Angela Hritz, Davidson MS, Named the Okaloosa County School District Teacher of the Year
Angela Hritz, Davidson Middle School, was named the Okaloosa County School District Teacher of the Year at the annual Banquet held at the Emerald Coast Conference Center on Thursday, January 31, 2019. Angela teaches World History at Davidson Middle School where she has been for over 20 years. She obtained a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership in 2008. Her husband, Alec, is retired from the Air Force and together they have five daughters. Hritz feels the most rewarding part of her job is the connections she makes with her students. She is known for incorporating ELA standards within her social studies classroom and she keeps her students engaged by using Socratic Seminars to deepen their understanding and develop communication skills in a respectful environment.
"Teaching is a balancing act between challenging students and empowering them," said Angela. "As a former student and now a teacher of 20 years, the Okaloosa County School District continues to play a prominent role in m life. I have spent my entire teaching career at Davidson Middle School, and I'm blessed to have a job that I love so much! Teaching World History allow me the opportunity to embrace different cultures. I've traveled to several places that we study, such as the Roman ruins and Stonehenge, and I bring that experience into the classroom. It's an honor to represent Davidson, and it's humbling to be acknowledged by the Okaloosa County School District."
Dr. Linda Dugan, Fort Walton Beach High School, a finalist this year, earned her Bachelor of Science from Troy University, Master of Education at Auburn University, and Doctorate from the University of Oklahoma. She published a book on Transformational Leadership; was published in Georgia School Counselor's Journal for transition programs; a speaker at Georgia School Counselor Conference and the National Girls and Women's Sports; awarded Winners Circle of Education, Champion for Children, Administrator of the Year, and Exceptional Educator of the Year. Dugan is a school counselor, adjunct professor, coach, member CTE District Advisory Team, and has two children: Bryce and Brock.
"During my 30 years in education, the thing that inspires me the most is the quilting of relationships," said Linda. "I feel counselors weave threads of empowerment with students while adding patches of color through hope. The student is the designer, the counselor is the teacher, and patterns are developed beyond the stitches. A student's education is a lifetime journey with highways that can lead to many directions. We must be the Siri that helps navigate our students through uncharted waters. We must help educate each student by showing them the roadways to success, providing encouragement through pitfalls, and teaching them how to maneuver around potholes along the way. I am proud to work in Okaloosa County, honored to represent Fort Walton Beach High School, and humbled to be a finalist among the greatest educators."
Kacy Bonta, Northwood Elementary School, also a finalist this year, has been teaching 13 years at Northwood Elementary School, 12 of which have been spent in kindergarten. It is her desire to start students off with a love of learning in hopes that it will continue throughout their educational career. Seeing children's eyes light up when they read their first book brings great joy to her heart. She is the child of two Okaloosa county educators who taught her that teaching is more than just the knowledge we can impart to students; it is also about the investment made in them as a person. She is married to her husband Brody and has a beautiful 11-month daughter, Brinley.
"I truly believe that teaching the calling God placed on my life as each day I get the opportunity to not only impart knowledge to young minds but also to be a difference maker in their lives," said Kacy. "Working in a Title One school for the past 13 years has taught me that I must approach each day ready to love them, feed them, wipe their tears, dream with them, believe in them, comfort them, help them see their true worth, AND teach them the knowledge needed for success. As a kindergarten teacher, it's my desire to give students a love of learning in hopes that it will continue throughout their educational career. I am honored to represent Northwood and humbled to be considered among the amazing teachers in Okaloosa County."
Last year's Teacher of the Year, Heather Phillips, Bluewater Elementary School, shared the following with the audience prior to announcing this year's Teacher of the Year winner.
"Congratulations to all of you! We have so much to celebrate tonight, but I want to start by saying how grateful and thankful I am for my time as Okaloosa County's Teacher of the Year. This role provided me with experience and opportunities I will always cherish. The most important of these - was getting a chance to attend a conference this summer with all the district representatives. At the conference, our former Commissioner of Education, Pam Stewart, spoke to us. She said that we have a voice now, and people will be listening, whether we want them to or not. She reminded us to use our voice to encourage. That resonated with me because we could all use a lot more encouragement. When I came back home, I was inspired to use my voice to make a positive impact in our district. I was able to help with the new teacher induction program, contribute to district-wide assessments and professional development, speak at events in the community and join the Florida Lead Network.
