The schools have picked their teaching jewels for 2019.
Faculty at each of the four public schools voted last month for Teacher and Employee of the Year, selecting candidates to represent their school in district-wide competition.
The four teachers named by their peers represent the spectrum, from veteran to youngblood, guiders of youngsters to teens.
The four will be observed in the classroom and interviewed by a panel of administrators from other districts on Jan. 23, with a winner named later.
The district Teacher of the Year will advance to a state conference in the spring where the Florida Teacher of the Year will be selected.
Holmes teaches kindergarten at Wewahitchka Elementary School, serving as a mentor for new teachers and grade group leader.
While Holmes was chair of the grade group, she researched and helped create a plan for small group instruction, Williams noted, instilling a mission of meeting every student’s individual needs.
That small-group instruction is now a reality.
“Victoria is always eager to volunteer her personal time to help new and seasoned teachers as well as take on extra responsibilities within our school,” wrote fellow kindergarten teacher Jessica Williams in her nomination letter.
Williams noted that Holmes is considered a “Gifted Instructor” and it was not uncommon to see current and former students running up for a hug when seeing Holmes.
“Along with her willingness to help others, she seeks help from others as well,” Williams wrote.
Due to her easy nature, Williams said that Holmes is easy to talk to and ask questions of, eager to share and gain knowledge.
“Her infectious desire to learn more has found her seeking professional development seminars and podcasts relevant to kindergarten continuously and has motivated me to pursue a higher degree in education,” Williams wrote
“Victoria displays a positive attitude that not only is infectious to her cohorts, but her students as well.”
Elizabeth “Liz” Lentz
Lentz, a third-grade teacher at Port St. Joe Elementary School, arrived in Gulf County with vast experience in public and private schools in Pensacola and Chapel Hill, NC.
After concentrating on family and home following the move to Port St. Joe, Lentz joined the PTO, becoming president for three years and volunteering at the school.
“Liz knew she needed to be in the classroom daily to love and teach the children,” wrote Katrina Glass, a fellow third-grade teacher in nominating Lentz.
The following year, Lentz joined the faculty at the elementary school.
She also serves on the School Advisory Council and mentors other teachers in the use of a math computer program.
“She is always researching for new ways to reach and teach every student,” Glass wrote.
And after Hurricane Michael, despite the destruction of her home, Lentz never missed a day.
“She wanted to be at school for her students, to help them feel comfortable, to know she cared, to give them a sense of normalcy and to continue encouraging them to set goals, work hard, learn and do their personal best,” Glass wrote.
Summerlin could be considered the new kid on this block, having joined the district about a year ago after her husband became the new baseball coach at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School.
She’s needed little time to fit right in.
Summerlin is not only a teacher, but also the advisor to the Student Government Council.
“She is truly an inspiration to this faculty and our students,” wrote fellow teacher Laurel Riley. “She brings an energy and spirit to the classroom that is quite refreshing.”
On a personal, but nonetheless objective note, having observed her corralling her SGA kids for a constructive weekly meeting is something to behold.
“She has a calling and is a natural within her teaching assignment which some of us would find most difficult,” Riley wrote in nominating Summerlin.
“Her students are exceptional and can be challenging, but her positivity rises to that challenge.”
Summerlin gives each of her students an individual greeting period after period, Riley observed, often with a smile or hug.
Riley also noted that two SGA students are currently living with her and sing Summerlin’s praises.
“They love Mrs. Summerlin and so do I, as a parent and a colleague,” Riley wrote.
Taking a straightforward approach, one could describe Totman as a teacher of English Language Arts at Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School.
However, in the words of Misty Wood, principal designee, that only scratches the surface.
Wood and Totman worked together at Wewahitchka Middle School before their paths diverged, Wood moving to the high school and Totman taking an instructional position at an innovative school in Orlando.
But the personal interactions with students led Totman to return to Wewahitchka and the English teaching position.
“Cameron brought her experiences from teaching in Orlando back with her into the classroom,” Wood wrote in a nomination of Totman.
She personalized learning, took on the job of bringing up students in danger of not graduating.
And there is also the guitar.
With the school establishing a fine arts program only to discover the guitar teaching leaving the profession, Totman spent a summer taking guitar lessons and in turn took the reins of the fine arts program.
Totman was also responsible for the school’s linkage to the Khan Academy in New York, with Totman filmed while teaching a lesson in reading.
“She is truly a top-notch teacher,” Wood said.