December 14, 2018
Judy Paris of Shadeville Elementary School was announced by Superintendent Bobby Pearce as the 2019 Wakulla County Teacher of the Year on December 14.
Shadeville Principal Nick Weaver, Assistant Principal Frankie Harvey, plus students and colleagues were on hand to cheer for Paris as she received flowers, candy and balloons from Superintendent Pearce and Chief Academic Officer Sunny Chancy.
Paris will now go on to compete with the other 71 District Teachers of the Year for a Top Five Finalists spot. In July, all school districts’ Teachers of the Year will be honored at the Florida Department of Education-Macy’s sponsored program in Orlando where the Florida Teacher of the Year will be announced.
A 5th grade math teacher, Paris is in her fourteenth year in education. This is her sixth year at Shadeville.
Paris earned a bachelor’s degree in Technical Writing with a minor in Mathematics from Louisiana State University. She went on to earn a post baccalaureate degree in Mathematics Education and is certified in Elementary Education, Middle School Math, and High School Math.
In Louisiana, her extensive knowledge of how to teach math was honed as a 7th and 8th grade math teacher and as a high school math teacher of Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Trigonometry.
After teaching for seven years in her home state of Louisiana, Paris moved to Wakulla County and volunteered in her son’s kindergarten class at Shadeville before being hired there.
Her philosophy of teaching is that “students thrive in an environment where they are encouraged to explain their thinking and try to understand how others think. I aim to create a classroom where a love of learning is facilitated and where students build self-confidence.”
She has co-taught faculty workshops on Accelerated Math, is the Grade 5 Team Leader, and is Chair of the Shadeville Elementary Mathematics Committee.
Paris was twice recognized by the Florida Department of Education as a “High Impact Teacher” due to her students’ Learning Gains, and has earned the “Best and Brightest” FDOE award for three consecutive years. In addition, her SES peers voted her September 2018 Teacher of the Month.
Concrete evidence of success with her students is in their Learning Gains on the state’s mandatory FSA (Florida Standards Assessment) at the end of the year. She says, “On the average, over the last several years, the groups I have taught have come to me with 40-50% proficiency and left with 90-100% proficiency in math.” Proficiency is considered on or above grade level.
But the most important discovery she made over years of teaching math is that engaging students in their own learning is the key. “The instructional practices you will see in my classroom are practices designed to help my students become independent, strategic learners. You will see my students attempting to solve problems on their own, and then engaging with their tablemates to explain their thinking. Their use of math vocabulary and peer coaching is observable throughout the lesson,” she says.
Paris gives credit for her shift from teacher to facilitator on continuing her own education about how to translate math into something meaningful for her students, especially those who never felt successful in math classes. “I have increased the percentage of student involvement because of using Kagan Structures, Accelerated Math, and High Yield Routines. In my traditional classroom, I would question one student and get one answer. In my current classroom, I ask one question and I get an answer from every student.”
Says Shadeville Principal Nick Weaver, “Mrs. Paris is a cornerstone of the 5th grade team. Her students consistently improve their math scores, and usually 90% or higher show proficiency in math by the end of the school year. She is a true asset to Shadeville Elementary and to the teaching profession.”
In representing all of the Wakulla teachers, Paris says her primary message is that teachers are game changers: “We can make a direct positive impact in our students’ lives.” Some students “lack the social skills needed to be happy and successful. We need to teach them the skills of working together. In a climate where students who have felt rejected act out with school shootings, we must find a way to make all of them feel heard and valued. Working together brings a sense of belonging.”
Adds Superintendent Pearce, “Love of your subject matter is not enough to be a good teacher. The art of engaging students in their own learning and helping them learn to listen to and respect each other’s ideas is the true test of a great teacher. We wish Mrs. Paris the best in state competition, but we know that being Wakulla’s District Teacher of the Year is a great feat because we are fortunate to have so many excellent teachers here.”
The other seven outstanding School-Level Teachers of the Year for 2019 are: Staci Welch for Crawfordville Elementary; Joanne English for Medart Elementary; Ashlee Guess for Riversink Elementary; Lesley Jamison for Riversprings Middle; Mallory Harrison for Wakulla Middle; Patricia Bodiford for Wakulla High School; and Sharon Scherbarth representing teachers who serve students at several schools.
These representatives and all of Wakulla County public school teachers will be honored at a celebration on Monday, March 25 at 8:00 a.m. at Riversprings Middle School.
Chief Academic Officer Sunny Chancy and the Instructional Services Department coordinate the Teacher of the Year Program and Breakfast sponsored by Prime Meridian Bank.