Governor DeSantis visits Destin Elementary, Appreciates Teachers
The Media Center at Destin Elementary School was buzzing with excitement as students, teachers, school board members and other dignitaries helped Superintendent Marcus Chambers and Principal Joe Jannazo welcome Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Commissioner Richard Corcoran to the campus. Governor DeSantis applauded the efforts of students and teachers in Okaloosa County for their commitment this year. Providing in-person instruction was high on his list of priorities when preparing for the 2020-2021 school year and it proved to be valuable to students in a number of ways.
In Okaloosa County we currently have more than 90% of our students participating in face-to-face learning. DeSantis told teachers “you may never have the opportunity to make more of a difference than you did this year because if you didn’t have the kids in school, the consequences of that would have been dire.” DeSantis praised these efforts and pushed legislation to grant a bonus to all public and charter school teachers and principals in the state of Florida.
Ms. Diane Kelly, 4th grade teacher at Destin Elementary, was hesitant to come back to brick and mortar teaching due to unknown consequences but praised our district’s preparedness and communication which gave her the confidence to take the step back into the classroom. As she mentioned the gains her students made in the classroom this year, she reiterated that the face-to-face learning experience is what made the difference. “I can’t imagine these children here not being in the classroom. The other students around the country spending the whole year or most of it at home, our students learned, they grew, and they had fun with their friends.”
Superintendent Chambers thanked the Governor and Commissioner for making the difficult decision to push for in-person learning and giving parents the opportunity to choose the learning environment for their student, stressing that it was “absolutely the right thing to do.” “In Okaloosa County we talk about the unsung heroes. Those are our teachers, our staff, our principals. What you all do and have done this year is nothing less than miraculous and we are so proud.”
School Board Chairman Tim Bryant praised the students and staff at Destin Elementary and knows that their commitment to excel during a difficult year is one that is shared throughout the district. “What we celebrated today has been occurring in all of our schools this year, and I am so very proud of what our students, teachers and staffs have accomplished.
As a single mother and 3rd grade teacher, Amber Wall, thanked Governor DeSantis for “standing up for our teachers, students, and families. Giving us the option to choose what was right to complete this school year whether that was attending school face-to-face, blended, or online only. This allowed Florida to lead the way and set the standard for getting our country back to school and back to work.” Because of this, Ms. Wall was able to return to work while her daughter continued to make gains and get the preparation needed to be ready to succeed in kindergarten next year. Ms. Wall also sponsors STEMM and CTE based after school programs at Destin Elementary. Because our schools were open, 100 students were able to participate in those programs. They “successfully learned computer science and fell in love with the future of technology.” These kids are now ready and excited to continue their education of these subjects in Middle and High School.
Okaloosa County School District has been able to continue educating the students in our community because of the options provided by our state government and the patience and support of our community. Our teachers’ willingness and eagerness to come back to the classroom made a difference and helped our students grow and we appreciate the work of all employees in the district to make this school year successful, despite the challenges we faced.