year successful!”
Kimbrel also is the RES school-wide coordinator for the Tropicana Speech Contest and is coordinator for RES with the Wakulla County Public Library.
Says Riversink Elementary Principal Simeon Nelson, “Mari Kimbrel has excellent rapport with her students. She shows a sincere interest in them as individuals and is consistently fair in dealing with them. She constantly searches for ways to make her teaching more interesting and more informative.”
He adds, “Her classroom, always brightly decorated, reflects her positive, optimistic attitude about life. She is such a dedicated educator and truly sees the good in all people. She is always quick to volunteer for anything at our school and is a shining example of what a highly qualified educator should be.”
Joanne Hernandez currently supervises Wakulla County School System’s part-time Adults with Disabilities Program. After working as a paraprofessional at Wakulla Pre-K for seven years, she is now in her fourth year of working with the successful AWD Program.
Hernandez graduated from both Wakulla Middle School and Wakulla High School, then went on to earn her Associate of Arts degree from Tallahassee Community College.
The AWD Program has blossomed over the last few years to train students on life skills as they work cooking and serving meals at the Legacy Café on the District Office campus. In addition, they run a boutique where they sell their handmade crafts.
Hernandez says, “I have been blessed with a job that rewards me every day. My students are one of a kind and work so hard, you would never know they had a disability.”
She has expanded the Legacy Boutique to display her students’ crafts at the Wakulla County Public Library, as well as at all the Wakulla public schools. She adds, “By the third year we had our own Facebook page. This year has been the most exciting; we opened a storefront in the new Legacy Café!”
Hernandez also has been a coach and part of the management team of Wakulla’s Special Olympics for seven years.
Says Director of Adult Education Dod Walker, “Joanne Hernandez is a tireless advocate, friend and teacher for her students. She wants only the best for them and brings joy into any room she enters. Her work with Special Olympics outside of her job shows her dedication to the neediest of Wakulla’s residents and we are fortunate to have her working in our school system.”
Patricia Baker has spent 17 years working for Wakulla County Food Services. From starting as a lunchroom worker at Wakulla Middle and Crawfordville Elementary, she went on to several management positions and is in her third year as the Shadeville Elementary Lunchroom Manager.
Says Baker, “I love being able to talk with the kids as they come through the lunch lines. Quite often I go out into the cafeteria and talk with them to get feedback about the lunches.”
“We had a pumpkin picture decorating contest this year, and the kids were so excited about it, we had over 450 pumpkin pictures posted in the SES cafeteria!”
Baker is no stranger to working with children, as she earned an Associate of Arts degree in Music Education and majored in Music Therapy at FSU. She was a music teacher at Michele Snow’s School of Music for 15 years and is now owner of the Medart School of Music since 2013.
In addition, Baker is a member of the Florida Nutrition Association and the National School Nutrition Association.
Her supervisor, Sodexo General Manager Donna Pease, notes, “Patricia has been an absolute joy to work with. ‘Trish’ has always been more than happy to help us exceed goals on feeding our children. She is truly an exceptional employee.”
Adds Superintendent Bobby Pearce, “Congratulations to these excellent ladies who truly have all of our students’ best interests at heart. They make a difference every day and it does not go unnoticed.”