Polk County educator named Florida’s Teacher of the Year

ORLANDO, Fla. – On Thursday Gov. Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott announced Jessica Solano, a math teacher at Highlands Grove Elementary School in Polk County, as the 2017 Florida Department of Education and Macy’s Teacher of the Year.

Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart and Dennis Witte, Macy’s Executive Vice President Regional Director of Stores, joined Gov. Scott to make the announcement at the annual awards ceremony honoring the state’s top educators.

“I want to congratulate Jessica Solano for being recognized as this year’s Teacher of the Year, and also thank Macy’s for this wonderful opportunity to honor our state’s outstanding teachers. The leaders of tomorrow are in our classrooms today, and Florida teachers do a great job preparing students for college and future careers. Our Florida First budget invested a historic total of more than $20 billion this year for K-12 public schools, and I look forward to continue making Florida’s education system the best in the nation for students to succeed,” Gov. Scott said.

“We are fortunate to have educators like Jessica Solano in our schools,” Polk County Schools Superintendent Jacqueline M. Byrd said. “She embodies the best qualities of a teacher: the willingness to challenge her students as well as herself, desire to innovate, initiative to embrace technology, and genuine concern for the children of our community. Ms. Solano is a credit to her profession. We are very proud to say she is one of the brightest lights in Polk County Public Schools.”

Solano will serve for one year as the Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education, touring the state to spread the word about Florida’s great success in education and the many opportunities afforded to students and educators in the Sunshine State. In addition to a $20,000 award funded by the Department of Education and Macy’s, the Teacher of the Year will receive a $1,000 wardrobe, a $1,000 check for her school and an all-expense paid trip for four to New York City to attend the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Six additional awards were presented at the gala. Macy’s presented the Magic of Teaching Award to Andrea Vineyard from Tavares High School in Lake County; the Magic of Engagement Award to Julie Arasi from Kate Sullivan Elementary School in Leon County; the Magic of Believing Award to Tania Travieso from Vanguard High School in Marion County; the Magic of Leadership Award to Johanna Lopez from Colonial High School in Orange County; the Magic of Innovation Award to Chris Pombonyo from Crystal Lake Elementary School in Seminole County; and the Magic of Making a Difference to Jeff Johnston from Dale Cassens Education Complex in St. Lucie County. Each recipient was honored with the award and a $500 Macy’s gift card.

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