At the 2023 Florida Teacher of the Year Awards Gala, Nancy Welch, Orange Technical College – Orlando Campus, teacher was awarded the State Farm Life Skills Award. This award recognizes an educator dedicated to improving the decision-making, critical thinking and fiscal responsibility of their students, making sure they are prepared and ready for the future.
Nancy Welch is a graduate from the University of Florida and a nurse for 40 years. She has been teaching for the past 10 years Practical Nursing at Orlando Technical College’s Orlando campus. Nancy is committed to helping her students become skilled and compassionate nurses. She is helping shape the next generation of nurses.
The Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. also named Melissa Anne Matz, a seventh-grade math teacher at Lakeside Junior High School in Clay County, the 2023 Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year. Ms. Matz was selected from nearly 185,000 public school teachers throughout the state for her exemplary classroom excellence and contributions to her students and school.
As the 2023 Florida Teacher of the Year, Ms. Matz will serve as the Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education for one year and create greater public awareness of Florida’s exceptional teachers and the education profession. She will also have the opportunity to promote and celebrate the countless contributions of Florida’s educators, as well as provide professional learning opportunities for educators and recruit future teachers for K-12 schools.
“I am honored to recognize Melissa Anne Matz as the 2023 Florida Teacher of the Year,” said Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. “Melissa has risen to the top through hard work, passion and putting her students first. I have no doubt she will represent Florida with excellence in the coming year, just as she has done in her classroom.”
Ms. Matz has served as the Lakeside Junior High School math department head and leadership team member since 2015. She is the chairperson for Lakeside’s School Advisory Committee, a cooperating teacher for college interns, and a school representative for district curriculum-map writing. She believes that building rapport with each of her students is an essential step in the process of teaching math, and she makes it a point to speak with each student as they enter her classroom. Ms. Matz takes the approach that stepping outside of one’s comfort zone and taking positive risks are how extraordinary gains are achieved.
“Melissa Matz’s students see firsthand that the skills they acquire in her classroom can be applied to a broad spectrum of fields, and therefore, they can become well-rounded members of our community,” said Clay County Superintendent of Schools David Broskie.
As the 2023 Florida Teacher of the Year, Ms. Matz will receive a $20,000 award from the Florida Department of Education, a tuition waiver to pursue a graduate degree from the Florida State University College of Education, and a two-year Florida College scholarship from the Florida Prepaid College Board to present to a student of her choice.
The remaining four Teacher of the Year finalists will each receive $15,000 from the Florida Department of Education – Seema Naik, a fourth-grade teacher at Eagle Ridge Elementary School in Broward County; Deelah Jackson, a fourth-grade teacher at Samoset Elementary School in Manatee County; Dr. Jennifer Jaso, a social studies teacher at Sarasota Middle School in Sarasota County; and Trinity Brooke Whittington, a fourth-grade English language arts and social studies teacher at Bell Elementary School in Gilchrist County. The sixty-nine other Teacher of the Year district winners were also recognized for their achievements and excellence in teaching and will each receive a check for $10,000.
The Florida Department of Education endeavors to provide every student with a world-class education, which involves having high-quality educators in all Florida classrooms. Governor Ron DeSantis, Commissioner Diaz and the Florida Legislature have consistently elevated teachers, including through record funding for recruitment and retention. Overall, Florida has committed over $2 billion in new funding for teacher salaries since 2020.
In addition to announcing the 2023 Florida Teacher of the Year, several special awards were also presented tonight:
Outstanding Teacher Leader Award – Michelle Lapointe, South Elementary School, Okeechobee County
The Outstanding Teacher Leader Award was established to honor the legacy of educators who have passed and whose passion for teaching and lifelong learning inspired others. The award is presented to a teacher who demonstrates a commitment to learning, student success and an overall positive contribution to Florida’s education system.
Mary Brogan “Excellence in Teaching” Award – Wendy Stinson, Florida State University School
The Mary Brogan “Excellence in Teaching” Award honors the late wife of former Lt. Governor and Commissioner of Education, Frank Brogan, and is given to an educator who exemplifies the core values of excellence, dedication and the ability to instill passion, joy and love of learning in students.
Ron Nieto Digital Educator Award – Jessica Strong, Florida Virtual School Full-Time Middle School, Florida Virtual School
This award honors the late Ron Nieto, former Florida Department of Education Deputy Commissioner of Innovation, and is given to the educator who excels in using technology in the classroom to positively impact student outcomes.
Consortium of Florida Education Foundations’ “Invested in Excellence” Award – Alexandria Wicker, Andrew Jackson Middle School, Brevard County
The Consortium of Florida Education Foundations’ “Invested in Excellence” Award is given to an educator who goes above and beyond to expand learning opportunities for students.
In partnership with the Florida Education Foundation, the Florida Teacher of the Year program is made possible by these generous sponsors: Florida Prepaid College Savings Plans, State Farm Insurance, Florida State University College of Education, Helios Education Foundation, Florida Blue Foundation, the Florida Lottery, Florida Education Association, Herff Jones, Publix Charities, PNC Bank and Florida Power & Light Company.
To learn more about the Florida Teacher of the Year program, please visit https://www.floridateacherslead.org/home