To close out the week, Polk County Public Schools snuck in two more surprise stops, recognizing our next finalists for the 2021 Teacher and School-Related Employee of the Year.
This month, PCPS is dropping by the campuses of each finalist and shining a spotlight on their outstanding commitment to our students.
Today, we surprised our finalists from District 4:
- Teresa Negley — fourth-grade teacher, Frank E. Brigham Academy
- Todd Koza — school safety guardian, Lake Alfred Elementary
Brief profiles of these two finalists can be found below (see italics).
PCPS will continue to travel around the county unveiling the finalists from each of our seven districts. The overall winners will be announced during a special award ceremony in January.
This year, PCPS and the Polk Education Foundation have consulted with the Florida Department of Health in Polk County to develop a pandemic-safe version of the Teacher and School-Related Employee of the Year event. Click here for details.
The event will take place on Jan. 21 at 5:30 p.m. at the RP Funding Center’s Lake Hollingsworth Room.
The event will be attended by less than 100 people; the guest list includes nominees and their plus-ones, their principals, school board members, event sponsors, the superintendent and deputy superintendent.
During the evening, nominees will be recognized with video tributes and sponsored gifts. The Teacher of the Year and School-Related Employee of the Year will receive a cash prize generously donated by MIDFLORIDA Credit Union.
Event sponsors include: Aramark, Boswell & Dunlap, Florida Blue, LEGOLAND, MIDFLORIDA Credit Union, Mosaic, Publix Super Markets Charities, Tampa Electric Company, and the Polk Education Association.
Finalist Profiles, District 4
Teresa Negley — fourth-grade teacher, Frank E. Brigham Academy, District 4 finalist for Teacher of the Year
Negley strives to create a nurturing environment where her students work hard, feel confident, take risks and achieve success.
“I started teaching after my children were in middle school, experiencing school as a parent before becoming a teacher,” Negley said. “I care for my students as I would care for my own children, and I build relationships with parents through the bond we share educating their child.”
According to her principal, Negley possesses the rare ability to notice what makes each of her students special and helps them recognize this in themselves. She pays attention to every detail inside her bright, colorful classroom, and makes every child feel happy, safe and comfortable.
“Whether it be the classroom or virtual platforms, success in education comes down to the ability to build and maintain relationships with students and families,” Negley said. “Students who feel valued and cared for are willing to take the risks needed to grow and learn.”
Several years ago, she began challenging her students to monitor their own progress, set goals, and make decisions to reach them. Their confidence grows as they witness goals being met.
Negley, an avid reader and literature buff who serves on a local library board, reads aloud to her students daily to create a shared bond. She enjoys watching even reluctant readers develop a love of reading.
“Students are encouraged to read a lot, both in and out of the classroom,” she said. “In fact, our class motto is ‘Read like a wolf eats.’ And they do!”
Todd Koza — school safety guardian, Lake Alfred Elementary, District 4 finalist for School-Related Employee of the Year
Koza ensures the safety, security and welfare of all students, staff, and visitors of Lake Alfred Elementary. That’s a huge responsibility on his shoulders, but he is always finding ways to go above and beyond the call of duty.
Over the summer, Koza was able to fix a broken screen in the cafeteria and saved the school thousands of dollars. On his weekends, Koza has painted lion paws on sidewalks and benches to serve as social distance reminders, copied material for teachers, installed sound systems for the physical education coach — and the list goes on!
He has purchased items as incentives for students to earn for good behavior, as well as personalized sets of Mickey Mouse ears for every teacher to boost morale. He even volunteers with the parent-teacher organization, and helps keep records and accounting updated for the treasurer.