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OCPS 2022-23 Teacher of the Year Finalists Announced

OCPS is celebrating local finalists for the 2022-23 Teacher of the Year. The Teacher of the Year award recognizes and honors the contributions of outstanding classroom teachers who demonstrate a superior capacity to inspire a love of learning in students of all backgrounds and abilities.

The finalists are…




Joy Cahow, Endeavor Elementary
Tier 1 Intervention Teacher
Since she was a child, Joy Cahow has known she wanted to teach. She was the first in her family to go to college, and she now inspires her own students to do the same. Even during the pandemic, she brought students who were one to two years below grade level up to proficiency in a single year. A leader among her peers, Cahow also has been a supervising teacher to five interns, and is used as a model of instruction, conflict resolution and relationship building. She is also known for sponsoring Positiviti, a co-curricular character group for grades 3-5. Through team-building exercises and a focus on kindness, her program created a major improvement in school culture. She later expanded the program to second grade with the Kindness Series group.

Francisco Cardoza, Village Park Elementary
Fifth-grade Teacher
When Village Park Elementary opened in 2021, Francisco Cardoza jumped at the opportunity to open a new school. In his classroom, students are welcomed with a handshake and a high-five. He infuses motivational chants and songs into his daily instruction and is known for radical classroom transformations, such as turning his room into a NASCAR racetrack while teaching force and motion. He started the school’s National Elementary Honor Society chapter and Safety Patrol, leads a house, helps run the school’s Amazing Shake initiative – which teaches professional skills to students – and regularly tutors and mentors students. At Village Park ES, most students speak Spanish. As a native Spanish-speaker and former English-language learner, Cardoza offers the same encouragement and high expectations that his own teachers had for him.

Kerry Hastings, Tangelo Park Elementary
Media Specialist
Kerry Hastings has created a culture of reading at Tangelo Park Elementary. Her media center is an inspirational, welcoming space. She brings in every class weekly to read together, conduct projects and choose books. She started a schoolwide reading incentive program, hosts parent/child literacy activities at monthly Family Nights, leads a popular weekly Book Club and sponsors the school Battle of the Books program. Her influence also stretches beyond the media center walls. She supports the fourth-grade writing program, works with a student group during the school’s daily extra hour of intensive reading, mentors other teachers and assists with school technology. Her passion and the relationships she nurtures have led to student excitement around reading and learning.

Jessica Sarduy, Blankner School
STEAM/ fifth-grade math and science Teacher
As the teacher running the STEAM lab and Makerspace at Blankner School while also teaching fifth-grade math and science, Jessica Sarduy wears a lot of hats. She has been instrumental in Blankner’s transformation into an Innovation School with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math since 2018. During the pandemic, that focus continued when she ensured students had materials to do at-home projects, such as creating Florida native gardens. Last year, she secured grants that provided Blankner students the opportunity to do projects about the Everglades, resulting in a Gold-level Everglades Champion School recognition. Sarduy, who spoke Basque before learning English, makes sure her lessons are accessible to English-language learners, students with disabilities and gifted learners alike.

Melissa Williams, Washington Shores Elementary
Third-grade Teacher
The children with the most behavioral needs, the unmotivated students and the struggling ones inspire Melissa Williams. At Washington Shores Elementary, she is known for building relationships with some of the most challenging students, even those not in her grade level. Students are sent to her classroom when they need a change of environment, and she works to help them improve their ability to express their needs and respond appropriately. Williams has helped lead her school’s efforts to address students’ post-pandemic social and emotional needs and get children to readjust to a classroom setting. She models classroom management for other teachers and regularly seeks feedback to perfect her craft. Williams has seen her efforts succeed in academic performance, as well as in students’ engagement in school.

The district’s Teacher of the Year represents Orange County at the state level to compete for Florida Teacher of the Year.

OCPS also announced the finalists for 2022-23 Principal and Assistant Principal of the Year and the finalists for 2022-23 Support Person of the Year.

The winners will be announced at the Stellar Awards February 10, 2023, at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando.

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