BREVARD COUNTY, FLA. – Six Brevard Public Schools’ teachers have been selected as finalists for the 2017 Teacher of the Year distinction.

“It is an honor to recognize these creative teachers who demonstrate passion and skill to make learning environments rigorous and rewarding for our students,” said Desmond Blackburn, BPS superintendent.  “All of the finalists exhibit energy and forward-thinking practices in their classrooms every day.”

The finalists are: Jane Ararguez, Saturn Elementary; Jessica Davis-King, Enterprise Elementary; James DesJardin, Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High; Melissa Kane, West Melbourne School for Science; Michelle Powers, Southwest Middle; and Vanessa Tress, Cocoa High.

These individuals were selected from among the 90 district teacher of the year nominees by a panel of judges comprised of principals and teachers from all over the county.  Finalists were measured against a rigorous set of criteria that include teaching philosophy and practice, leadership, professional development and parental engagement in the learning process.

The 2017 BPS teacher of the year will be chosen by a committee composed of education and civic leaders in the formal selection process and will be announced in the ceremonies at the ABC Awards Gala on January 25, 2017 at The King Center in Melbourne.

The winner will be Brevard’s representative in the state’s 2017-18 Florida Department of Education-Macy’s Teacher of the Year.

Additional information on the six finalists follows:

Jane Araguez, Saturn Elementarytoy-surprise_jane-araguez

Jane Araguez, kindergarten teacher at Saturn Elementary in Cocoa believes in engaging students to help them learn.  She is extremely involved in the Saturn community, serving as a member of the math leadership team, Lego League Jr., and school coordinator of Walmart Math Night celebrations, among other tasks.  Additionally, Araguez has utilized Crowdsource funding to purchase flexible seating in her classroom when she deemed it necessary.  “She seems to take additional duties in stride,” said Principal Michael Miller.  “Jane is highly respected and regarded by staff members, parents, and students at Saturn.  She is a one of a kind teacher.”


Jessica Davis-King, Entoy-surprise_jessica-davis-kingterprise Elementary

At Enterprise Elementary in Cocoa, Jessica King-Davis has been the school’s intermediate exceptional student resource teacher for five years.  Davis-King has been recognized two times as the school’s teacher of the year and she is known for her efforts to support the continuous improvement of student learning and the school environment.  She helps achieve this by facilitating the school’s safety patrol, a morning Maker-Space group, and a STEM classroom open for intermediate students to work on hands on instruction.  Projects come to life through the use of 3D printers and computers.  “Mrs. Davis-King collaborates with every teacher and supports them to ensure our students are doing their personal best,” said Jean Bartleson, principal.


James DesJardin, Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High

Lt. Col. James DesJardin teaches 180 cadets in Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High’s Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC).  DesJardin takes pride in utilizing his own personal experiences in the U.S. Army to “foster a sense of spirit in challenging oneself and others,” he said. “My high school teaching career was placed on hold for 23 years as I followed my first dream, to be a soldier.  I have dedicated myself to coaching, teaching, and mentoring America’s youth.”  Principal Karyle Green is proud of DesJardin’s JROTC teams as they often take first in state placement for academic curriculum, community service, physical training, and outreach.  “He takes time to teach (his students) what’s important in life. He guides students when they are facing difficult choices and mentors them when they make a mistake,” Green said.  “One of his top priorities is helping students strive for success after high school whether that be college, military, or family.  He is the consummate educator.”


Melissa Kane, West Melbourne Elementary for Sciencetoy-suprise_-melissa-kane

Melissa Kane, teaches English language arts and social studies to fifth graders at West Melbourne Elementary School for Science.  She won both the Brevard County and the state of Florida social studies teacher of the year last year. Kane facilitates the school’s recycling program in order to reduce waste sent to the landfill.   The program won a county-wide award recently.  She believes teaching is the ultimate service to society.  “Melissa is one of the most dedicated, enthusiastic, and compassionate teachers I know,” said Neleffra Marshall, principal.  “Her calm demeanor and ability to build relationships with parents and students helps students achieve their full potential.”


Michtoy_michelle-powerselle Powers, Southwest Middle

Math teacher, Michelle Powers, has worked at Southwest Middle in Palm Bay for 14 years.  She won last year’s exemplary math teacher, is the math team leader, and co-sponsors the school’s Beta Club.  The Beta Club runs the school store and does school and community based service projects.  Powers is also a mentor teacher and currently oversees three intern teachers from Florida Tech. “I can unequivocally state that Mrs. Powers is the teacher every parent wants for their child,” said Todd Scheuerer, principal.  “She exemplifies the true definition of a distinguished educator that defines her success and accomplishments of her students.”


Vanessa Tress, Cocoa Hightoy_tress_vanessa

Ninth grade English teacher, Vanessa Tress’s dedication to Cocoa High is evident in the many programs she champions there.  Her reach not only  includes rigorous classroom activities, but founding the iTiger program to help students use technology, working with the AVID college readiness program, coaching the volleyball team, and sponsoring the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  “Ms. Tress is a dynamic teacher dedicated to enriching the literacy skills of her students.  She magically balances her natural coaching skills with her instructional style,” said Stephanie Soliven, principal.  “She is able to motivate reluctant learners and guide the higher achieving students to more independent thought and critical analysis.”


BPS Teacher of the Year nominees listed by location. Finalists are highlighted.


