ORANGE PARK – An Orange Park Elementary student records secretary and a Lake Asbury Junior High Chorus and Drama teacher took home the gold during Thursday’s School-Related Employee and Teacher of the Year awards ceremony.
Held every year, this awards ceremony not only recognizes the school-related employees and teachers of the year from each Clay County school, but also gives one person from each category the honor of serving as the Clay County School-Related Employee and Teacher of the Year. This year, Deborah Lineberry from OPE will serve as the county’s School-Related Employee of the Year and LAJH’s Evan Gould will serve as the county’s Teacher of the Year at the upcoming state competition.
“It’s so exciting to see these two individuals be recognized to lead Clay County and seek to become the finalists of the state,” Clay County Superintendent Addison Davis said. “They both represent the core values of our school district and they continue to separate themselves by being dedicated and committed to inspire children every single day.”
Lineberry will now prepare for the upcoming state competition that takes place later this summer. After each winners’ names were announced Jan. 31 at the Thrasher-Horne Center, however, this competition couldn’t have been further from their minds. Instead, they remain focused on their students.
“This is for my kids,” Gould said. “They’re the reason I am able to do what I do.”
Lineberry has been the student records secretary for 15 years at Orange Park Elementary, a job that takes her all over OPE’s campus.
“The actual job is about enrolling and withdrawing students, but I also help in the front office, in the clinic, with award ceremonies and in any other way I can,” Lineberry said.
Throughout the night, jokes and comments were made about how education isn’t about getting rich, but rather, about the children in the classrooms. For Lineberry, this concept is especially close to home. Her children are Orange Park Elementary graduates and she looks forward to the day her grandchildren can do the same.
Gould, when asked how he was feeling after the announcement, he answered humbly by once again, bringing it back to his students.
“Hopefully this is the beginning of a bunch of awards,” Gould said. “I’m taking my students to Orlando for Junior State Thespian [competitions] and we have a lot of potential to bring home some trophies for Clay County and personally, I look forward to representing every single wonderful teacher in this county every single time I go out of the county with my students.”
Gould has been in education for 30 years, with 22 of those years in Clay County and eight of those at LAJH, and loves the unique role he plays in education as a chorus and drama teacher. Prior to teaching at LAJH, he held a similar position at Fleming Island’s Paterson Elementary.
“Every student has the arts in them,” Gould said. “Every student is a storyteller. Every human is a storyteller and that’s one of the ways we start off drama and chorus class every year...it’s our job to help these students tell the grand story of the human race and I’m so thankful to be a part of that.”
Gould was joined by his daughter, Ilana Gould, and his wife, Judy Gould, and both were ecstatic to see him honored as Teacher of the Year. Both Ilana and Judy have unique perspectives on Evan’s role as a teacher. Judy has known Evan since college and said he’s worked hard to be where he is today.
Ilana, on the other hand, got to learn up close just how great of a teacher her dad is.
“I’m lucky enough that he also taught me as a student so I’m really excited for him,” Ilana said of her time with her dad as her teacher in elementary school roughly 15 years ago. “I’ve known all along that he’s the best teacher.”
As the ceremonious night came to a close, Davis said he’s beyond proud to be the leader of such a great school district.
“I love to be alongside these educators and our support employees,” Davis said. “They are the backbone and the foundation of this [school district] and to see the electrifying energy this evening, it just continues to confirm and validate Clay County District Schools as the greatest place to teach, to support, to learn and to live. I’m blessed to be the leader.”