District Announces Education Support Professional of the Year and Top Finalists

Lorin Lewis, Pryor Middle School, has been named the Education Support Professional of the Year for the Okaloosa County School District.  Rhonda Nelson, Silver Sands School, was named first runner-up and Bernice Harrington, Southside Center, was the second runner-up.

Lorin Lewis – Pryor Middle School – Education Support Professional of the Year

Lorin Lewis, Pryor Middle School’s Bookkeeper, has been named the Education Support Professional of the Year for the Okaloosa County School District.  Before coming to Pryor two years ago, she worked as a records clerk at Okaloosa Youth Academy for five years.  Lorin earned her Associates degree from Northwest Florida State College in 2008 and is currently working towards her Bachelor’s degree.  Lorin and her husband are expecting their first child in March of 2014.

“It has been my privilege to work with Lorin for two years now and she has exceeded every expectation,” said Jeff Palmer, Pryor Middle School Principal.  “It did not take long for me to realize I had a gem!  Lorin is very smart and quick on her feet.  Her demeanor is always professional and her work ethic is outstanding.  She took over a position in the discipline office and had that office running more efficiently than ever before.  Lorin’s people skills set her apart.  She is able to establish rapport with students and parents alike.  She is kind and genuinely cares about kids so she sets high expectations for them.”

When a bookkeeping position opened up at Pryor, Lorin applied for it.  She worked tirelessly learning the district’s policies and procedures.

“Her attention to detail serves her and the school very well,” said Palmer.  “Lorin has excellent business instincts and prioritizes her tasks appropriately.  She is a good teacher and has trained our staff in proper procedures for handling and accounting for monies collected in all the different forums that schools have.  She took the initiative to make a video for teachers and staff to review on the proper procedures that is available to them year round on their computers!”

Palmer went on to say, “Lorin goes above and beyond in everything she does.  Just in the past few days I can think of many tasks she has taken on that are well beyond her bookkeeping duties.  She helps serve breakfast to our ‘positive referral’ students every month.  She sat in for the discipline clerk, she answers our main line phone, she sits at the reception desk, and has stood in for my secretary on more than one occasion.  She has cross trained herself to handle every office if needed.  Lorin is the best Pryor has and I believe she is the best that Okaloosa County has.”

“Being a part of the Pryor family is a great joy and to be recognized by your peers is an amazing feeling,” said Lewis.  “It was an honor to be considered for this award, but being named Support Professional of the Year is just breathtaking.  I am so grateful and blessed to be a member of the Okaloosa County School District!”

Lewis is pictured above with Superintendent of Schools, Mary Beth Jackson, and Pryor Middle School Principal, Jeff Palmer.

Rhonda Nelson – Silver Sands School – First Runner-Up

Rhonda Nelson, Silver Sands School, has been named First Runner-Up for the Education Support Professional of the Year for the Okaloosa County School District.  She has been at Silver Sands School for three and a half years and in that short time has quietly changed the function and concept of food services at the school.  She is the Treasurer of the Okaloosa School Nutrition Association, a volunteer group that works and plans new ways to improve Food Services and community relations. 

“Mrs. Nelson has made an immediate impact on our students through changes in the cafeteria,” said Principal Alan Lambert.  “Her years of experience prepared her to offer insightful and welcomed improvements to the program at Silver Sands.  She has added decorations for holidays, sporting events, and various seasons to brighten up the cafeteria, making the atmosphere more welcoming for students and staff alike.  She has improved the food appearance and food service.  She added a salad bar for the staff to help with nutrition and wellness, along with a hydration station and demonstrates resourcefulness, tactfulness, and flexibility in meeting the dietary needs of students, teachers, administration, and parents.”

Lambert went on to say, “Mrs. Nelson goes above and beyond to ensure that all the students that come to the cafeteria enjoy their food and time interacting with each other.  She strives to make the cafeteria a place that is pleasing to the eye in all aspects while maintaining a positive attitude and upbeat disposition and has worked hard to gain the trust of the students and staff.  The cafeteria has become friendlier and more exciting for both students and staff under her guidance.”

Rhonda has also encouraged students from the school’s School-To-Work Program to gain experience in job skills by allowing them to work in the cafeteria preparing baskets, washing utensils, cleaning work areas and serving food.

“Her strong interpersonal skills put her in a unique position to connect with students, infusing them with confidence and in turn enabling them to reach deeper, try harder, and excel at all tasks asked of them,” said Lambert.  “She exudes such warmth and calmness that even the most difficult situation can be diffused by her demeanor.”