Secondary Schools Name Position
Astronaut High Peter Gay Science Department Chair
Bayside High Kelly Bombriant Literacy Coach
Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High James DesJardin Senior Army Instructor
Cocoa High Vanessa Tress 9th Grade English
Central Middle Matthew A. Gent 7th Grade Civics
DeLaura Middle Angela Oswalt 8th Grade Science
Eau Gallie High Bret Keener Digital Media Teacher/Soccer & Tennis Coach
Edgewood Jr./Sr. Sean Johnston Math & Physics Teacher
Hoover Middle Brenda Sadowski Physical Education Teacher
Jefferson Middle Dana Franklin 7th Grade Science
Heritage High Carlos Colon-Robles Army Instructor
Jackson Middle Jeffery Wasserman Social Studies Dept. Chair
Johnson Middle Tracy Oxley Varying Exceptionalities Supported Level Teacher
Kennedy Middle Emily Jensen Science Teacher
Madison Middle Patti Adams 8th Grade Reading Teacher
McNair Magnet Julie Wales Media Specialist
Melbourne High Tracy Collins Biology / Dept. Chair
Palm Bay Magnet High Alexandra Dattoli English Honors/Lit/Debate Teacher
Merritt Island High Blythe Grossmann English/10th Grade Teacher
Rockledge High Alicia  Gaines English Teacher
Satellite High Tom Jackson Literature Teacher
Southwest Middle Michelle L. Powers 7th & 8th Grade Math
Space Coast Jr./Sr. High Carolynn  Gannon STEM Instructor
Stone Magnet Middle Diane L. Coleman Science Teacher
Titusville High Frank E. Soros Automotive  Instructor
Viera High Barbara Kelly English Department Chair
West Shore Jr./Sr. High Matthew Henderson Secondary Art Teacher
Elementary Schools Name Position
Andersen Tonya  Bandy First Grade Teacher
Apollo Cynthia Shaheen Title I Coordinator & Teacher
Atlantis Joanna Giesey First Grade Teacher
Audubon Melissa Kirkland Second Grade Teacher
Cambridge Abbey Turner Title I Teacher
Cape View Michelle M. Wedel Title I Teacher
Carroll Alicia Street Varying Exceptionalities K-4
Challenger 7 Kristen Turner Literacy Coach
Columbia Pamela Smith Title I VPK
Coquina Kristen Young Fourth Grade teacher
Creel Christopher J. Ryan First Grade Teacher
Croton Andrea McDonough Title I Contact
Discovery Jessica Watts Third Grade Teacher
Endeavour Rosanna Cope Title I Teacher
Enterprise Jessica  Davis-King ESE Resource Teacher
Fairglen Dan Bennett First Grade Teacher
Freedom 7 Julie Mason Sixth Grade Teacher
Gemini William Bechtol Physical Education Teacher
Golfview Lisa Cisko Title I Coordinator
Harbor City Susan Rowlette Kindergarten Teacher
Holland Caitlyn Eskew First Grade Teacher
Imperial Estates Kathleen Ann Joiner Sixth Grade Teacher
Indialantic Bonnie Chatterton ESE Resource Teacher
Jupiter Rebecca Bach First Grade Teacher
Lockmar Brian Crowley Sixth Grade Teacher
Longleaf Katie Manifold Fifth Grade Teacher
Manatee Lisa Smallwood Third Grade Teacher
McAuliffe Jessica Mostowski Title I Teacher
Meadowlane Intermediate Lisa King ESE Supported Level Teacher
Meadowlane Primary Jodie Wright First Grade Teacher
Mila Elementary Mackenzie Alexander Varying Exceptionalities
Mims Elementary Tammy  Martin First Grade Teacher
Oak Park Elementary Ruth  Ferguson Speech Language Pathologist
Ocean Breeze Shelley Richardson Fourth Grade Teacher
Palm Bay Barbara Miller Gifted K-6th
Pinewood Gina Hart Third Grade Teacher
Port Malabar Heather Haman Varying Exceptionalities K-4
Quest Randi  Ondo Teacher on Assignment
Riverview School Michelle Gainer Head Start
Riviera Corey Kadlec First Grade Teacher
Roosevelt Maria Tomacari Gifted K-6th
Sabal Erica D. Back Kindergarten Teacher
Saturn Jane  Araguez Kindergarten Teacher
Sculptor Sonya Timmerman Drama Teacher
Sea Park Renea Kihlander Fourth Grade Teacher
Sherwood Stacey Nemetz First Grade Teacher
Stevenson Erin Zapata Third Grade Teacher
Sunrise Renee Godwin Fifth Grade Teacher
Suntree James Taylor Second Grade Teacher
Surfside Kimberly Leary Sixth Grade Teacher
Tropical Jillian Vicidomini Second Grade Teacher
Turner Sharon Justin Media Specialist
University Park Dorianne Lugo Sixth Grade Teacher
Viera Charter Kristen Cook Gifted 5-8th Teacher
West Melbourne Melissa Kane Fifth Grade Teacher
Westside Stacey C. Gilbert Varying Exceptionalities 4-6th
Williams Lisa Yancey ESE Math Teacher
Other Sites Name Position
Adult Education Tonya  Holder GED & FICAPS Teacher
Brevard Virtual School Michael Shea Bolin Secondary Instructor
ESE Support Services Tammy  Karr Speech /Language Pathologist
South Alternative Learning Center Kathy Hamilton-Brown Reading Teacher


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