Lakeside’s Melissa Matz selected Florida Teacher of the Year

By Nick Blank nick@claytodayonline.com
Posted 7/20/22

CLAY COUNTY – Five teachers held hands on stage at the Gaylord Palms Resort for the state Teacher of the Year awards last week and they would be proud of whoever won.

When state Education …

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Lakeside’s Melissa Matz selected Florida Teacher of the Year

Posted

CLAY COUNTY – Five teachers held hands on stage at the Gaylord Palms Resort for the state Teacher of the Year awards last week and they would be proud of whoever won.

When state Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. called the winner and the balloons cascaded down, Melissa Matz put her hands to her face.

Matz, a Lakeside Junior High seventh-grade math teacher, was selected as the state’s 2021-22 Teacher of the Year. There are 185,000 teachers in the state.

Matz was joined by finalists teachers from Gilchrist, Manatee, Sarasota and Broward counties. The five teachers spent several days together and remained in contact before the ceremony.

“It built this amazing bond a month before the announcement. We all wanted each other to win,” Matz said. “That was the best part, we all had faith in each other. On the stage, we said we’d be happy no matter what.”

Now, Matz has to fulfill the functions of a Teacher of the Year. She will take a sabbatical for the upcoming school year to serve as the state’s Christa McAuliffe Ambassador of Education. The role varies from visiting classrooms to being a keynote speaker.

From speaking to other teachers, Matz said they face the same challenges and there is so much to learn.

“The year is going to look very different for me, but to be able to connect and unite and listen to success stories from teachers and students throughout the state, that is what I’m most excited about,” Matz said.

Each finalist was provided a $15,000 bonus by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who said the state’s teachers go above and beyond. On Twitter, he thanked Matz for her commitment to quality education and her work as a role model.

“It was great to join some amazing teachers today and to show our appreciation for their hard work and sacrifice,” DeSantis said in a press release. “We will continue to invest in our schools and educators while putting policies in place that improve outcomes for students.”

Clay Superintendent David Broskie said Matz’s lessons applied outside the classroom and developed students.

“Melissa Matz’s students see firsthand that the skills they acquire in her classroom can be applied to a broad spectrum of fields, and therefore, they can become well-rounded members of our community,” Broskie said.

Matz has been noted for her wide variety of math applications and her tailoring of curriculum for students who have trouble in math. Lakeside Junior High Principal Rodney Ivey said he was proud Matz could represent the school and county. However, teachers do not always receive accolades, Ivey said.

“This is an opportunity to turn the spotlight around and show the work, effort, energy and time they put in,” he said.

Ivey cited Matz’s use of data and her impact on the classroom over a  school year as the reasons why he thought she won.

“She opens up a lot of doors with her passion,” Ivey said. “It’s crazy how many students will say math is their worst subject … but by the end of the year, their favorite teacher is Miss Matz. That’s an awesome testament to (Ms.) Matz.”

Matz called the past five months a dream and said the goal was to celebrate the profession of teaching. Matz said she was thankful for gaining long-lasting friendships over the process.

The teachers circling around to congratulate Matz after her win was a special moment, she said.

“It was just the love we have for each other. They were so encouraging and so proud,” Matz said. “The women I got to know over a month-and-a-half … it meant so much to me at that moment in time.”

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