Attending student events and volunteering her many talents, Rhonda has made cakes for special occasions, built wreaths of various types for fundraisers, and has given her personal time in many other ways.

“Her commitment to the students in giving them experiences is deeply appreciated by everyone at the school,” said Lambert.  “She exemplifies what it means to truly ‘make a difference’ in the life of a child.”

Nelson is pictured above with Silver Sands School Principal, Alan Lambert, and Superintendent of Schools, Mary Beth Jackson.

Bernice Harrington – Southside Center – Second Runner-Up

Bernice Harrington, Southside Center, has been named Second Runner-Up for the Education Support Professional of the Year for the Okaloosa County School District.  She has been at Southside Center for four years and serves as an ESE Classroom Assistant where she assists the teacher in instructional, behavioral, medical, academic, and with any other needs of the students. 

“It is very rare that you will find an individual more dedicated or compassionate than Bernice Harrington,” said Debra Haan, Southside Center Administrator.  “She is an outstanding person, inside and out, and I am proud to say she works at Southside Center.”

Bernice is enthusiastic and eager to provide the best care and academic support for all children.

“Bernice constantly seeks new and unique ways to assist Mrs. Rainer with the children in her Pre-Kindergarten Disabilities classroom,” said Haan.  “She has stepped in multiple times this year (and last) while Mrs. Rainer was experiencing health issues to take over the classroom instruction responsibilities.  Bernice is able to take Mrs. Rainer’s lesson plans and lead the children through the standards that have been laid out.  She keeps their routines and procedures constant, which is a high need in PreKD.”

Haan went on to say, “Mrs. Harrington has the ability to make anyone smile!  It is a gift, one that very few people possess.  I have seen her turn the outcome of someone’s day just by her smile and wit.  Even when she is experiencing a difficult situation in her own life, she will bring joy and comfort to other before herself.  I am proud to have Bernice Harrington as one of the Classroom Assistants at Southside.” 

Harrington is pictured above with Superintendent of Schools, Mary Beth Jackson, Southside Center Administrator, Debra Haan, and Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Nick Kootsouradis.

Education Support Professionals from all over the District will come together on Friday, March 14th to be recognized at the Annual Education Support Professional of the Year Breakfast.

Congratulations to all of this year's Individual School Education Support Professionals of the Year:



Antioch Elementary School

Brenda  Cadenhead

Baker School

Michelle Rock

Bay Area Office

Patricia Willis

Bluewater Elementary School

Deanna Regans

Bob Sikes Elementary School

Jane M Smith

Bruner Middle School

Anne G Larsen

Carver Hill Complex

Steve Woods

Choctaw High School

Cynthia Buckley

CHOICE High School and Technical Center

Tami Kachline

Crestview High School

Leslie Alford

Davidson Middle School

Debbie Winters

Department of Juvenile Justice

Paula Barrow

Destin Elementary School

Robert "Mr. Bob" Armor

Destin Middle School

Karen Marie Ewing

Edge Elementary School

Cynthia L Dooley

Edwins Elementary School

Mary E. Ellis-Evans

Eglin Elementary School

Terri S. MacLaird

Elliott Point Elementary School

Maryvonne Morse

Florosa Elementary School

Dia M Cyrus

Fort Walton Beach High School

Theron Wayne Jones

Kenwood Elementary School

Leslie Prince

Laurel Hill School

JoAnn Jackson

Lewis School

Lisa Lee

Longwood Elementary School

Sondra Collins

Maintenance FWB South

Carl Wayne Blocker

Maintenance Grounds Support

Michael R. Nichols

Mary Esther Elementary School

Noralynn Taylor

Meigs Middle School

Bonnie London

Niceville High School

Sonya Holland

Northwood Elementary School

Karen Bradley

Nutrition Center

Joan Cumbie

Plew Elementary School

Lynne Roll

Pryor Middle School

Lorin Lewis

Richbourg School

Heather Carmical

Riverside Elementary School

Terry Vance

Ruckel Middle School

Janet Simpson

Shalimar Elementary School

Vicki O Ridgway

Shoal River Middle School

Jeanan Bradshaw

Silver Sands School

Rhonda Nelson

Southside Center

Bernice Harrington

STEMM Academy

Belinda Sadler

Transportation Central

Betty Jo Courtney

Transportation North

Todd Brady

Transportation South

Jonathan Baggett

Walker Elementary School

Janet Brown

Wright Elementary School

Gail King