Lake and Sumter Style Magazine
5:55 pm EST
Saturday, March 6, 2021

District names finalists for Rookie Teacher of the Year and School-Related Employee of the Year

Two elementary school teachers and one high school teacher — all with less than three years experience — on Wednesday, Feb. 17 learned they are already leaders in their profession. 

Jacob Carriero, a physical education teacher at Mascotte Charter Elementary, Amy Crofts, a pre-K/ESE teacher at Rimes Early Learning Center, and Theresa Spann, a culinary instructor at Umatilla High School, were named Lake County Schools Rookie Teacher of the Year finalists. 

Additionally, four district employees who provide critical support to ensure schools run smoothly were tapped as the Lake County School-Related Employee of the Year finalists. 

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The dedicated employees include Sandra Belinski, a bookkeeper at East Ridge Middle School, April Dempsey, a food service manager at Grassy Lake Elementary, Samson Backer, a custodian at Groveland Elementary, and Karly Nelson, a teacher assistant at Leesburg Elementary School.

The Rookie Teacher of the Year and the School-Related Employee of the Year finalists were notified Wednesday, Feb. 17 by Superintendent Diane Kornegay, School Board members Marc Dodd and Mollie Cunningham, and a caravan of representatives from the district, the Education Foundation of Lake County, and Insight Credit Union. 

The entourage visited each of the finalists’ schools to announce their recognition and to celebrate with their principals and other school staff. 

Carriero, Crofts, and Spann were among 44 rookie teachers selected by their peers to represent their respective schools in the Lake Schools District recognition program for educators who have been teaching for three years or less. 

Belinski, Dempsey, Backer, and Nelson were among 37 school district workers identified by their peers at their respective schools in the Lake Schools District departments for excellence and dedication to Lake County Schools’ students and teachers. 

A panel of judges seated for each recognition program reviewed all applications and determined the top three Rookie Teacher of the Year honorees and the top four School-Related Employee of the Year honorees. 

“The pandemic has caused so many challenges for our school district. New teachers adjusting to the demands of their profession have had to suddenly pivot and adapt, and the support team is working hard to ensure schools continue to operate smoothly and safely,” says Diane Kornegay, Lake County Schools Superintendent. “That is why this year’s celebration of our Rookie Teachers and School-Related Employees is so significant. I am proud of the finalists and grateful to all the honorees for their dedication to student success.” 

The 2022 Rookie Teacher of the year and the 2022 School-Related Employee of the Year will be announced at a special hybrid event presented by Insight Credit Union on March 10, 2021, at 5:30 p.m., at the Venetian Center in Leesburg. The event will be hosted by the Education Foundation of Lake County, which coordinates recognition programs for the school district. 

Attendances at the in-person event will include the Rookie Teacher of the Year and School-Related Employee of the Year honorees, school district dignitaries, and sponsors only. 

Lake County School employees and community members are invited to watch the celebration and announcement of the winners which will be live-streamed on YouTube via this link: youtube/0npy9lTuehM.

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