Ignite Education: Finalists for District Teacher of the Year

Nov 4, 2021

Shannon Haddad - Ashton Elementary School

District Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Shannon Haddad, Speech-Language Pathologist, Ashton Elementary School

  • Master’s degree in speech and hearing science, Ohio State University. Bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders, Florida State University. Autism endorsement, University of South Florida; ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence; Licensed Speech-Language Pathologist, State of Florida.
  • Teacher for 19 years, 16 in Sarasota County.
  • Why teach: “I went into this profession to help students find their voice, teach them to be heard, and teach them to advocate for themselves, as they are our future.”
  • Lessons learned in challenging times: “I learned how resilient I could be . . . thought outside the box, became extremely tech-savvy, learned to advocate for and emphasize more with so many of our kids who are struggling with many issues during the pandemic. Despite overwhelming obstacles, my speech and language students made some of their most substantial gains in progress and performance.”
  • Principal Kristi M. Jarvis’s quote: “Mrs. Haddad’s classroom exudes the perfect balance of students who are motivated and joyfully learning. She is a team player and problem solver who regularly goes above and beyond what is expected. It is a joy to work alongside a professional who is committed to the good of ALL students.”

Jennifer Jaso - Sarasota Middle School

District Middle School Teacher of the Year: Jennifer H. Jaso, Ed.D., Social Studies and Critical Thinking teacher grades 6-8, and Department Chair, Sarasota Middle School

  • Doctor of Education in teaching and learning, Argosy University. Masters in teaching secondary social science education, University of South Florida. Bachelor’s in interdisciplinary social science, Florida State University.
  • Teacher for 16 years, 14 in Sarasota County.
  • Why teach: “My passion for teaching is derived from the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of students. I strive to provide a safe and enriching learning environment that cultivates a lifelong appreciation of the past with the goal for students to participate in the democratic process and become valuable members of a global society. Working toward this goal will help preserve the democracy for which our Founding Fathers risked their lives on behalf of posterity.”
  • Lessons learned in challenging times: “Maintaining strong relationships with students stretched me daily but gave a sense of peace. I learned quickly how to adapt without compromising expectations for learning. I focused on teaching contextualization to help students see the bigger picture with the hope they would be more empathetic and gracious toward each other and their teachers. Above all, I learned how to maintain perspective.”
  • Principal Jennifer L. Nzeza’s quote: “Despite her advanced degrees and extensive accomplishments, Dr. Jaso has steadfastly remained in her role as a classroom teacher. Every day she molds future generations to be articulate and critical thinkers and she does this with kindness and love. She truly possesses the belief that all children can learn if they have the right person in their corner. And for so many, that has been Jennifer.”

District High School Teacher of the Year: Loridia Urquiza, Spanish and AICE teacher and Electives Department Chair, Booker High School

  • Master’s in Spanish, University of South Florida. Bachelor’s in French, University of Havana, Cuba. Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) International Trainer and Certification Examiner.
  • Teacher for 15 years, 5 in Sarasota County.
  • Why teach: “Every day I make a difference in someone’s life, which goes far beyond knowledge by exposing students to different cultures and beliefs and helping them become productive members of our society.”
  • Lessons learned in challenging times: “I placed more emphasis on the speaking and listening skills components of a foreign language, created lesson plans around engaging short films and documentaries, and posted videos on YouTube to keep an online presence. I had the opportunity to include families in our lessons since many of them also were at home.”
  • Principal Rachel Shelley’s quote: “Mrs. Urquiza does not settle for mediocrity. A committed lifelong learner, she is the only trainer for AICE Spanish in our country and 100% of her students passed the AICE Spanish exam over the past four years. She works well beyond her duty time to ensure programs she is involved in shine.”