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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. Out of more than 200 instructional personnel representing each school in the district, five finalists are chosen and one person is awarded the distinction of Orange County Public Schools Teacher of the Year. The district’s Teacher of the Year represents Orange County at the state level to compete for Florida Teacher of the Year. 

Congratulations to the 2018-19 TOY Finalists


Photo of Melissa PappasMelissa Pappas, Brookshire Elementary

Melissa Pappas is currently responsible for one of only five intensive units district-wide that serves students with severe behavioral, functional, and academic needs. Motivated by her passion for her students, this past year, Melissa launched a school-wide initiative during Autism Awareness Month. As a result of the initiative, students began independently performing random acts of kindness, greeting and engaging with students with exceptionalities.


Photo of Caela PaioffCaela Paioff, Colonial High

A well-respected leader in her area of study, Caela Paioff is the lead instructor within the Veterinary Animal Science and Services magnet program at Colonial High School. Outside the classroom, she is an FFA Advisor who has led her students to both statewide and national recognition. Caela believes teaching is a redeeming profession - one in which an individual can know that their efforts do make a direct and lasting impact in the lives of others. 


Photo of Kelly DeckerKelly Decker, Dream Lake Elementary

Kelly Decker's passion, dedication, and love for her students is apparent in all that she does. Known for her room transformations, Kelly takes pride in creating dynamic and inclusive learning environments. She believes that combining a focus on the whole child, rigorous content and fun helps her students succeed. 



Photo of Amy SwederskiAmy Swederski, Freedom High

As a Community Based Vocational Education (CBVE) teacher, Amy Swederski has a relentless drive to make sure all her students reach their highest potential. In addition to her role as a teacher, she serves as the head tennis coach, ESE content lead on the AVID Site Team, a Best Buddies Club advisor, as well as a Special Olympics coach.



Photo of Justin MacDonaldJustin MacDonald, Shingle Creek Elementary

It's only been two years since Justin MacDonald joined Shingle Creek as an instructional coach, but his colleagues credit him with the radical transformation of science instruction at the school. Not only does he lead science planning, he is in classrooms daily, modeling lessons, interacting with students and co-teaching with classroom teachers.