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Twelve Flagler alumni nominated for St. Johns County Teacher and Rookie of the Year

Feb 10, 2023
by Anna Boone

After graduating from Flagler College, many alumni choose to stay in the region, pursuing their passions and making the community an even more vibrant place to live.

Twelve alumni exemplified this positive impact last week when they were recognized as nominees for the awards of St. Johns County Teacher of the Year and Rookie Teacher of the Year.

“In today’s world, teaching takes individuals that have a passion for service,” Superintendent of Schools, Tim Forson said at the Feb. 2 award ceremony.

Educators from across the county gathered for this massive event featuring speeches by last year’s award recipients, public servants, community members, and students. Local non-profit, Investing in Kids or INK, coordinates this annual ceremony and the nomination process for award recipients.

Kaitlyn Holle, 2021-2022 Rookie Teacher of the Year, said receiving the title made her take a step back and focus on learning how to be the best teacher possible.

“God chose me,” she said. “He never questioned my ability as a teacher. And the award felt like God told me, ‘This is what you’re supposed to do in your life.’”

In her journey of reaching for perfection in the classroom, Holle said she learned five things: It’s okay to say no, change is okay, patience is a practice, relationships are so powerful, and perfection is unachievable.


Flagler Alumni 2022-2023 Rookie Teacher of the Year nominees

Erin Harper ‘16 - Otis A. Mason Elementary School

Gregory Atkinson ‘18 - Sebastian Middle School

Brennan Gagnon ’18 - R.J. Murray Middle School

Emilee Francisco ‘20 - Tocoi High School

Samantha Morrison ‘21 - Allen D. Nease High School

Savanna Williams ‘21 - South Woods Elementary School


Flagler Alumni 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year nominees and finalist

Suzanne Stauble-Jensen ‘87 - Beachside High School

Jenna Miller ‘03 - St. Johns Technical High School

Timothy Heise ‘04 - Wards Creek Elementary School

Colleen LaHatte ‘07 - John A. Crookshank Elementary School

Amanda Devany ‘08 – FINALIST Osceola Elementary School

Kelsey Bennett ‘17 - Patriot Oaks Academy


Erin Harper, who graduated from Flagler in 2016 with a degree in psychology, said the effort that goes into her profession isn’t confined to the seven hours she spends in a classroom each day.

Erin Harper
Erin Harper

“I wish more people knew how much time teachers put into their students,” Harper said. “While students and parents may only see a teacher working 7 hours a day, teachers are in their classrooms well before and after school hours. Teachers don’t just clock in and out of their jobs, they pour their hearts into their work.”

Being engrained in the community of St. Johns County is something that Jenna Miller, a 2003 Flagler alumna, says constantly reminds her of the impact she has on students. She said seeing former students, whether they are serving her family at a restaurant or bagging her groceries at Publix, is a beacon of nostalgia and a reason to keep going.

“The best part about teaching is seeing the students I've taught in elementary school out in the community as young adults,” Miller said. “Witnessing my effort’s lasting impact on another person's life is well worth the time, energy, and money sacrificed on countless hours in and out of the physical school building.”

For some of these teachers, their impact on students was underway before they entered the profession.

Colleen LaHatte, who graduated from Flagler in 2007 with a degree in Elementary Education, said she was able to kickstart her experience in the classroom through an internship she had with Ketterlinus Elementary during her time at the College.

Colleen LaHatte
Colleen LaHatte

“As I worked with our class of first graders, I learned firsthand the importance of differentiated instruction and how to meet the varied academic needs of our students, which continues to be an ongoing learning process in the field of education,” LaHatte said.

Donna Lueders, INK executive director recognized the importance of the service these teachers are dedicating to their students as a motivating factor for organizing such an event.

“The love and trust reflected in your students’ eyes speak volumes of who you are,” Lueders said. “Your work is more than a job, it’s a passion. Your desire to help your students succeed will be preserved long after they leave your classroom. Your work is as rewarding as it is challenging. You have learned to preserve adapting to your ever-changing environment.”

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