Four Jacksonville teachers were recently surprised in their classrooms with the 2018 Gladys Prior Awards for Career Teaching Excellence, which were established by Gilchrist Berg, founder and president of Water Street Capital, to honor teachers who have had lifelong careers in teaching and inspiring students.
As of this year, 84 teachers will have been recognized with a Gladys Prior Award, an award given for excellence in teaching for the last 21 years. To date, Berg has given more than $1 million to honor Jacksonville teachers with an award named after his fourth-grade teacher, Gladys Prior, at Ortega Elementary.
The University of North Florida College of Education and Human Services (COEHS) manages this gift and coordinates the annual award competition. Each of these career teachers will receive $15,000. “The success of our community directly correlates to the excellence of our teachers,” said Dr. Diane Yendol-Hoppey, COEHS dean. “Great teachers change students’ lives.”
The 2018 winners include Joan Bacon, LaVilla Middle School of the Arts; Virginia Dickert, Jacksonville Country Day School; MaryBeth Jones, San Jose Catholic School; and Darellee Naccarato, Seabreeze Elementary School. Together, these teachers have a combination of 119 years of teaching experience.
Joan Bacon teaches science at LaVilla, located in downtown Jacksonville, and is a veteran teacher of over 40 years. She’s known as a master teacher of students, a model teacher of teachers and as an endlessly enthusiastic promoter of science. Bacon’s teaching awards are abundant, but her energy and focus remain on her students as evidenced by her mantra, “I don’t care how many times you ask for clarification, ask until you understand.” Students laud her warmth, ability to relate science to the world outside the classroom and creativity within the classroom.
Virginia Dickert is a music teacher with over 23 years in the classroom at Jacksonville Country Day on the Southside. In addition to class and grade-level music, Dickert leads chorus, facilitates annual performances, takes students to Music USA in Orlando and provides musical outreach as well as entertainment with performances at area retirement communities and hospitals. With her guidance and support, students have performed in the Florida All State Children’s Chorus, the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus and the Jacksonville Children’s Honors Chorus. Dickert is a master conductor and can orchestrate large groups of children, while possessing the skill, compassion and ability to assist children one on one. Her students gain not only an appreciation for music but also learn self-confidence and perseverance.
MaryBeth Jones teaches third grade at San Jose Catholic, located on the Southside, where she has been for 35 years. She always wanted to be a teacher, and her students recall in detail the numerous mnemonic devices she uses for math facts and order of operations. Students also recall listening to Jones’ many voices as she read “The 100 Dresses.” She has mentored numerous new teachers as they enter the teaching profession. “There will be many moments when you doubt you should be here, she said to her teacher-mentees. “But the one thing you must remember, there’s a student who needs you every day.”
Darellee Naccarato is music teacher at Seabreeze Elementary in Jacksonville Beach and has been a teacher for 19 years. Students, parents and colleagues give her the highest accolades, expressing their profound gratitude for impromptu school tours to anxious parents, instilling confidence in a shy child to speak before an audience during a musical, finding creative ways to include over 90 students in Drama Club performances, and more. Students speak fondly of playing the drums, learning the ukulele and singing, but most of all, they remember Naccarato’s day-to-day acts of kindness. “She is kind to everyone in the classroom and makes music come alive,” several students noted.