Now I want to encourage all of you to consider how you can amplify your voice as a teacher leader. Obviously, you have already stood out in your school, you go above and beyond, and that is why we are honoring you. This about more ways to inspire others and speak up for the best interest of our students. As a result, you will help keep Okaloosa County at the top tier of education.
I want to briefly highlight how these three teachers use their voice as a teacher leader. I was so blessed to be a part of the selection committee and witness such talented educators in action. Several things were obvious right away: their students absolutely adore them, they have a passion for teaching, and these ladies are invested in their community. Ms. Bonta teaches kindergarten in the very same room where she herself attended kindergarten and she is giving such a strong foundation for learning. Ms. Hritz was also born and raised in Crestview. I enjoyed seeing her middle schoolers take ownership of their learning and get inspired by her love of history. Dr. Dugan is an accomplished counselor, that has the power to engage a room of 50 high schoolers with her captivating lesson on social media. Even with a computer and a phone in front of them, the students couldn't take their eyes off her. Each of you is outstanding and your schools love you!"
The School Teachers of the Year were also recognized at the Banquet and are as follows:
Amanda Tolbert, Antioch Elementary School
Tracie Lay, Baker School
Kathryn Enos, Ballet Academy
Michele Allard, Bluewater Elementary School
Christi Collinsworth, Bob Sikes Elementary School
Amy Brewer, Bruner Middle School
Asha Kennedy, Choctawhatchee High School
Staci Robinson, Crestview High School
Elizabeth Nissley, Destin Elementary School
Margaret Markey, Destin Middle School
Donna Peters, Edge Elementary School
Mary Ashley Partsch, Edwins Elementary School
Samantha Buck, Eglin Elementary School
Alicia Duhon, Elliott Point Elementary School
Michelle Hongyee, Florosa Elementary School
Rose Morrison, Kenwood Elementary School
Erica Bolton, Laurel Hill School
Lindsey Stephens, Lewis School
Courtney Wall, Longwood Elementary School
(Milta) Kay Green, Mary Esther Elementary School
Nicole Brown (DeCastro), Meigs Middle School
Richard Jackson, Niceville High School
Donald Bates, Okaloosa Technical College
Denise Richardson, Plew Elementary School
Hannah Williams, Pryor Middle School
Jessica Pronovost, Richbourg School
Amanda Suggs, Riverside Elementary School
Lisa Nall, Ruckel Middle School
Celia Lenox, Shalimar Elementary School
Samantha Bollhalter, Shoal River Middle School
Cori Henry, Silver Sands School
Laura McEntire, Southside Primary School
Cherie Matheson, STEMM
Jill Adams, Walker Elementary School
Polly Noll, Wright Elementary School
Congratulations to all of our Teachers of the Year!
Cedric Peterson, Crestview High School, served as the Master of Ceremonies for the evening and Okaloosa County School Board member, Linda Evanchyk, lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Angelique Cox, Okaloosa County Education Association President, and Marcus Chambers, Superintendent of Schools, made the opening remarks. Laura Rakas, District Representative for U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz, presented Hritz with a Congressional Proclamation.
This year's banquet was sponsored by:
- Northwest Florida Track Club
- Okaloosa County Education Association
- Okaloosa Public School Foundation
- NTA Life
Special thanks also to:
- Bodyworks by Bull
- CareerSource Okaloosa/Walton
- Emerald Prints
- Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce
- Gulf Power
- Okaloosa County Teachers Federal Credit Union
- Spa La La Day Spa & Salon
This year's Selection Committee members were:
- Alyson Lofe' - Chair, Bluewater Elementary School
- Tim Bryant - Okaloosa County School Board Member
- Christin Keeney - Davidson Middle School
- Beth Russell - Fort Walton Beach High School
- Heather Phillips - Bluewater Elementary School
Special thanks also go to:
- Banquet Committee - Cedric Peterson, Michelle Strickland, Missie Sykes
- Slideshow Presentation - Eric Mitchell and Brandon McSween
- Program Design - Pat Mixon
- Entertainment - NHS Jazz Band